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Ethiopian authorities must drop terrorism charges against journalist

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 16 November 2012 - ARTICLE 19 calls for the Ethiopian authorities to drop all charges against Yusuf Getachew, a journalist for the publication Ye'Muslimoch Guday (Muslim Affairs) who was charged on October 29 under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 2009. ARTICLE 19 urges the Ethiopian government to stop using the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 2009 to suppress political criticism and calls for an urgent review to bring this legislation with international standards to protect freedom of expression.

"It is worrying that journalists and critics of the Ethiopian government continue to be persecuted and intimidated using the anti-terrorism law, which carries the death penalty.

All charges against Yusuf Getachew should be dropped immediately. We are witnessing an outrageous abuse of international standards on human rights that must not be ignored. The Ethiopian government needs to allow legitimate criticism and protests in the country," said Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Director.

Getachew has been charged with plotting acts of "terrorism, intending to advance a political, religious or ideological cause" by force; and the "planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of terrorist acts."

He had been arrested on 20 July 2012, along with 28 protesters, including nine prominent Muslim leaders. Since January 2012, Muslim activists in Ethiopia have been protesting government's attempts to impose a moderate teaching of Islam called Al-Ahbash as well as trying to influence elections of the Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs, the community's main representative body. Getachew had been reporting these events and it is believed that is why he was arrested, forcing two of his Editors - Akemel Negash and Isaac Eshet - to go into hiding.

A correspondent for Voice of America was also temporarily detained on 5 October in Addis Ababa while reporting on protests against the Supreme Council elections, and was told to delete any interviews she had recorded with protestors.

Furthermore, two Muslim weeklies - Selefiah and Sewtul Islam have not published since July 2012 when police raided offices of the privately owned Horizon printing press in Addis Ababa and confiscated their copies. The police raid and the confiscations are believed to be connected to the coverage that those newspapers gave to the protests

ARTICLE 19 has strongly criticised the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 2009 in the past for the failure of this law and the use of this law to respect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. ARTICLE 19 continues to press for immediate reform of this law. In particular, the law has a very broad and ambiguous definition of the term "terrorism" and it also deprives defendants of the right to be presumed innocent.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Ethiopian government to drop all charges against Getachew and stop intimidating other journalists and media workers who report on protests that criticise the government and authorities.

ARTICLE 19 calls for the immediate review of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to ensure it conforms to international standards on the right to freedom of expression. This law should not be used to suppress legitimate forms of expression, including peaceful assembly.

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