1000 Days in Jail for Ethiopian Journalist Reeyot Alemu

March 16, 2014 marked the 1000th day of imprisonment for Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu. She is serving a five-year sentence after she was found guilty on terrorism charges in January 2012.

Jailed Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu.Photo source: Facebook page of Free Reyoot Alemu campaign.

Jailed Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu. Photo via Facebook page of Free Reyoot Alemu campaign.

Reeyot, an English teacher, is the recipient of the UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, the Hellman/Hammett award, and the International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Ethiopian government has convicted 11 independent journalists and bloggers including Reeyot and Eskinder Nega under a sweeping anti-terrorism law since 2011. Among those jailed are two Swedish journalists who are serving an 11-year sentence for allegedly supporting an ethnic Somali rebel group.

In this blog post, blogger BefeQadu Z Hailu described the plight of imprisoned Ethiopian journalists:

If the objective of imprisonment is to correct the convicted ones, then to encourage reading and education should be one of the tools to meet the objective. In Kality prison both are allowed but not easily to these journalists and others who are convicted in relation to ‘terrorism’.

These prisoners are not allowed to get books. Eskinder says, “Especially those kinds of books that have titles combining words of ‘Ethiopia’ and ‘history’ are not allowed in.” The same is true to the ward of Reeyot Alemu and others such as Wubshet Taye, Bekele Gerba, etc.

Local independent newspapers and magazines are not also allowed in; Eskinder further explained it to me that even News TV channels like BBC and Al Jazeera are not allowed to be viewed in zones where he and others are imprisoned.

Reeyot Alemu, after a tough struggle with the prison admins and after the media revealed the story, is now allowed to get distance education. But, it is still difficult for her to get supplementary books other than the books directly sent to her from the College.

Twitter users sent out tweets using the hashtag #ReeyotAlemu to express their support for the jailed journalist. Below are a sample of tweets:


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