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Editor of well-known newspaper arrested

August 27, 2008

Police from the Amhara region arrested Amare on the afternoon of 22 August at his office in the Addis Ababa headquarters of Media and Communication Centre, a company that owns two well-known weeklies, the Amharic-language Reporter and the English-language The Reporter.

Journalists who were present at his arrest told Reporters Without Borders that the police were also looking for deputy editor Eshete Assefa and Teshome Neku, the young reporter who wrote the article last month quoting two former Dashen brewery employees as saying they were wrongfully dismissed. Neither Eshete nor Teshome were in the office at the time.

Amare, who ran Ethiopia’s public television after the fall of the Derg dictatorship in 1991, was initially taken to the headquarters of the Addis Ababa police. He was later transferred to Gondar where he appeared in court yesterday. A member of the newspaper’s staff told Reporters Without Borders that the prosecutor and judge offered to release Amare on bail in Gondar, but he refused on the grounds that it was illegal for him to have been taken there.

Under a new press law that was adopted last month, defamation cases are supposed to be tried in the place where the alleged offence took place. As Reporter’s registered headquarters is in Addis Ababa, the case should be heard in the capital and there were no grounds for taking Amare to such a remote location.

A few days after the article appeared, Teshome was arrested and taken to Gondar, where he was freed on bail after three days. The judge who ordered his release told the prosecutor that Teshome should be tried before a court in Addis Ababa because the newspaper was duly registered there.

A second story about the unfair dismissals at the brewery, published by Reporter on 20 July, quoted two representatives of the Confederation of Ethiopian Employee Associations (CEEA), who accused the brewery’s management of breaking up its union, firing its leader, setting up a new, company-controlled union and other illegal practices.

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2 comments on “Editor of well-known newspaper arrested

  1. It is interesting, and discouraging for those of as who seem to be fooled by EPRDF’s sermon – “no one is above the law”, to hear that government officials take the law into their own hands.

  2. Amare Aregawi’s arrest leads to two possible scenarios:

    First, though Amare had rallied behind the rulling party after the May election, he was in highly critical of Melese, in support of Seye group after TPLF split in to two. It is possible then that the “palace group” has not yet forgiven him, just like Tede Afro’s naive virsus.

    Second, ANDM officials may have delusion of themselves to think that they can arrest and put the law in to practice whoever the accused might be. If that is the case, then it will not be Aregawi but those ANDM officials who would be locked in.

    Having said that journalists are not above the law but journalist deserve better protection and freedom to express themselves or question those happen to hold power.

    Above all, the arrest of Amare Aregawi brings to light how stringent the new press law is. If this country to grow the press must be left to make its own mistakes and learn from it. Draconian rule only encourages corruption and abuse of power by government officials leading to bigger danger.

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