CPJ calls on Ethiopian government to release imprisoned journalists

CPJ is among a group of more than 40 regional and international press freedom and civil society organizations that have signed a joint letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn expressing concern over the recent imprisonment of Ethiopian journalists under the country’s far-reaching 2009 anti-terrorism law.

In April, Ethiopian authorities arrested six bloggers–Abel Wabella, Atnaf Berhane, Mahlet Fantahun, Natnail Feleke, Zelalem Kibret, and Befekadu Hailu–and three independent journalists–Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, Tesfalem Waldyes, and Edom Kassaye, according to news reports. In July, they were charged with inciting violence and terrorism. A 10th blogger, Soleyana Gebremicheal, was also charged in absentia, according to news reports. The bloggers are part of an independent collective called Zone 9, which publishes critical news and commentary.

These are the latest in a string of arrests of journalists under Ethiopia’s widely criticized 2009 anti-terrorism legislation, the letter says. International bodies such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have found that the legislation contravenes Ethiopia’s obligations under international law.

The letter calls on the Ethiopian government to release all journalists and bloggers imprisoned under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and to revise the legislation to comply with regional and international human rights standards.

Read the letter here.