Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu are Ethiopian journalists who have been awarded the UNESCO World Press Freedom Award and nominated for the 2013 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for their journalistic work.
The Ethiopian government, however, has been less appreciative of their journalism – which criticised government policy on issues such as poverty, minority rights and mismanagement of funds on large government projects – and has imprisoned them as “terrorists”. Eskinder Nega is serving an 18 year prison sentence for writing an article that posed the question, Could an Arab Spring-like movement take place in Ethiopia? Reeyot Alemu is a teacher and a freelance journalist, sentenced to 5 years in prison for various articles in which she questioned government policy. Their sentences have been confirmed by the highest courts of appeal in Ethiopia.
The London-based Media Legal Defence Initiative, has joined forces with DC-based Freedom Now and appealed their case to the African Commission of Human Rights. They have filed a brief arguing that Reeyot and Eskinder’s case is emblematic of a wider pattern of repression of the independent media in Ethiopia – since the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation was adopted, at least 15 journalists have been prosecuted for ‘terrorism’ and over 14 news outlets have been shut down – and that the matter is declared a systematic violation of the rights of independent journalists in Ethiopia.
MLDI’s legal team, which includes Korieh Duodu alongside MLDI’s Nani Jansen and Patrick Griffiths for Freedom now, give their time pro bono – but they are seeking funding to cover costs before the African Commission and Court of Human Rights. There will be significant expenditure in attending hearings, translating numerous legal documents and other court-related expenses.
MLDI is asking for donations to help cover these costs and has started an appeal for donations on a new crowdfunding website for independent media, http://indievoic.es/index.php. As little as $25 will help make a difference. Please give generously. To make a contribution or for more information, please click here or contact the Media Legal Defence Initiative.