New York, June 29, 2010—Ethiopia’s postal service should a conduct thorough and transparent investigation into the tampering of mail addressed to the country’s leading critical newspaper, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Awramba Times Editor-in-Chief Dawit Kebede said the paper has complained to the Ethiopian Postal Service at least three times since June 6 after finding opened and destroyed envelopes in its mailbox inside Teklay Posta Bet, the national postal headquarters in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The Amharic-language weekly quoted local postal manager Bezabih Asfaw as saying that the “quality of the paper” of the envelopes may be to blame for the tearing.
The Awramba Times has been harassed for its critical coverage of the government, with the government-controlled media airing programs in December 2009 that lambasted the paper, according to news reports.
“The tampering of Awramba Times’ mail potentially impacts sources and readers,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Mail tampering is a criminal offense and we call on the Ethiopian Postal Service to take these reports seriously by conducting a thorough investigation and ensuring that all of the newspaper’s mail arrives intact and undisturbed.”
Asfaw told CPJ today that he is “unaware of this problem.” He said he would look into the reports, but said “this did not happen in the post office.” Under Ethiopia’s penal code, “violation of the privacy of correspondence or consignments” is punishable by up to six months in prison, according to CPJ research.