This past weekend, in a move reminiscent of the continent's most repressive rulers, authorities in Addis Ababa arrested nine of Ethiopia's most thoughtful, peace-loving, and promising young minds - branding them as criminals involved in anti-state activities.
They join dozens of writers, lawyers, professors and eight other journalists already behind bars who are victims of a government unwilling to listen to its citizens and intent on clinging to power by silencing all critics, both real and imagined.
The actions of Ethiopia's 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 love their homeland and aspire to live on a continent that values justice, accountability, equality and freedom, and nurtures the creativity and potential of its peoples.
On May 3, the world will celebrate World Press Freedom Day under the theme “Media Freedom for a Better Future," underscoring the link between free speech, accountability and development. But nowhere in Africa are independent voices more under attack than in Ethiopia, the home of the African Union and embodiment of Africa's new found optimism.
World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity for Africans to renew their commitment to freedom of expression and to reject authoritarian tendencies that reduce people 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.
On World Press Freedom Day we urge all those who believe in peace, progress and democracy to remember the 17 journalists in jail in Ethiopia and to call for their release. We encourage you to post messages on your website, blog or social media accounts (facebook/twitter) or create banners in support of the jailed journalists and bloggers using the hashtag #FreeZone9Bloggers.
JAILED JOURNALISTS IN ETHIOPIA
DETAINED 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
Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Senior Editor of the influential Amharic weekly magazine Addis Guday
JAILED IN RECENT YEARS
Woubshet Taye, Awramba Times ; CNN Free Press Africa laureate, 2013; Imprisoned June 19, 2011; Sentenced to 14 years.
Reeyot Alemu, freelancer; winner of 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize; Imprisoned June 21, 2011. In 2012, sentenced to 14 years; on appeal reduced to 5 years.
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.
Imprisoned: September 14, 2011. July 2012, sentenced to 18 years.
Yusuf Getachew, editor Ye Muslimoch Guday. Imprisoned: July 20, 2012, charged under anti-terrorism law; trial ongoing.
Solomon Kebede, Ye Muslimoch Guday Imprisoned: January 17, 2013, charged under anti-terrorism law; 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. Is appealing his sentence.
Saleh Idris Gama and Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi - Eritrean journalists have been in custody in Ethiopia for 7 years; whereabouts unknown.-----------------------------