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Groups Call For Release Of Ethiopian Bloggers
Following this week’s release by the Ethiopian government of three journalists and two bloggers who had been in jail for more than a year, some civil society organisations are calling for the release of other imprisoned writers.
United States President Barrack Obama is due to address the African Union later this month in Addis Ababa, a visit believed to be behind the Ethiopian justice ministry dropping terrorism charges against three journalists, Tesfalem Wadyes, Asmamaw Hailegiorgis and Edom Kassaye and two members of the blog Zone 9, Zelalem Kibret and Mahlet Fantahun.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, and ARTICLE 19, the global non-governmental organisation that promotes freedom of expression and information, want the Ethiopian government to release other jailed writers, especially four members of Zone 9, Abel Wabella, Natinael Feleke, Befekadu Hailu, Atinaf Berhane. A fifth blogger, Soliana Shimelis, was sentenced in absentia.
“While this is a small victory, the Ethiopian government needs to start undertaking comprehensive legal reforms to repeal most laws which restrict freedom of expression and of the media. Other incarcerated journalists serving long sentences should also be released,” Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Regional Director, said.
CPJ, while commending the release of the journalist and bloggers, condemned the clampdown on journalists, which has seen an increase in the number of journalists jailed in the last few years.
It called on the government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to release the other members of Zone 9.
“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,” Tom Rhodes, East Africa representative at CPJ, said in a statement.
The journalists and bloggers were arrested on April 25 and 26 and accused of terrorism activities, just two days after Zone 9 announced its return to activism.