Government urged to ease media restrictions

The Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters sans frontieres (RSF), has called on the Ethiopian government to ease its "harsh restrictions" on the media.

The call follows the recent jailing of three journalists, just weeks after Ethiopia's prisons were declared free of journalists. The last imprisoned journalist was released early last month, in a move hailed by human rights organisations.

But in a statement issued on Tuesday, RSF said the three journalists should be freed immediately, the 1992 press law should be abolished and the criminal code amended to ease the "harsh restrictions" on the media.

The new arrests showed that press freedom should "never be taken for granted and that great vigilance is required," RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Lubaba Said, former editor of the newspaper 'Tarik', was jailed for a year by the federal high court on 3 April for "inventing news likely to demoralise the army and make people anxious".

On 20 March, Melese Shine, editor of the newspaper 'Ethiop', was jailed for publishing an interview with a colonel in the former imperial army now in exile in Sudan, and also for writing a profile of the prime minister based on statements by former aides. Melese was accused of "libelling the head of government" and "interviewing a bandit claiming to be leader of an illegal organisation".

The third journalist, Gizaw Taye Wordofa, editor of the weekly 'Lamrot', was arrested on 15 March for publishing "immoral and indecent material".