By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA | Tue Jan 8, 2013
(Reuters) – An Ethiopian journalist lost an appeal on Tuesday against a five-year prison sentence for her role in promoting subversive plots by a rebel group.
Reyot Alemu, a columnist at the now-defunct Feteh newspaper, and fellow journalist Woubishet Taye were found guilty a year ago of conspiring to participate in attacks under the orders of rebel groups and sentenced to 14 years behind bars. The pair were arrested in July 2011.
An appeals court reduced Reyot’s sentence to five years in August and dropped two of the three charges to leave just the promotion of “terrorist activity”.
A subsequent appeal to dismiss the case altogether, however, was rejected on Tuesday and she faces another three years and three months in prison, having already served more than 19 months.
Ethiopia has been accused by human rights watchdogs of clamping down on its media under the guise of national security, a charge the government denies.
Critics cite an anti-terrorism law passed after several bombings in 2009, with sentences of 10 to 20 years for anyone caught publishing information that could induce readers to take part in acts of terrorism.
Government officials deny targeting journalists because of their reporting or political affiliations.
Woubishet and Reyot were found to have links to Ginbot 7, one of five groups the government has banned as “terrorist” organizations.
Terrorism charges have not been limited to journalists – dozens of opposition politicians and supporters have been detained since last year, according to rights watchdogs.
The Horn of Africa country pardoned and released two Swedish journalists last year after previously sentencing them to 11 years on charges of assisting an outlawed rebel group.
Woubishet is still in prison and also seeking a pardon.
(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by George Obulutsa and Alison Williams)