Police arrested Woubshet, deputy editor of the independent weekly Awramba Times, after raiding his home in the capital, Addis Ababa, and confiscating documents, cameras, CDs, and selected copies of the newspaper, according to local journalists. The outlet’s top editor, CPJ International Press Freedom awardeeDawit Kebede, fled the country in November 2011 in fear of being arrested; thenewspaper is published online from exile.
Government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said Woubshet was among several people accused of planning terrorist attacks on infrastructure, telecommunications, and power lines with the support of an unnamed international terrorist group and Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea, according to news reports. In January 2012, a court in Addis Ababa sentenced Woubshet to 14 years in prison, news reports said.
CPJ believes Woubshet’s conviction was in reprisal for Awramba Times‘ critical coverage of the government. Before his arrest, Woubshet had written a column criticizing what he saw as the ruling party’s tactics of weakening and dividing the media and the opposition, Dawit told CPJ. Woubshet had been targeted in the past. He was detained for a week in November 2005 during the government’s crackdown on news coverage of unrest that followed disputed elections.
Woubshet did not appeal his conviction and applied for a pardon, according to local journalists. In August 2013, the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice rejected the request for a pardon, the Awramba Times reported. In October 2013, Woubshet was honored with the Free Press Africa Award at the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards in Cape Town, South Africa.
Authorities have transferred Woubshet between several prisons, including a remote detention facility in the town of Ziway, about 83 miles southeast of the capital, according to local journalists and the Awramba Times. At Ziway, prison officials placed him in a section for political prisoners known as “chelema bete,” where communication and access to open air are limited, according to local journalists and family members who visited him. In February 2014, prison authorities transferred him temporarily to solitary confinement for describing prison conditions in a letter that was published in the private newspaper Ethio-Midhar.
Local journalists said Woubshet contracted a kidney infection while in Ziway, likely by drinking contaminated water. In October 2014, authorities transferred him to Kality Prison in Addis Ababa, where he finally received medical treatment. Woubshet published a book of essays written in prison called The Voice of Freedom in September 2014, which included details of his trial and the challenges Ethiopian journalists face. Police authorities restricted visits by friends and family after the book was released, local journalists said.
In late 2015, the journalist was again being held at Ziway Prison.
Various US officals and State Department have today called on Ethiopian authorities to release jailed Ethiopian journalist Woubshet Taye.
The following profile of Woubshet is extracted is taken from Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Website: