Ethiopia releases five journalists, drops all charges against them

July 8, 2015 4:39 PM ET

Nairobi, July 8, 2015--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release from prison today of two bloggers affiliated with the independent Ethiopian collective Zone 9 and three other journalists. All charges have been dropped against them, according to exiled Ethiopian journalists who spoke to CPJ and a report by the pro-government Fana Radio. The journalists--editor Asmamaw Hailegiorgis; freelancers Edom Kassaye and Tesfalem Waldyes; and bloggers Mahlet Fantahun and Zelalem Kibret--were arrested in late April 2014, along with four other Zone 9 bloggers--Abel Wabella, Atnaf Berhane, Befekadu Hailu, and Natnail Feleke. All were charged with incitement and terrorism, according to news reports.

"The release of these five journalists is a welcome turn of events in Ethiopia, where the number of journalists in prison has steadily increased in recent years," said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. "We call on authorities to release the remaining Zone 9 bloggers and all the journalists in jail for their work, and to drop all charges against them."

With at least 12 journalists remaining in prison, Ethiopia is the second-worst jailer of journalists in Africa, after Eritrea, according to CPJ research. Most of the journalists face terrorism charges. The country is ranked fourth on CPJ's list of the 10 Most Censored Countries.

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