Befekadu Hailu

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Security forces arrested Befekadu–a co-founder of the Zone 9 blogging collective–at his home on November 11, 2016, according to news reports. By the end of November 2016, authorities had not announced any charge against the blogger.

An Ethiopian journalist living in exile in Kenya, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told CPJ that Befekadu’s criticism on his blog of the government’s handling of protests in the Oromo and Amhara regions of Ethiopia may have led to his detention.

The Africa News Agency quoted Befekadu’s friends as saying they believed he was arrested in relation to an interview he gave to the Amharic service of the U.S.-government-funded Voice of America, in which he criticized authorities’ handling of the large-scale anti-government protests.

Befekadu had anticipated his arrest, writing in a blog post after the government declared a state of emergency in October 2016 that he expected to be detained, according to Ethiopian diaspora media.

His arrest came during a renewed crackdown on the media and mass arrests. Security forces detained more than 11,000 people after declaring a six-month state of emergency on October 10, Taddesse Hordofa, of the Ethiopian government’s State of Emergency Inquiry Board, said in a televised statement on November 12, 2016.

Befekadu has been detained before. He and the other Zone 9 bloggers, who were awarded CPJ’s 2015 International Press Freedom Award, were acquitted of terrorism in October 2015, but Befekadu was told he still faced a charge of incitement, according to media reports. In late 2016, the incitement case was still pending. In late 2016, Ethiopia’s Supreme Court was hearing prosecutors’ appeal against the lower court’s October 2015 acquittal of Befekadu and four other Zone 9 bloggers on the terrorism charges.