Nairobi — Ethiopian authorities should release journalist Temesgen Desalegn immediately and drop all charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On July 28, Ethiopia’s federal Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision to grant bail to Temesgen, editor of the privately owned magazine Feteh, and ruled that he should remain in detention for the duration of his trial, according to news reports and the journalist’s lawyer, Henok Aklilu, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Prosecutors argued that keeping Temesgen behind bars was necessary so he could not continue “spreading false rumors” and “leaking secrets” through his writing, according to court documents reviewed by CPJ.
“Ethiopian authorities are holding Temesgen Desalegn in custody to bar him from continuing his journalistic work; such blatant abuse of the judicial system is appalling,” said CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo. “Authorities should release Temesgen immediately, drop the charges against him, and stop criminalizing journalists’ work.”
Authorities detained Temesgen on May 26 and charged him with disclosing military secrets, a crime which carries up to five years in prison for convictions, and disseminating inaccurate, hateful, or subversive information meant to demoralize the public, which carries a prison term of up to 10 years, as CPJ documented at the time. If a court rules that he had disseminated false information with the intent to cause a mutiny, he could face life in prison.
On July 4, a federal court granted Temesgen bail of 100,000 Ethiopian birr (US$1,917), which the journalist posted; however, he was not released pending an appeal from the prosecution, according to Henok and that reporting by CPJ.