A Journalist kidnapped, Threatened, and Beaten by Intelligence and Security Agents in Ethiopia

September 23rd, 2013 Print Print Email Email

The Ethiopian journalist Bisrat Woldemichael was kidnapped, threatened, humiliated, and beaten by the Ethiopian intelligence and security agents on 28 August, 2013. He has reported this incident today to journalists.

Bisrat reported that the dreadful incident took place at Gotera, a place in the capital Addis Ababa as he was walking home from work. He said he was victimized for exercising his right to free expression in conjunction with the related right to press freedom.

Bisrat Woldemichael works for a magazine, Ebony, as Editor in Chief, and writes political articles on different Ethiopian private press outlets. He also blogs at www.addismedia.wordpress.com and www.ethiopiahot.wordpress.com. The journalist is known for his outspoken articles focused on the poor governance and pervasive human right violation, which are turning the oldest East African nation, Ethiopia, into a hall.

Violence against journalists is a common practice in Ethiopia, a country generally regarded as one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist. According to Amnesty International, during the past three years only, over 100 prominent journalists were brutally prosecuted on fabricated charges, and too many others were also subjected to harassment, intimidation, and other violence.

“It was 3:30 AM in the evening, and I was returning home from my workplace. 4 people came to me and said: ‘we need to ask you some questions. Two of them were dressed in black and their faces were almost covered with their caps”, Bisrat said, while narrating his ordeal to journalists.

“I first didn’t understand what was going on. I realized that I was in danger just when one of them put a knife on my stomach”, he noted. “When I saw the knife, I asked them: ‘Who are you? What do you need? But none of them gave me an answer, instead they warned me just to keep walking forward,” he explained.

“I didn’t do anything but followed them, because I was surrounded, and the guy also clearly told me he would stab me with the knife if I tried to challenge them. In addition, one of them had a gun”, Bisrat said.

From there Bisrat was taken to a place far away from the main road. The place he was taken to was quite dark and out of public sight.

“As soon as we reached there they told me they were disappointed at my articles I had recently written, particularly at the one which dealt about the wealth of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi ”, Bisrat said.

“They said: ‘Who are you to count the wealth of Meles Zenawi? Who are you to write about his family’s wealth? You have passed the red line!’ ” he explained.

The journalist said that the kidnappers violently interrogated him at length, for almost one hour, and threatened him to stop writing.

“They said: ‘here we are giving you a last warning. If you write any more for any media (or if you keep blogging), the consequence will be worse for you. If you need your life, stop wiring. Remember! It is a last warning’ ”, Bisrat explained.

The journalist said that this was not the end of the drama but the beginning. “They also insulted and humiliated me, and finally began to beat me.

Right after the incident, Bisrat was able to go to a nearby police station, to report the case. But, according to him, having heard the case, the police officers simply gave him an appointment for the coming mooring and let him go. Bisrat said that it took him several days to get the case registered.

“They are Watching Me”

Bisrat Woldemichael Bisrat said since the day he experienced the violence he has been under surveillance. “Few days ago, I saw them following me behind”, he explained adding “I know they are watching me very closely.”

But, in the face of such grave threats, Bisrat, a journalist who is committed to freedom of speech, has continued doing his job with courage. He continues writing about the political crisis, poor governance, and human right violation worsening in Ethiopia.

“I don’t have a choice. I am a journalist. There is nothing to do except writing what I see, hear, and feel.” Bisrat explained. He again and again made clear that no threats and tortures would make him stop writing

The paper Tigers

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, guarantees the right to freedom of expression saying that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers. Likewise, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Ethiopia ratified in 1993, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights guarantee the right in a very clear way. They even impose formal legal obligations on state parties to insure this fundamental right is protected.

But, sadly, even in the presence of all these legal documents, Enjoyment of press freedom and freedom of expression still continue to be a far cry for Ethiopian journalists and bloggers as they experience violence while doing their job. They are harassed, threatened, humiliated, and arbitrary jailed.

  1. eyasu
    | #1

    It is not clear how one can conclude that it was security forces who did his from the article. It could have been anyone. Still, i tis cruel and wrong

  2. Anonymous
    | #2

    Here we go again! this story is full of lies it’s comical. For starters since when did 3:30am become evening? and unless this guy works for a 24/7 network like CNN or Sky news it’s strange for him to say he was returning from work at that hour. He also claims that the people had their faces covered with caps, seriously? unless a bunch of kids surrounded and scared the hell out of this guy it will be real hard for an adult to cover a face with a cap, it’s worthy to note here that caps are worn to cover heads and not faces. He also claims that he was taken away from the main road and out of public sight. Have you been out driving in Addis at3:30 am? I have and trust me there is no public at 3:30 am on the streets of Addis.
    I thinks Mr Bisrat’s true calling is not journalism he should try his hand at fiction writing.

  3. Anonymous
    | #3

    Anonymous #2,
    Pathetic and simply laughable! You are in denial. This is not new — the TPLF mafia are known for their act of horror, robbery and mass murders — even unknown number of Tigrean patriotic Ethiopians have been tortured and slaughtered by TPLF before they came into power. Bisrat is not the only journalist that has been beaten up and given a warning to stop writing. The lucky journalists have left the country to save their lives or thrown in prison. Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, Andualem Aragie and tens of thousands like them have been threatened not to write the truth about TPLF and now they are being mistreated and rotting in cold filthy Woyane prisons as we speak. You can deny the reality, but it is impossible to hide the truth. The mother of corruptions Azeb doesn’t want the world to know how much money her and her husband have stolen, and it seems, she has created her own mafia group to muzzle people. We won’t be surprised and it won’t be long before her own TPLF criminals lock her up in jail and take all her stolen money. I can’t wait to hear that good news.

  4. #2
    | #4

    #3 I am not in denial you are. It’s funny how you didn’t bother to challenge the points I made. You state that tens of thousands have been threatened not to write the truth. The truth is we don’t have journalists in the tens of thousands here in the USA much less in Ethiopia. Besides Mr. Nega and Ms. Alemu can you name another journalist that is in custody? and a bit of FYI, Mr. Aragie is a politician and not a journalist. You accuse the late PM and his wife of stealing money, can you provide the readers here with evidence that will support your allegation? unless you can prove your wild allegations with facts your are just another noise maker, in other words a tin can and an empty one at that.

    Good day!

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