UPDATE: Ethiopia Admits Imposing New Restrictions Against Reeyot Alemu

Reeyot Alemu is the recipient of the 2013 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize. (Photo: Getty Images)

NEW: Sudan Tribune Reports Ethiopia admits imposing new restrictions against jailed journalist
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Tadias Magazine
By Dagnachew Teklu

Updated: Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Washington D.C. (TADIAS) — The saga of imprisoned Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu continues as officials refuse to lift a ban denying her any visitors except for her younger sister and her fiancé.

“The decision by authorities at Kality Prison to impose visitor restrictions on imprisoned journalist Reeyot Alemu constitutes harassment and runs counter to the Ethiopian constitution,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Monday.

“We call upon the Ethiopian authorities to lift these latest restrictions and allow Reeyot Alemu to receive all visitors,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “She is a journalist, not a criminal, and should not be behind bars.”

The CPJ statement follows Reeyot’s hunger strike last week to oppose what her family members said was mistreatment inside her cell that arose out of a dispute with a new inmate.

“Reeyot, a critical columnist of the banned private weekly Feteh, began a hunger strike on Wednesday to protest an order by Kality Prison officials to turn in a list of visitors,” CPJ said quoting local news reports. “The officials did not provide an explanation for the request. In retaliation for the hunger strike, authorities forbade her from having any visitors excluding her parents and priest, local journalists said.”

Two days later, prison officials said she could receive any visitors except for her younger sister and her fiancé, journalist Sileshi Hagos, the sources said. Sileshi was detained for four hours at the prison later that day when he attempted to visit Reeyot.

CPJ said Reeyot stopped the hunger strike on Sunday, but decided not to receive any visitors until the restrictions on her fiancé and sister are lifted. The journalist is serving a 14-year prison term on vague terrorism charges that was reduced in August 2012 to five years on appeal.

Reeyot is the winner of the 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, which she was awarded on world Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, 2013 at a ceremony held in Costa Rica.

Per CPJ: “It was not immediately clear whether the visitor restrictions were in connection with an article published by the International Women’s Media Foundation last month that had been written by Reeyot. It is unclear if the journalist wrote the letter from prison or if this was a translation of an earlier story. In the article, Reeyot criticizes Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law, an overbroad legislation that was used to jail and convict her for her critical coverage of the government.”

Kality Prison Director Abraham Wolde-Aregay did not respond to CPJ’s calls and text messages for comment. Desalegn Teresa, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Justice, did not return CPJ’s call for comment.

Related:
Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu wins 2013 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize (UN)
Friends and Supporters React to Reeyot Alemu’s Media Award (TADIAS)
Reporter jailed in Ethiopia among women journalists honored in Beverly Hills (L.A. Times)
Portraits Of Courage: Reeyot Alemu Honored At International Women’s Media Foundation

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