By Human Rights Watch Press
Published July 19, 2014
The Ethiopian government should drop politically-motivated charges against 10 bloggers and journalists.
The six bloggers and three journalists who were arrested on April 25 and 26, 2014 and have been in detention since then were charged on July 17, 2014 with having links to banned opposition groups and trying to violently overthrow the government. A tenth blogger who was not in Ethiopia at the time of the arrest was charged in absentia.
“Ethiopia’s courts are making a mockery of their own judicial system,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Hiding behind an abusive anti-terrorism law to prosecute bloggers and journalists doing their job is an affront to the constitution and international protection for free expression.”
The six bloggers in custody are Atnaf Berahane, Befekadu Hailu, Abel Wabela, Mahlet Fantahun, Natnael Feleke, and Zelalem Kibret. Soliana Shimeles was charged in absentia. The three journalists are Tesfalem Waldyes, Edom Kassaye, and Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, an editor at weekly magazine Addis Guday.
The bloggers are part of a blogging collective known as Zone 9, which provides commentary on current events in Ethiopia. Zone 9 is the section of Kaliti prison in Addis Ababa where many political prisoners are held. The Zone 9 group had stopped blogging in February after security officials harassed the group and questioned them about their work and alleged links to political opposition parties and human rights organisations.