Recent report by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) identified Ethiopia as the fifth worst jailer of journalists in the world.Seemingly, what was rather surprising for most Ethiopians is why Ethiopia is only 5th worst country; perception is that Ethiopia is the worst place in the world for journalists. Abuses and gross human rights violations are under-reported.
Dozens of Ethiopian journalists are languishing in prisons simply for doing their job as best they can. Temesgen Desalegn, whom folks close to him describe as unflinching and courageous journalist, is one of them. Ethiopian court, it is one of the institutions that are believed to be sham, sentenced him to three years of jail. If parole was to be considered, he should have been out of jail by now. He was arrested in 2014 because of article he wrote the year before.
Human rights advocates and activists in social media are concerned for his safety after his relatives reported that they do not know his whereabouts for more than a month now. In prison, he is tortured severely -something that caused a medical condition including severe back-pain that does not even allow him to walk upright, according to sources with close information about him. Temesgen Desalegne’s mother is in agony because of his condition.
His brother used to visit him in jail. Since the first week of November, he was unable to see him as prison authorities deny him access at prison gates claiming that they do not have an inmate by the name Temesgen Desalegne. Temesgen was detained in Zeway prison south of the capital in what is now Oromia region of Ethiopia. It is one of the prisons that was in fire during the popular protest recently. His brother did also check other prisons to no avail.
Government in power is not even willing to respond to the concerns of Ethiopians. Human Rights group in Ethiopia are pushing the government to disclose his whereabouts.
Personalities from reputable Human Rights Organizations have joined the campaign to demand the whereabouts of Temesgen Desalegne which has now the hashtag ” #WhereIsTemesgen ”
Leslie Lefkow ,Deputy Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, tweeted ” #Ethiopia authorities must immediately disclose location of jailed journalist #WhereIsTemesgen ”
— Leslie Lefkow (@LefkowHRW) December 15, 2016
Temesgen Desalegn’s medical condition coupled with incidents in various prisons including what seemed to be orchestrated fire that blazed prison facilities, that unfolded during the popular protest, Ethiopians in social media are worried and speculating the worst and pushing the government to disclose what really happened to Temesgen.
Political prisoners,activists and journalists are handled in inhuman conditions including solitary confinement and regular torture. For example, Andargachew Tsige,a Briton by citizenship who was abducted from Yemen, has been under solitary confinement for more than two years now and his families are not given access to see him, not even a phone call actually.
Written by Dimetros Birku. Can be reached on twitter : @dimetros