PEN International is outraged at the draconian sentences handed down to Ethiopian journalists Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye and Elias Kifle. Alemu and Taye have been sentenced to 14 years in prison; Kifle, who is currently in exile in the US, was tried in absentia and has been sentenced to life imprisonment. The three were convicted on terrorism-related charges. PEN believes that the journalists have been convicted because of their critical reporting, in violation of their right to free expression. We call for their convictions to be overturned and for Alemu and Taye to be released.

Background Information

On January 19, 2012, an Ethiopian court convicted Alemu, Taye and Kifle of lending support to groups designated “terrorist” under Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law. On January 26, 2012, Alemu and Taye received 14-year prison sentences; Kifle received a life sentence.
Alemu, a contributor to the independent weekly Feteh, and Taye, deputy editor of the now-defunct Awramba Times, were arrested in June 2011 and accused of plotting to sabotage telephone and electricity lines; they were charged using anti-terrorism legislation in September 2011. It is widely believed by press freedom groups that they were targeted for their coverage of banned opposition groups. There are reports that Taye was tortured after his arrest, and that the health of both journalists deteriorated while in jail.
Kifle, editor of the US-based opposition website Ethiopian Review, was sentenced to life in absentia. In 2007 he was convicted of treason, also in absentia. The treason charge was based on his coverage of the government’s repression of the 2005 post-election protests.
Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law, which criminalizes any reporting that seems to “encourage” or “provide moral support” to groups and causes which the government considers to be “terrorist,” has been widely criticized as being vaguely worded and catch-all.
In December 2011, Swedish journalists Johann Persson and Martin Schibbye were controversially convicted of supporting terrorism and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the draconian sentences given to Woubshet Taye, Reeyot Alemu and Elias Kifle, and calling for the release of Taye and Alemu;
  • Expressing concern that the journalists have been tried and convicted purely in relation to their peaceful journalistic activity, in violation of the right to freedom of expression protected under international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

Send Your Letter To

Minister of Justice
Berhanu Hailu
Ministry of Justice
P.O. Box 1370
Addis Ababa
Fax: +251 11 551 7775/ 7755
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr Seyoum Mesfin
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
PO Box 393
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 551 43 00 
Salutation: Dear Minister

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Ethiopia in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Contact PEN if sending appeals after March 25, 2012: ftw [at]