Human rights lawyer refused entry to Britain
Prominent Ethiopian human rights lawyer Derbew Temesgen Meshesha, who is supposed be addressing a seminar on “˜Public Order, State Security and Press Freedom in Ethiopia’ at the Royal African Society next week (27 September) and the Frontline (journalists) Club (29 September), has been refused an entry visa by the British Embassy in Addis Ababa ““ even though Foreign and Commonwealth officials in London were hoping he could brief them on the current situation in the Horn of Africa.
After a long career in journalism Mr Derbew has spent the last 15 years as a lawyer, specialising in press freedom cases. Ethiopia has the highest number of jailed and exiled journalists in Africa. Many publishers and journalists are currently imprisoned in Addis Abada, where his clients include Leikun Engda, Editor in Chief of DagimWorchif and Solomon Aregawi publisher of another weekly newspaper Hardar.
Mr Derbew, who is well-travelled, and married with four children, was to have spoken alongside Ato Kifle Mulat, President of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association now living in exile in Uganda, who has been granted a visa. Other speakers include representatives from Article 19, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders.
Exiled Journalists Network (EJN) coordinator Forward Maisokwadzo, who has organised his visit, says: “Our aim is to raise public awareness about the harassment and censorship facing journalists in Ethiopia. It is a grave disappointment that one of their strongest defenders is being prevented from coming to Britain to speak out on their behalf. We are calling on the Foreign Office to reverse this decision as a matter of urgency. We would urge press freedom activists everywhere to make representations on his behalf to the British authorities.”?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website states: “˜The human rights situation in Ethiopia is poor”¦ Journalists in the independent press who criticise the Government are at risk of arbitrary arrest and detention.’