Call for Ethiopia to Free Zone 9 Bloggers, Journalist: after a year imprisoned 

Zone-9-bloggers

April 23, Addis Ababa: The six bloggers, who belong to the Zone 9 blogging collective and three journalists were arrested on April 25 and 26, 2014, in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, They were charged under the criminal code and anti-terrorism law for having links to banned opposition groups and trying to violently overthrow the government.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Saturday urged Ethiopian authorities to immediately drop the charges pressed against the bloggers and journalists saying the charges were “politically motivated”.

Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch accused Ethiopia of ’making a mockery’ of its judicial system, “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”.

Although Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegen earlier this week denied the that members of the Zone 9 bloggers were arrested for being critical to government but for having links with terrorists and for receiving instruction from the banned group, Desalegn pledged his government will conduct democratic, free and fair elections something an opposition official referred it as “empty pledge”.

The New York-based press freedom group, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to its side said the government in Addis Ababa was trying to stifle opposition voices and media freedom in the country.

Tom Rhodes, CPJ’s East Africa representative, said in a statement “Expressing critical views is not a terrorist act. Once again, the Ethiopian government is misusing anti-terrorism legislation to suppress political dissent and intimidate journalists,” an opposition official on Sunday told Sudan Tribune that crackdown against critical journalists, opposition figures members and supporters was a common trend of the Ethiopian government ahead national elections.

The US government has also expresses grave concern against the prosecution of the journalists and urged the Ethiopian government to ensure that the trial is fair, transparent, and in compliance with Ethiopia’s constitutional guarantees and international human rights obligations.

Jen Psaki, US state Department Spokesperson “We urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that the trial is open to public observation and free of political influence” using anti-terrorism laws as a mechanism to curb the free exchange of ideas” Psaki added.

Ethiopia, ranked fourth on CPJ’s list of the 10 Most Censored Countries, has consistently demonstrated itself to be hostile to the idea of a free press, the trial against the nine bloggers and journalists one is charged in absentia is expected to resume on 4 August, lawyers of the suspects have all dismissed the charges and told reporters that there was no credible evidence to prosecute them.

The Oslo Times urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that the trial is fair, transparent, and in compliance with Ethiopia’s constitutional guarantees and international human rights obligations and also to ensure that the trial is free of political influence and continues to be open to public observation.            The Oslo Times

 

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