Authorities restrict visits to imprisoned journalist Alemu

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the decision by the authorities of Kality prison, located outside Addis Abba, to restrict family visits to jailed journalist Reyot Alemu, a columnist for the national weekly Fitih. She has been held since June 2011 after being found guilty of participating in the promotion and communication of terrorist activities.

Alemu, awarded the 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, is serving an arbitrary sentence of five years.

Her original 14-year sentence was reduced by the federal supreme court on 3 August this year.

“The denial of visitors to Reyot Alemu is endangering her mental health,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This further deterioration in her situation compounds the already deplorable conditions that she has endured for more than two years. We call for her immediate and unconditional release.”

Alemu was arrested in 2011 with her colleague Woubeshet Taye, deputy editor of the Amharic-language weekly Awramba Times. Like Alemu, Woubeshet Taye, who was transferred on 19 April to a detention centre in Ziway, 130 km southeast of Addis Abba, has been deliberately kept far from his family, who live in the capital.

In a press release issued on 26 April, Reporters Without Borders reported that the journalist was being held in deplorable conditions, which had led to a deterioration in her physical health.

As the UN Human Rights Council prepares for the 19th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in April and May next year, the press freedom organization has submitted recommendations aimed at improving press freedom in Ethiopia. The main point of the Reporters Without Borders contribution concerns the urgent need to reform the 2009 anti-terrorism law. Since the adoption of this repressive legislation, which defines acts of terrorism in the vaguest terms, it has been used to justify the arrests of journalists who are critical of the government, such as Alemu and Taye.

Ethiopia is ranked 137th of 179 countries in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.