Does the New Media Law of Ethiopia condone keeping accused journalists behind bars for the duration of a trial? A reflection on the recent ruling of the Federal Supreme Court

Zelalem-Shiferaw-WoldemichaelAuthor: Zelalem Shiferaw Woldemichael
PhD candidate, Melbourne Law School

The decision of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia, rendered on July 28, 2022, to deny bail to Temesgen Desalegn, an editor of Feteh, a privately owned magazine, has put the potential of the New Media Law to end the repressive environment of the prior regime of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which subjected journalists and media personnel to multiple forms of human rights violations, including torture, arrest, and detention, into question. Perhaps, the case does not represent the only instance of the upholding of the continued detention of journalists by the judiciary after the expulsion of the previous regime and the coming into force of the New Media Law. On several occasions, courts have considered issues of bail of journalists and ordered the continuation of pre-trial detention. Apparently, the present case attracted huge public concern as the journalist was made to remain in custody by the decision of a judicial organ placed at the apex of the federal judicial structure, which renders final decisions on federal matters. The Supreme Court denied bail, accepting the objection of the public prosecutor, who argued that “keeping the accused behind bars was necessary so he could not continue spreading false rumours and leaking secrets through his writing.”

Read the rest of this entry »