The International Freedom Of Expression Exchange

Newspaper offices burnt down (in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

January 20, 1998

Toronto(IFJ/IFEX) - On 16 January 1998 four editorial staff members of the "Tobiya" newspaper, Biru Tsegaye, Goshu Mogas, Taye Belachew, and Anteneh Merid, were arrested in Ethiopia. Several hours after the arrests, the offices of "Tobiya" were burnt down.

The fire destroyed office equipment as well as valuable databases and archive material. According to Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, "The burning down of offices is a new development in the attacks against the free press in Ethiopia. It has come at a time when the international community is waking up to the reality that Ethiopia does not protect freedom of speech or other fundamental human rights. We are horrified at this arson attack," White added, "and we urge the government to fully investigate the events. We are, unfortunately, not surprised at the arrests of the editorial staff of "Tobiya" because that type of action has become routine on the part of the Ethiopian authorities."

The recent arrests are the latest in a series of detentions in Ethiopia, which have detained the staff of various independent newspapers. Both "Urji" and "Tobiya" have been stripped of their editorial and managerial staff and have shut down as a result. White noted that the IFJ has "names of nearly 20 journalists currently in prison, and others on bail awaiting trial." He concluded: "These arrests, we believe, are related to their professional activities and are an attempt on the part of the authorities to silence the press." The IFJ included Ethiopia in its statements to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1997. This is the first time that an arson attack of this nature has been reported.

Issued 19 January 1998. SOURCE: International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Brussels.

For further information, contact Cailin Mackenzie at the IFJ, Rue Royale, 266, B-1210 Brussels, Belgium, tel: +322 223 2265 or +322 219 7780, fax: +322 219 2976,
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