March 11, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) – An international media rights group, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Thursday called on Ethiopian authorities to end what the group said was a continuing pursuit of politically motivated charges to journalists in connection to country’s previous election.
Despite the promises, the Ethiopian government has continued to press charges against publishers, said CPJ in a statement it emailed to Sudan tribune, citing this week’s court ruling against four private publishing agents.
“The government continues to use the courts and administrative means to settle political scores against journalists who were acquitted after the 2005 election,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes.
“We call on Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to end his administration’s unrelenting harassment of these journalists, which contradicts his public statements in 2007 that the government did not harbor a ‘sense of revenge’ toward its critics in the press.”
According to the media watch dog, The Ethiopian Supreme Court reinstated fines on Monday against four newspaper publishing companies over their coverage of the disputed 2005 national election.
The imposed fines which are as high as 8,800 USD are substantial considering the country’s economic standard
Monday’s ruling overturned a February 2009 High Court decision that had struck down the fines. The High Court said that a July 2007 presidential pardon, granted to numerous journalists and political dissidents who were facing anti-state charges related to the election, also applied to the four publishing houses.
The publishing houses and their newspapers were forced to close in 2005 and were later banned by the government. The principals in the companies were acquitted of individual charges of anti-state activity, although they spent 17 months in pretrial detention, according to CPJ research.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide.