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Remaining Zone 9 bloggers acquitted of terrorism charges in Ethiopia

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This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 16 October 2015.

The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the acquittal by an Ethiopian court today of four Zone 9 bloggers charged with terrorism. Abel Wabella, Atnaf Berhane, and Natnail Feleke, jailed since April 2014, are scheduled to be released today, while exiled blogger Soleyana S. Gebremichael was acquitted in absentia, news reports said. A fifth Zone 9 blogger, Befekadu Hailu, was acquitted of terrorism charges but is being held on charges of inciting violence, the reports said. His bail hearing is set for Wednesday.

"We are elated that the terrorism charges against the Zone 9 bloggers are dropped and urge the court to dismiss the criminal charges against Befekadu Hailu," said CPJ's East Africa representative, Tom Rhodes. "Ethiopia should be listening to critical voices to strengthen democracy and development, not jailing them. We call on authorities to immediately release all other journalists imprisoned in relation to their work."

In July, five other journalists and Zone 9 bloggers who were jailed in the same case--editor Asmamaw Hailegiorgis; freelancers Edom Kassaye and Tesfalem Waldyes; and Zone 9 bloggers Mahlet Fantahum and Zelalem Kibret--were released from prison. In late 2014, Ethiopian authorities were holding at least 17 journalists in prison, including the Zone 9 bloggers, in relation to their work, according to CPJ's prison census. Many have been released. Ethiopia is ranked fourth on CPJ's list of the 10 Most Censored countries.


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What other IFEX members are saying
  • Remaining Zone 9 bloggers acquitted of terrorism

    “These bloggers should never have been arrested and, even more so, should never have spent 539 days in preventive detention. We urge the judicial authorities to compensate them for the effects of their unjustified detention. We also call on the judicial authorities to pursue their reasoning to its logical conclusion and to drop the remaining charge against the last blogger still held.”

  • Ethiopia: Terrorism charges dismissed against ‘Zone 9’ bloggers

    "The bloggers did not commit any crimes and were imprisoned for more than 500 days for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression. The government should release Befeqadu and the dozens of other journalists and human rights defenders jailed because of their work in defense of fundamental rights and freedoms in Ethiopia."

  • Dispatches: Ethiopia’s Zone 9 bloggers acquitted, free speech still on trial

    The Ethiopian court’s judgment today is an important step – but only if it is the first of a broader set of policy changes aimed at reversing the stranglehold on press freedom and freedom of expression that Ethiopia’s government has imposed for the past decade. Releasing other imprisoned journalists and activists and amending the draconian laws that prosecutors are using to wrongfully detain and convict are the necessary next steps.

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