Ethiopia reduces sentences of jailed journalists, activists
The Ethiopian federal supreme court has today reduced the jail terms of 20 defendants who were accused and sentenced to various years in jail after having been charged of terrorism related.
Among the 20 are two journalists Kalid Mohammed Ahmed and Darsema Sori Banqash, both working with Radio Bilal.
In January this year, the Supreme Court sentenced all but one of the defendants under the file name of the first defendant Kedir Moahmmed Yusuf to five years and six months each while the journalist Darsema Sorri, was sentenced to four years and five months on grounds of poor health.
The 20 were charged with terrorism for contravening article 7(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (652/2009) and criminal charges for violating articles 32(1) (a) and 38(1) of the FDRE Penal Code of 2004.
According to today’s ruling by the Supreme Court, the five years and six months jail term of all the defendants was reduced to three years and six months each; whereas the jail term of Darsema Sorri was reduced from four years and five months to three years and seven months.
However, four of those charged are also facing seperate charges in relation to a deadly fire outbreak in the Qilinto prison in September last year.
The remaining 16 whose sentences are reduced are expected to be released from jail anytime soon since they have already served their times.
The charges against the 20 defendants also include “inciting protests among Muslims in the cities of Addis Abeba, Jimma and Wolkite by preparing and distributing fliers and stickers claiming that the government arrested “The Committee”; organizing unlawful demonstrations calling for and inciting protests.”
According to the Addis Standard, Muslims in the Horn of Africa nation have since 2011 been protesting what they see as undue interference of the government in the religious affairs.
welcomes the reduced sentences for journalists Darsema Sori and Khalid Mohamed in #Ethiopia but urges authorities to immediately release them and all other imprisoned journalists - #FreeThePress - https://t.co/lnauNSZUBU
— CPJ Africa (CPJAfrica) December 11, 2017
Ethiopia’s media environment is considered one of the most restrictive in Africa, characterised by use of the anti-terrorism law to harass and intimidate journalists, censorship and closure of publications and the internet.