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In Ethiopia, Blogging on Human Rights Issues is a Crime

Press release, April 29, 2014

The Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW) demands that the Ethiopian government unconditionally release the journalists and bloggers (Zone 9) that it arrested last week. These journalists have expressed their opinions about the current situations in Ethiopia, using their democratic rights which is clearly stated in the country’s constitution. They have not written to disturb peace nor have they advocated for violence. However, it is reported that “the main charge against the detainees was accepting money and working with foreign organizations and rights activists and using social media to destabilize the country.” This is a serious charge. It is very saddening to learn that young and aspiring journalists are being intimidated in order to discourage them from informing citizens about the economic, social and political conditions in their country.

Already, there are many journalists and political prisoners languishing in prisons in the different regions of the country. Reyot Alemu, the young female journalist, winner of the 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize for her contributions to press freedom and the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) Courage in Journalism Award in 2012, has been in prison since 2011. It is reported that she has been very ill and she is not even allowed to have proper medical treatment.

We demand the Ethiopian government to unconditionally release journalists, bloggers and all prisoners of conscience who are suffering in different notorious prisons in the country. We also urge the government to allow Reyot Alemu to get immediate and highly needed medical attention.

In many instances, the United States administration has spoken about human rights violations in selected countries. It is time for the United States and European countries, that financially support Ethiopia, to speak out openly about the human rights violations in the country and to demand the release of all journalists, human rights activists and prisoners of conscience. Freedom of speech, expression and assembly are the major tenets of democracy. Blogging about human rights situations is not a crime.

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