Reporters Without Borders wrote today to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi calling for the release of two journalists who were arrested in June, Reyot Alemu and Wubeshet Taye, and for an investigation into the conditions in which they have been held. Reyot, a young woman columnist, is in very poor health, while Wubeshet, the deputy editor of a weekly, says he has been mistreated.
"The situation of both of these journalists is alarming,” the letter to the prime minister says. "We were very disturbed to learn that their pre-trial detention was extended yet again and we call for their immediate release.
"We also believe that Mr. Wubeshet’s claims should be taken seriously and we urge the Ethiopian authorities to carry out a thorough and independent investigation with the aim of establishing whether he has indeed been mistreated while in detention. If he has, those responsible should be brought to justice and reprimanded accordingly. We would like to remind you that you have a duty to ensure that detainees are treated humanely, have access to medical care and enjoy all the rights that the Ethiopian Constitution guarantees them.”
When they were brought before a judge on 17 August, their pre-trial detention was extended for another 28 days. Accused of complicity with a political group that has been classified as a "terrorist” organization, they are due to appear in court again on 8 or 9 September.
The deputy editor of the Awramba Times weekly, Wubeshet was arrested on 19 June. When he appeared before a federal court two months later, he said he was beaten during interrogation and was manhandled by prison officials. He was also forbidden to receive visits from his family and to organize his defence with his lawyer.
Reyot, a columnist for the Amharic-language weekly Fitih, was arrested on 21 June. The equipment and material that was seized at the time of her arrest was finally returned to her family a few days ago. The few visitors that have been allowed to see her are worried by the rapid deterioration in her health. After two months in detention, this young woman is showing signs of physical and psychological trauma. Although her family has been able to send her medicine, she is in urgent need of proper medical attention.