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Editor and three others previously arrested over magazine story now out on bail; trial to proceed, charges remain unclear

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 13 May 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Urges Ethiopia to Drop Charges Against Magazine Editor and Three Others

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Ethiopian authorities to drop charges against Alemayehu Mahtemework, the editor of monthly entertainment magazine Enku, and three others who were arrested with him after the publication of a cover story about a jailed popular singer.

Mahtemework and three others, who have not been identified, appeared in court on May 6. The trial will resume on May 19. The charges are still not clear but local sources say the four are accused of publishing "stirring articles that could incite people." The defendants were held for five days before being released on bail.

"There is no need to hold a trial when there is no offence," said Gabriel Baglo, the Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "We call on the authorities to drop all the legal proceedings against Mahtemework and the three people arrested with him and to allow the magazine to work in total freedom."

The case stems from Enku's cover story for its latest edition on Ethiopia's most famous pop singer Tewodros Kassahun. Kassahun, known as Teddy Afro, is on trial for murder for a hit-and-run incident in 2006. He is well-known for his songs critical of the government and his fans have protested his trial.

Mahtemework and his three co-defendants were arrested by police on the evening of 2 May in a van carrying 10,000 copies of the magazine for distribution. All the copies were seized. After their first court appearance this week, the judge gave police 14 more days to finalize evidence against the defendants and other journalists who worked on the Teddy Afro story.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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