04.17.07

Schiff Calls On Ethiopian and Rwandan Presidents to Halt Persecution of Female Journalists

Washington, DC – Representative Adam Schiff, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press, today sent two bipartisan letters to the Presidents of Ethiopia and Rwanda calling on them halt the persecution of these female journalists in their countries and to ensure the right of a free press.

“These women must be freed or given a fair trial if these countries want to respected members of the international community,” said Schiff.  “A free and open press is an essential ingredient to a healthy democracy and both of these Presidents need to take the steps necessary to guarantee the right of free speech.”

The letter to Ethiopian President Wolde-Giorgis highlights the case of Serkalem Fassil, publisher of the newspapers Menelik, Asqual, and Satenaw.  Mrs. Fassil, along with her husband Eskinder Nega, was arrested in November 2005.  Mrs. Fassil was pregnant at the time of her arrest and has since been held in the Kaliti prison where she gave birth and is now raising her son.  Mrs. Fassil has been charged with “trying to overthrow the constitutional order” and “genocide” and faces a possible death sentence, yet it is reported that she was arrested for nothing more than reporting on the widespread protests surrounding the legislative elections in May of 2005.

The letter to Rwandan President Kagame voices concerns regarding Tatiana Mukakibibi, a producer and host of various shows on Radio Rwanda. Ms. Mukakibibi has been imprisoned since October 1996 and has yet to be tried for the crimes for which she is accused.  It appears that she is being held because of her work with André Sibomana, former editor of Rwanda's oldest newspaper Kinyamateka. Reports state that she is being held in extremely harsh conditions in Ntenyo, Gitarama and has been accused of murder yet has not stood trial.
 
The Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press aims to raise awareness surrounding international free press issues by drafting letters to heads of state, hosting debates on the House Floor, and convening events with press freedom experts.