By Premium Times, 16 March 2014
In a month when we are celebrating women, today, Sunday March 16th is Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu’s 1000th day of imprisonment for simply doing her job.
A columnist for several Amharic-language newspapers, Reeyot Alemu was one of the first journalists arrested in a 2011 government crackdown on dissent as authorities in Addis Ababa, unnerved by the Arab Spring revolutions, rounded up prominent journalists, intellectuals and political opponents and linked them to a vague terrorism plot.
While in pre-trial detention, she reported being pressured to sign a false confession to implicate co-defendants in imaginary crimes against the state.
Her refusal to cooperate earned her a sentence of 14 years in prison based on her newspaper columns in which she criticized the government’s record on corruption, its attacks on democracy and the rule of law, and the effects of repression on the population.
Her sentence was reduced to five years on appeal but she is pursuing an international appeal at the African Human Rights Commission.
Ms. Reeyot’s indomitable integrity and courage in defiance of the injustice of her imprisonment, has earned her international accolades such as the UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award, and a finalist spot for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
She is among eight journalists imprisoned in Ethiopia, Africa’s second worst jailer of journalists after Eritrea.