Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu, detained since June 2011, has been awarded the 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in recognition of her “exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression,” announced the UNESCO on Tuesday.
An independent international jury of media professionals took note of Reeyot Alemu’s contribution to numerous and independent publications. She wrote critically about political and social issues, focusing on the root causes of poverty, and gender equality, The UNESCO said.
The Ethiopian journalist, who worked for several independent media before she founded in 2010 her own publishing house and a monthly magazine called Change, was arrested in June 2011 and is currently serving a five year prison sentence.
Many press freedom defense NGOs have called on the Ethiopian authorities to reconsider the sentence handed out to Reeyot Alemu on alleged terrorism charges and to show clemency on humanitarian grounds, as the iconic journalist underwent surgery for breast tumor.
Last week, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect journalists (CPJ), Joel Simon, sent a letter to Ethiopian Minister of Justice asking for the release of the journalist “whose health has deteriorated,” “who is now being threatened with solitary confinement,” and whose “full human rights are being denied to her”.
According to the letter, Prison authorities have threatened Reeyot with solitary confinement for two months as a punishment for alleged bad behavior toward them and for having threatened to publicize human rights violations by prison guards.
The prison sentence against Reeyot for performing her duties and exercising her rights as a journalist calls into question Ethiopia’s commitment to the democratic values and human rights the country claims to uphold, said the CPJ executive director, urging Ethiopia to honor its promise to build a humane and democratic state by withdrawing the threat of solitary confinement against Reeyot and ensuring her access to adequate medical care.
Reeyot had received the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award in 2012.