AAU Files Charges Against Addis Zemen, Habesha Wog Newspapers For Retraction, 200K Compensation

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March 13-3-2017

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Addis Ababa University, the oldest and largest state-owned institution of higher learning, has filed a defamation suit against the state-owned publisher of the Amharic daily paper, Addis Zemen, and a privately-owned weekly magazine and its publisher as well as reporter over a story published last month. The charge has also included editors and writers of the two media houses as well.

The Amharic newspaper published two separate news stories in February 2015 and November 2016 headlined, “An institution whose five years audit account is unknown” and “Addis Ababa University’s account unaudited for six years”.

The university filed the suit at the Federal First Instant Court at Arada Bench on February 6, 2017.

Both news stories claimed that the university’s books had not been examined by the Auditor General for over six years. Similarly, the Amharic weekly magazine, Habesha Wog, published by Tedy Ab Multimedia and Entertainment, was charged by the university for similar news stories it published in 2015 and 2016.

According to the charge sheet seen by the Reporter, the university accused Addis Zemen and its reporter of “deliberately tarnishing the its good name and reputation” while the publication lacks substantiating facts and misquoting parliament members of officials of the Office of the Auditor General.

The charge also listed five defendants, including the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) as a publisher and its reporter, Agonafie Gezahagn, who wrote the two stories on Addis Zement, Habesha Wog publisher as well Tsigereda Gebremariam (editor In chief of Habesha Wog) and Yonas Woldesenbet (contributing editor of Habesha Wog).

The charge against the magazine and its editors highlights that they first copied Addis Zemen’s news story published in 2015 and wrote similar stories in 2016 as well. What is more, the magazine published other details in addition to the failure of auditing its account. It published a story about how the university officials, including officers responsible to students dormitory service, were corrupted and engaged in illegally renting out dormitories for their personal benefit, according to the AAU’s charge sheet.

The charge file shows that the university demanded both Addis Zemen and Habesha Wog to publish statements retracting the news in their respective front pages. AAU also appealed to the court to rule that both organizations and their respective editors and reporters pay a total of 200,000 birr compensation for damages incurred.

The defendants already submitted their written defense on Thursday while they are expected to appear before the court for the first time in person next month.

Source: Ethiopian Reporter