Imprisoned Ethiopian journalist, Reeyot Alemu, is the winner of the 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. The 31-year-old journalist is currently serving a five-year sentence in Kality prision, notorious for its brutal and filthy conditions. Ms Alemu was recommended by an independent international jury of media professionals in recognition of her “exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression.”
The award ceremony will be held on May 3rd in San José, Costa as part of the World Press Freedom Day International Conference. This year, the Central America Hivos regional office is joining forces with UNESCO, UPeace and the University of Costa Rica to commemorate the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993.
Ms Alemu is one of the few Ethiopian journalists who has written critically on political and social issues, focusing on the root causes of poverty and gender inequality. She has worked for numerous independent publications. In 2010, she founded her own publishing house and a monthly magazine called Change, both of which were shut down by the government. Until her arrest in 2011, she worked as a columnist for a national independent newspaper, Fereh.
The Ethiopian government used articles Alemu had written criticizing the prime minister, as well as a tapped phone call regarding peaceful protests, as evidence against her. In 2009, she was sentenced to 14 years of prison under the country’s Anti-terrorism Proclamation. In August 2012, a court reduced Reyot’s sentence to five years and dropped two of three charges; the promotion of “terrorist activity” is the last charge standing.