Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2009

Ethiopia: 4

Saleh Idris Gama, Eri-TV
Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi, Eri-TV
Imprisoned: December 2006

Since disclosing that they had Gama and Tesfazghi in custody in April 2007, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry repeatedly declined to provide information about the whereabouts, legal status, or health of the two Eritrean state television journalists whom the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said were among 41 people "captured" in Somalia on suspicion of terrorism.

Tesfazghi, a producer, and Gama, a cameraman, were picked up by the Kenyan authorities after the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and then handed over to the Ethiopian-backed Somali transitional government in January 2007, according to the Eritrean Foreign Ministry.

In a video aired on state television, the Ethiopian government suggested the journalists were involved in military activities in Somalia. While Eritrean journalists were often conscripted into military service, the video did not present any evidence linking the journalists to military activity. A Foreign Ministry statement said some detainees would be tried "before the competent military court" but did not identify them by name.

Government spokesman Bereket Simon told CPJ in August 2008 that court proceedings were pending, but declined to provide details. In October 2009, Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Wahde Belay told CPJ that he had no information about the two journalists.

Ibrahim Mohamed Ali, Salafiyya
Asrat Wedajo, Seife Nebelbal
Imprisoned: August 24, 2009

Federal High Court Judge Zewdinesh Asres convicted Ali and Wedajo on criminal code and press law charges in connection with their coverage of sensitive topics dating back a number of years, according to local journalists. She sentenced them each to one year in prison.

Ali, editor of the weekly Muslim-oriented newspaper Salafiyya, was convicted in connection with a piece written by a guest columnist and published in 2007 that criticized the Ministry of Education's proposal to restrict headscarves for female Muslim students at public educational institutions, according to defense lawyer Temam Ababulgu.

Wedajo, former editor of Seife Nebelbal, a now-defunct weekly that was banned amid the 2005 government crackdown on the press, was convicted in connection with a 2004 story alleging human rights violations against the ethnic Oromos, the largest ethnic group in the country, according to local journalists.

Ali and Wedajo were being held at Kality Prison, outside the capital, Addis Ababa, pending appeals in their case. The Ethiopian government has had a longstanding practice of reviving years-old criminal cases, some of them seemingly dormant, as a way to silence critical journalists.

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