A blessing in disguise for Temesgen Desalegn

October 28, 2014

by Belay Manaye

“He wrote blaming and defaming the government as it kills, arrests, and suppresses…”

That was read in a courtroom where Temesgen’s verdict was heard yesterday. It was very disgraceful to hear this. After two years lengthy of the court case, Temesgen Desalegn was found ‘guilty’ of inciting violence and defamation. That was really funny. Criticizing the government becomes defaming it in Ethiopia. Unlucky!An Ethiopian editor is facing as many as 10 years in prison

The government filed over 100 lawsuits against Temsegen so far. And though it was unsurprising, the government, through its Kangaroo court, has sentenced Temesgen Desalegn, one of the most courageous journalists in Ethiopia, to three years in jail yesterday.

Temsegen is now in jail for he wrote ‘blaming and defaming the government as it kills, arrests, and suppresses’. Isn’t it a fact that the government has been doing all these on Ethiopian people? Didn’t the government kill innocents during post election period of 2005? Didn’t the government kill innocent University students last year? Didn’t the government jail journalists? It did these all. What is blaming then? Why don’t we blame the government for killings and jailing journalists and dissents?

Temsegen was just exercising his constitutional right to freedom of expression. I believe his only crime is exercising his right courageously. And I take my hat off for his job. I am not going to cry for him. He is not going to be disturbed by their arrest because he knows them very well. Yes, he knows that the government ‘arrests, kills and suppresses.’ What happened to him now is what he has been writing about.

Eskinder Nega, another hero in Kaliti prison cell, was expecting Temesgen’s sentence. During my visit last Saturday, he was telling me that EPRDF would definitely put Temesgen in prison for about 2-3 years. Eskinder was right! Temesgen has already joined him in prison, escalating the number of jailed journalists to 18, second jailer of journalists next to Eritrea in Africa.

Of course, Temesgen’s sentence is a blessing in disguise for him. He has gone several times to court. It is tiresome! Three years is too short for Temesgen as he knew they would do this on him anytime they like. He bravely discharged his responsibility. Yes, he has accomplished his job. What remains is ours! We must not let Eskinder, Reeyot, Wubshet, Temsegen, and others down. We have to keep writing, speaking out and struggle for our right.

Temsegen is jailed while exercising his right to freedom of expression courageously. The homework is on us. We shall not be jailed while we are doing nothing. I said Temesgen’s sentence is a blessing in disguise for him because he has done his part, even beyond his part, and hence need to have time to look back his journey and articulate his future move. Temesgen is really a free man; a free man behind the bar.

Yes, the government sentenced the free man. And we remain silent. Jailing is becoming a profitable business for the government because we still are silent. It is a load for us out here. For Temsegen, it is a blessing in disguise.

Stay strong Teme!

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