Reeyot Alemu, Ethiopia
2012 Courage in Journalism Award
Reeyot Alemu has been imprisoned in Ethiopia for more than a year, branded as a terrorist. She is one of many journalists who have been arrested, interrogated and threatened in her country. What makes Alemu exceptional are her commitment to work for independent media when the prospect of doing so became increasingly dangerous, her refusal to self-censor in a place where that practice is standard, and her unwillingness to apologize for truth-telling, even though contrition could win her freedom.
In jail, Alemu was offered clemency if she agreed to testify against journalist colleagues. She refused and was sent to solitary confinement for 13 days as punishment for her failure to cooperate. She is currently being kept at Kality prison, which is known for its filthy conditions. Recently, she has fallen ill; in April of this year she underwent surgery at nearby hospital to remove a tumor from her breast, after which she was returned to jail with no recovery time.
"I believe that I must contribute something to bring a better future," Alemu said in an earlier interview with the IWMF. "Since there are a lot of injustices and oppressions in Ethiopia, I must reveal and oppose them in my articles." Alemu said one of her principles is "to stand for the truth, whether it is risky or not."
Continue reading ...
Due to her imprisonment, Reeyot Alemu was not able to attend the award ceremonies in New York and Los Angeles. Elias Wondimu, an Ethiopian exiled journalist, accepted Alemu's award on her behalf.
News anchor Bob Woodruff and actress Annette Bening present the
2012 Courage in Journalism Award to Reeyot Alemu
Bob Woodruff presents the 2012 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award
to Reeyot Alemu in New York, October 24, 2012
"It was only a matter of time before Reeyot Alemu was sent to prison. Her country, Ethiopia, has become one of the most oppressive in the world, with numbers of jailed journalists rising steadily each year, growing Internet censorship and
new laws designed to make free expression a punishable offense. During the past two decades, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front has adopted increasingly severe methods for halting press deemed critical of the party’s actions.
in Los Angeles, October 29, 2012
International radio frequencies are sporadically blocked for “destabilizing propaganda,” while outlets like Al-Jazeera are accused of “indirect support of terrorist groups” for reporting on banned Ethiopian political organizations. 79 Ethiopian journalists have been driven into exile during the past decade – the highest number of any country in the world, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
They leave when their lives are threatened in anonymous letters, when their publications are shuttered by the government, or when yet another colleague is beaten and interrogated by police. But Alemu did not leave and she did not stop reporting. She moved from one job to another, as the publications she worked for were forced to shut down. As a columnist at Féteh, her colleagues say, she received threatening phone calls telling her to stop her critical reporting.
When she refused, she faced slander in government-controlled media."
Download full speech (pdf)
Elias Wondimu accepts Courage in Journalism Award
on behalf of Reeyot Alemu
at the 2012 Courage in Journalism Award ceremony
Elias Wondimu accepts 2012 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award
on behalf of Reeyot Alemu
in New York, October 24, 2012
Reeyot Alemu's acceptance speech: "First, I want to express my great thanks for the officials and staffs of IWMF for giving reward to my efforts and courage. I also wish to express my deep appreciation to my fiancé, Sileshi Hagos, family and friends for their strong support and encouragement throughout my endeavor.
Next, I would like to say something about my country current political condition and the reason why I am arrested. When I became politically aware, I understood that being a supporter or member of a ruling party is a prerequisite to live safely and to get job. If someone tries to be out of this circle, he or she will be punished. I am one of them who tries to object EPRDF because of its bad doings. Shooting the people who march through the streets demanding freedom and democracy jailing the opposition party leaders and journalists because of only they have different looking from the ruling party, preventing freedom of speech, association and the press, corruption and domination of one tribe are some of the bad doings of our government.
As a journalist who feels responsibility to change these bad facts, I was preparing articles that oppose the injustices I explained before. When I did it, I knew that I would pay the price for my courage and I was ready to accept that price. Because journalism is a profession that I am willing to devote myself. I know for EPRDF, journalists must be only propaganda machines to the ruling party. But for me, journalists are the voices of the voiceless. That’s why I wrote many articles which reveal the truth of the oppressed ones. Even if I am facing a lot of problems because of it, I always stand firmly for my principle and profession.
Lastly, I want to ask the international community to understand about the real Ethiopia. The real Ethiopia isn’t like that you watch in Ethiopia television or as you listen the government officials talk about it. In real Ethiopia, a lot of repressions are being done. My story can show you the story of many Ethiopians who are in prison because of their independent thinking. Please, try your best to change this bad reality."
Reeyot Alemu honored with UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize - May 4, 2013
Imprisoned Ethiopian journalist threatened with solitary confinement; denied urgently needed medical care - April 3, 2013
IWMF interview with Swedish journalist Martin Schibbye
Reeyot Alemu - Imprisoned for defending free speech in Ethiopia - January 4, 2013
News anchors Christiane Amanpour and Cynthia McFadden call for Alemu's release from prison
Ethiopian journalist's last chance for freedom - January 2, 2013