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AFEX calls on Ethiopian government to uphold freedom of expression rights

Stores are closed during a strike against the recent declaration of the state of emergency, in Sebeta, a neighborhood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 5 March 2018
Stores are closed during a strike against the recent declaration of the state of emergency, in Sebeta, a neighborhood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 5 March 2018

ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on africafex.org on 12 March 2018.
The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) joins the International community to condemn the ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression rights in Ethiopia. AFEX calls on the government of Ethiopia to uphold freedom of expression rights of journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens in the country.

According to a local based human rights organisation, the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), security agents shot and killed at least 7 protesters, leaving several others wounded after protests erupted in different parts of the country, mainly the Oromia region. The protests are in response to Parliament's approval on March 2, 2018, of the six-month state of emergency declared by Ethiopia's Council of Ministers last month following the resignation of the country's Prime Minister.

AFEX denounces the killing of protesters by security agents and calls on the authorities to ensure that citizens' lives and rights are protected at all times. We also urge security officials to exercise restraint in carrying out their duties.

Other freedom of expression related violations were also recorded in Ethiopia in the few days after Parliament approved the state of emergency.

Security forces on March 8, 2018, arrested Seyoum Teshome, publisher of a popular blog known as the Ethiothinktank, at his residence close to the Woliso campus of Ambo University, where he lectures, according to media reports. No reason was given for his arrest and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Teshome has been critical of the Ethiopian government since authorities declared a six-month state of emergency last month, in February 2018. According to a statement issued by the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency, authorities can carry out arrests and searches without warrant and close down media stations.

This is very worrying as such draconian measures during the state of emergency will allow authorities to clamp down on dissenting voices in Ethiopia.

This is the second time security agents have arrested Teshome within the last year. He was arrested and detained for two months under the last state of emergency that was imposed by the government after the Oromia deadly protests.

In another incident reported a day earlier, William Davison, a reporter for The Guardian, who previously worked for Bloomberg, was deported on Wednesday (March 7, 2018) after being detained for a day at a police station. Authorities alleged that Davison was not affiliated to any foreign media and, therefore, cannot cover happenings within the country.

We call on the government to uphold freedom of expression and assembly rights of journalists and citizens as guaranteed by Ethiopia's national constitution. We urge security agents to release Teshome unconditionally and ensure that journalists and bloggers are free to carry out their duties in Ethiopia.

Members of AFEX:

Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Association for Media Development in South Sudan
Center for Media Studies and Peace Building
Freedom of Expression Institute
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda
Institute for Media and Society
International Press Centre
Journaliste en danger
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
West African Journalists Association

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