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Ethiopia Drops Charges Against Critical Newspaper Editor

Ethiopia’s Justice Ministry said it won’t prosecute the editor of the weekly newspaper Feteh, whose distribution was blocked after it reported on the illness of late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi before his death this month.

“After further investigation the prosecutors have decided to drop the charges,” Desalegn Teressa, a ministry spokesman, said in a phone interview today from the capital, Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has been criticized by the United Nations and advocacy groups including the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists over legislation that restricts freedom of expression.

Feteh’s editor, Temesgen Desalegn, had been facing four charges including attacking the state by defamation and inciting young people to overthrow the government, based on articles published between July 2011 and March, Amnesty International said on August 24. He has been released from the prison where he was held after his first appearance at court last week, said Hailemeskel Beshewamyelhu, an editor at the newspaper.

Feteh, which distributed around 30,000 copies in Amharic and was frequently critical of the government, has not been printed by the state-owned Berhanena Selam Printing Enterprise since the ministry ordered the impoundment of its July 20 edition. Last week the management said it is still not prepared to publish the newspaper, Hailemeskel said.

A 2008 media law allows distribution of a newspaper to be blocked if it presents “a clear and present grave danger to the national security.”

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