Home > Politics, Press Freedom > Editor questioned over Meles’ widow

Editor questioned over Meles’ widow

Meles Zenawi, Azeb Mesfin

Ethiopian police in Addis Ababa questioned an editor for several hours yesterday in connection with a story published in October about the widow of the late Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi, according to news reports.
Officers in the Ethiopian Federal Police Crime Investigation Department interrogated Ferew Abebe, the former editor-in-chief of the private Amharic-language weekly Sendek, about his sources for the October 10, 2012, story that said Azeb Mesfin, Meles’ widow, had refused to leave the Ethiopian national palace nearly two months after the prime minister’s death, local journalists said. The story, which was widely covered in local and international press, cited government sources as saying that Meles’ successor, Hailemarian Desalegn, was unable to live in the palace.
Ferew refused to identify his sources and cited Ethiopian laws that guaranteed the rights of a journalist to keep sources confidential, local journalists said. According to the Ethiopian penal code, a court can compel journalists to reveal their sources if a crime has been committed against the constitutional order, national defense force, or security of the state, which constitutes clear and imminent danger.
Police released Ferew on a bond of 5,000 birrs (US$265) pending further investigation, according to the same sources.
On Monday, police also summoned a deputy editor for Sendek to question him about the same story, local journalists said. He was released without charge. “Ethiopian police’s demand that Ferew Abebe reveal his sources for a story published seven months ago is intimidation and tramples on the protections afforded to journalists under Ethiopian law,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on authorities to abandon their long-standing pattern of vindictive persecution of journalists who raise questions about issues of public interest, such as the occupation of a public building by the former first lady.”
At least seven journalists are behind bars in Ethiopia, making the country the second leading jailer of journalists in Africa, according to CPJ research. Ethiopia trails only Eritrea among Africa’s worst jailers of journalists, CPJ research shows.

  1. Hagos
    May 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t see any reason for interrogating the journalist. He reported that the wife of the late-Prime Minister would not vacate the palace for the incoming premier and his family in time. Wasn’t that true? The journalist also wrote that the new prime minister and his entourage created driving to office traffic nightmare every morning. That happened also to be true. Someone had argued that the new prime minister allowed the wife of the late-prime minister to stay on for the extended period. Well, the problem with that is that the palace is an official state residence and not a personal residence. There is a protocol in place for such situations. This is to say that it is simply unlawful and shame to threaten, interrogate for 5 hours and threaten more a journalist for writing what everyone knows about the widow of the late-prime minister who could in fact commute from Khartoum considering the wealth she and her late husband have accumulated.

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