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HORN OF AFRICA STORIES: 'ONE LIFE SAVED, THE OTHER LOST'

Two newsmen, Befekadu Moreda from Ethiopia and Paulos Kidane from Eritrea, both tried to flee the region to escape government oppression. But "one life (was) saved and the other lost." In a special report, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recounts their stories and provides a glimpse into the adversity facing journalists in the volatile Horn of Africa.

In Ethiopia, Befekadu Moreda was a tenacious and uncompromising independent editor, which landed him in jail nine times. In 2005, after deadly protests against alleged vote-rigging in parliamentary elections, the government closed down most of the independent press and imprisoned dozens of journalists who reported the allegations.

Moreda decided to flee. "If you cannot work in your country, if they ban your newspaper, your media institution, what do you do?" Moreda asked. "You have to move someplace else." He and his family have resettled in Houston, Texas. But like other exiled journalists, Moreda is struggling professionally: he has a maintenance job at a local hospital.

Moreda is just one of 34 Ethiopian editors and reporters who have been forced into exile since 2001, says CPJ, a period during which only Zimbabwe has produced more exiled journalists. And his prospects for going home are unlikely. Although journalists detained during the 2005 crackdown have been released, many have gone into hiding, independent newspapers remain shuttered and self-censorship is rampant.

CPJ also tells the story of Eritrean sports reporter and poet Paulos Kidane, who was forced to work for the state media service in 2000. After years of harassment - including being thrown into prison for reasons of sheer intimidation, Kidane joined a small group of asylum seekers who tried to cross into Sudan on foot in June of this year. He did not survive the journey.

At least 19 journalists have fled Eritrea since 2002 in response to threats, harassment and imprisonment, says CPJ. The government's absolute monopoly on domestic media, fear of reprisal among prisoners' families, and tight restrictions on the movement of all foreigners led CPJ in 2006 to name Eritrea one of the 10 most censored countries in the world.

Read CPJ's "Flight from Ethiopia" and "A Death in Eritrea" here: http://www.cpj.org/hornofafrica/

(9 October 2007)

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