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Two journalists released on bail but still face charges over published report

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a 29 August 2008 WAN/WEF letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi:

The Right Honourable Meles Zenawi
Prime Minister of Ethiopia
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to express our serious concern at the jailing of journalist Amare Aregawi for six days.

According to reports, Mr Amare, the editor-in-chief of both the English-and Amharic-language Reporter newspapers, was arrested at his office in Addis Ababa on 22 August, before being transferred to Gondar, some 700 kilometres from the capital, in a vehicle owned by Dashen Brewery. He was denied bail and detained for six days before being released.

We are seriously concerned that Mr Amare was arrested because of reports carried by the Amharic Reporter regarding an employment dispute at the Dashen Brewery, where management allegedly dismissed about 70 staff without following proper procedures. In articles appearing on 25 May and 20 July, the paper published comments by the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions that were critical of the brewery and the regional Labour and Social Affairs Bureau, as well as two brewery workers who criticised their former employer.

Teshome Niku, who wrote the disputed articles, was arrested in Addis Ababa shortly after the July article was published and taken to Gondar, where he was released on bail after three days in detention.

While welcoming Mr Amare's release, we respectfully remind you that his jailing constitutes a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers."

We respectfully call on you to ensure that all charges against Mr Amare and Mr Teshome are immediately dropped. We call on you to end the state intimidation of independent media and to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of freedom of expression.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly
World Association of Newspapers

Xavier Vidal-Folch
World Editors Forum

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