Ethiopia frees two journalists

2011-07-27 13:40
Addis Ababa - Ethiopia has freed two journalists detained 15 months ago on copyright infringement charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Tuesday.

Haileyesus Worku and Abdulsemed Mohammed, who worked for Ethiopian Radio and Televsion Agency, were released on a $290 bail each.

"We are relieved that after enduring 15 months of imprisonment on questionable criminal charges, Haileyesus Worku and Abdulsemed Mohammed can prepare their defence in freedom," Mohamed Keita, the media watchdog's Africa Advocacy Co-ordinator, said.

"We call on the prosecutors to drop the charges altogether."

Abdulsemed, who said he was happy to be reunited with his family after 15 months in Addis Ababa's Kaliti prison, denied the charges.

"We're not guilty. We didn't do anything," he told AFP.

The pair were accused of illegally copying ERTA material and selling it to a third party.

CPJ said it had doubts over the charges' validity "in light of the Ethiopian government's documented practice of using bogus criminal charges to silence critical journalists".

Government spokesperson Bereke Simon declined to comment on the case.

With six other journalists behind bars, Ethiopia trails only Eritrea among the countries in Africa jailing the most journalists, according to the CPJ.

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