New York — The Committee to Protect Journalists protests Ethiopian authorities’ transfer of independent newspaper editor Woubshet Taye to a remote prison several hours away from his family’s home. Woubshet has been imprisoned since June 2011 on vague terrorism charges that CPJ has determined to be unsubstantiated.
“Moving detainees to prisons far from their families is a tactic long used by governments that wish to not only further penalize the individuals but to punish their loved ones as well,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Woubshet Taye should not be in prison at all, never mind held in one so far from his family. We call on Ethiopian authorities to return him to a facility closer to his home, and to reconsider the unjust conviction that put him behind bars in the first place.”
Authorities on Friday transferred Woubshet from Kilinto Prison, outside Addis Ababa, to a detention facility in the town of Ziway, about 83 miles southeast of the capital, according to local journalists and the U.S.-based exile-run AwrambaTimes.com. The authorities did not provide a reason for the transfer. Local journalists told CPJ that Woubshet’s wife and four-year-old son would now have to travel more than four hours to reach the prison to visit the journalist.
Woubshet, former deputy editor of the now-defunct independent weekly Awramba Times and a recipient of Human Rights Watch’s Hellman/Hammett Award, was sentenced in January 2012 to a 14-year prison sentence on charges lodged under Ethiopia’s broad anti-terrorism law. The journalist was arrested a couple of weeks after he published a column in Awramba Times that critically assessed the ruling party’s performance in its two decades of rule. The paper was known for its bold coverage of local issues.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said last month that Ethiopia had violated Woubshet’s rights by failing to address his allegations of being tortured in custody, despite Ethiopia’s commitment to “uphold the highest standard of human rights.”
CPJ research shows that other states that have imprisoned journalists have used the tactic of moving journalists to prisons far from their homes as a means of punishing them and their families. Cuba, for example, placed journalists in prisons hundreds of miles from their families at the height of the Black Spring crackdown in 2003, according to CPJ research.