World Association of News Publishers

“Let them all go free!” World’s Press Demands Release of Jailed Ethiopian Journalists

“Let them all go free!” World’s Press Demands Release of Jailed Ethiopian Journalists


The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum are calling for the release of all journalists still jailed in Ethiopia after a week in which six of their colleagues were freed.

Reeyot Alemu, a newspaper columnist and secondary school English teacher who had spent almost 1,500 days behind bars, was reportedly released on Thursday (9 July), a day after five other jailed Ethiopian journalists were set free.

At least 11 journalists remain in Ethiopian prisons, including 2014 WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom laureate Eskinder Nega. In Africa, only Eritrea has more journalists in prison.

“While delighted by the release of the journalists, they and their colleagues still in prison should never have been jailed in the first place,” said a statement from WAN-IFRA.

“Jailing journalists simply for doing their job is contrary to the best interests of the nation. We hope this week’s releases are more than simply gestures, that they signify a genuine turning point in the democratic future of Ethiopia. We call on the government to demonstrate its commitment by releasing those who remain behind bars. Criminalising journalism and punishing journalists must end. Let them all go free.”

Police seized Ms Alemu on June 21, 2011, while she was teaching an English class, with no information given to her as to why she was being arrested. The government used her articles and recordings of a telephone call about a peaceful protest – a common practice in Ethiopia as the government has created a full surveillance state – as proof of 'crime'. She was sentenced to 14 years in prison, which was later commuted to five years.

Her release came a day after five other jailed Ethiopian journalists, who had been accused under Ethiopia’s vague 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of incitement and terrorist activities, were set free and all charges against them dropped.

Among those still in prison is Eskinder Nega, who was arrested on 14 September 2011 and accused of colluding with the outlawed opposition party Ginbot 7 in an attempt to overthrow the regime – charges he has rejected on numerous occasions.

Despite government claims that the prosecution of Mr Nega and others charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation is unrelated to their work as journalists, independent inquiries have found this to be far from reality. In April 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention held that the imprisonment of Mr Nega violated Ethiopia’s obligations under international law and requested his immediate release.

In addition to procedural violations, the Working Group found that the detention of Mr Nega resulted directly from his exercise of free expression and that the overly broad offenses established by the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation constituted “an unjustified restriction on expression rights and on fair trial rights.” Despite such a finding, however, Mr Nega and at least 10 of his colleagues remain in prison today.

Read WAN-IFRA’s latest protest letter to the Ethiopian authorities:

For more information on Eskinder Nega and press freedom in Ethiopia, visit

To read WAN-IFRA’s 2013 press freedom report on Ethiopia, compiled in collaboration with the International Press Institute (IPI), visit

For more information on WAN-IFRA’s press freedom work, visit

WAN-IFRA, based in Paris, France, and Frankfurt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore and India, is the global organisation of the world’s newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.

Inquiries to: Andrew Heslop, Director, Press Freedom, WAN-IFRA, 96 bis, rue Beaubourg, 75003 Paris France. Tel: +33 1 47 42 85 29. Fax: +33 1 42 78 92 33. Email:

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The Golden Pen of Freedom is WAN-IFRA's annual award recognising individuals or organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom. Read more ...

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...