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GPU Solidarity Statement on jailed Ethiopian Journalists and Bloggers

May 7, 2014, 10:45 AM

As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day today under the theme ‘Reaching New Goals: Free Media Fortifies the post-2015 Development Agenda’, Committee to Protect journalists (CPJ) observed that nowhere are independent voices more under attack than in Ethiopia, the home of the African Union and embodiment of the new optimism in Africa.

On April 25 and 26, 2014, authorities in Addis Ababa have thrown in jail nine of Ethiopia’s most thoughtful, peace-loving, and promising young minds - branding them as criminals involved in anti-state activities. They join behind bars dozens of intellectuals - writers, lawyers, professors, and eight other journalists, all victims of a government unwilling to listen to its citizens, intent on clinging to power by silencing critics, both real and imagined.

As I read this solidarity statement, a total of seventeen citizens of Ethiopia are languishing in jail for no crime than their activities as journalists and bloggers.

The actions of Ethiopian leaders take Africa backwards to the dark days of Apartheid and one-party rule, invoking an Orwellian reality of official deception, secret surveillance, and a disregard for honest voices speaking truth to power. Ethiopia’s actions are an affront to all Africans who aspire to live on a continent that values justice, accountability, equality and freedom, and nurtures the creativity and potential of its peoples.

World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to renew Africa’s commitment to freedom of expression and to reject authoritarian tendencies that reduce Africans to subjects not citizens. Ethiopia’s actions are an injury to all Africans who believe in dialogue and engagement in the quest for a better future.

Jailed journalists in Ethiopia detained in April 25-26, 2014

Atnaf Berhane, IT professional & Zone 9 blogger,

Mahlet Fantahun, IT professional & Zone 9 blogger,

Natnail Feleke, Human Resource Manager at Construction and Business Bank & Zone 9 blogger,

Zelalem Kibret, academic & Zone 9 blogger,

Befekadu Hailu, academic & Zone 9 blogger,

Abel Wabella, engineer with Ethiopian Airlines & Zone 9 blogger,

Tesfalem Waldyes, freelancer, contributor to the English weekly Addis Fortune and the monthly Addis Standard,

Edom Kassaye, freelancer, formerly a reporter with the state daily Addis Zemen, and

Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Senior Editor of the influential Amharic weekly magazine Addis Guday

These journalists and bloggers are charged with “Working with foreign human right activist organizations agreeing with idea, finance and inciting violence through social media to create instability in the country”.

Journalists jailed in Ethiopia recent years and still languishing in detention

Woubshet Taye, Awramba Times, CNN Free Press Africa laureate 2013 was jailed on June 19, 2011 and sentenced to 14 years.

Reeyot Alemu, freelancer, winner of 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize; jailed on June 21, 2011 and sentenced to 14 years in 2012. His jail term was reduced to 5 years on appeal.

Eskinder Nega, freelancer, winner of the 2014 WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom Award and 2012 laureate of PEN American Center’s Freedom to Write Award was jailed on September 14, 2011, sentenced to 18 years in July 2012.

Yusuf Getachew, editor Ye Muslimoch Guday jailed on July 20, 2012, charged under anti-terrorism law and his trial is ongoing.

Solomon Kebede, Ye Muslimoch Guday jailed on January 17, 2013, charged under anti-terrorism law and trial ongoing.

Asfaw Berhanu, former contributor to The Reporter, convicted of spreading false rumors and sentenced to 2 years, 9 months on December 25, 2013 now appealing his sentence.

Saleh Idris Gama and Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi – Eritrean journalists have been in custody in Ethiopia for 7 years and their whereabouts unknown.

The Gambia Press Union strongly condemns the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on journalists and bloggers and call on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them.

Our hearts also beat in unison with the hearts of journalists experiencing unthinkable predicaments in Egypt, Somalia, Ukraine and journalists facing hard times and those who died in their duties in other parts of the world for doing their job and telling truth to power.