A teacher and newspaper columnist, Reeyot Alemu has been imprisoned in Ethiopia since June 21, 2011 on trumped up terrorism charges in reprisal for her columns, published in independent Amharic-language newspapers, which offered blunt but thoughtful critiques of power abuse, corruption, and injustice under Ethiopia’s ruling party, the EPRDF, which has ruled the Horn of Africa country since 1991.
Reeyot is the 2013 recipient of the UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize, the 2013 recipient of a Courage in Journalism Award and was a finalist of the 2013 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought. She is the subject of a global campaign. Her case has been championed by Christiane Amanpour, and Swedish journalist Martin Schibbye groups like the International Women’s Media Foundation and Safe World for Women, which has launched a petition calling for her release.
She was first sentenced to 14 years in prison. She appealed the conviction and the Supreme Court reduced her sentence to 5 years, acquitting her of the terrorism charges. She filed a last appeal to the Court of Cassation, but it was denied.
Reeyot’s Pending Appeal Before African Commission
In late 2013, she filed a complaint against her government and the law used to jail her at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. Reeyot’s indomitable spirit and refusal to compromise on her beliefs and principles under intimidation and pressure has unnerved authorities.
Reeyot’s Deteriorating Health
Reeyot’s health has deteriorated while in prison. She developed a breast tumor and underwent surgery in jail. However, Ethiopian federal prison authorities returned her to her cell immediately after the surgery, denying her adequate post-surgery care at a proper medical facility. She has since been suffering from a bleeding breast.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Today is Reeyot’s 33rd birthday. Use this moment to take action:
- Sign the petition urging the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to compel the Ethiopian government to grant Reeyot adequate medical care and free her
- Donate to the legal defense fund of the Media Legal Defence Initiative, Reeyot’s lawyers at the African Commission
- Use the hashgtag #ReeyotAlemu to tweet in support of Reeyot
- Share Reeyot’s story with colleagues and friends and urge them to take action