Target: Mulatu Teshome, President of Ethiopia
Goal: Urge release of bloggers and journalists detained and denied rights for nearly a year.
In Ethiopia, nine bloggers and journalists were unlawfully detained by authorities following articles they wrote on Zone 9, a web space aimed at promoting awareness about the country’s politics and leaders. Being prosecuted on politically motivated charges, the nine bloggers and journalists have faced grave and inhumane treatment, prompting human rights supporters and dispatches to question the country’s lack of concern for due process and fair trial.
For almost one year, the Zone 9 bloggers have had their trials adjourned 27 times and have also been allegedly mistreated while in detention. Unreasonable delays and lack of access to proper legal counsel are among the other injustices they’ve had to face. The detainment of Zone 9’s bloggers and Ethiopian journalists is part of a larger crackdown initiated by the country’s government against independent writers whose intentions are to bring awareness to the country’s political climate.
Since early 2010, approximately 60 Ethiopian journalists were forced into exile, including 30 journalists in 2014 alone. More than 19 others journalists and bloggers are said to languish in prison as the government continually denies them the right to a fair trial, lawyers, and an unbiased jury. Amidst the arrests, government harassment and intimidation has initiated the closing of six independent publications, including Addis Guday, a once popular weekly magazine whose editor and employees are all living in exile due to threats and harassment.
In addition to these injustices, the prosecution in the Zone 9 case is also allegedly fabricating evidence against Zone 9 journalists and bloggers, claiming that they received support for their web presence from terrorist organizations. In fact, the evidence seized from the laptops and homes of Zone 9 bloggers and journalists are related to online campaigns on freedom of expression, assembly and respect for the Ethiopian constitution—a far cry from the country’s claims of the group trying to “violently overthrow the government.”
All forms of evidence in the case against Zone 9 have been largely inconclusive. From rigged witness stands to fabricated evidence, the arrests of Zone 9 bloggers and journalists reeks of tyranny and justice must be served now. Sign the petition to urge President Mulatu Teshome of Ethiopia to stop silencing the voices of independent writers, bloggers and journalists and release Zone 9’s detainees.
Dear President Mulatu Teshome,
For over five years, Ethiopia has waged an unfair war against its journalists, writers, bloggers and other independent voices. To date, countless independent publications have been threatened, harassed and inhumanely treated simply for expressing their ideas and bringing opposing opinions to the table. Most, if not all, have been civil, non-violent and legal approaches to spreading ideas and exercising free speech.
The Zone 9 blogging and journalist collective, comprised of Atnaf Berahane, Befekadu Hailu, Abel Wabela, Mahlet Fantahun, Natnael Feleke, Zelalem Kibret, Tesfalem Waldyes, Edom Kassaye, and Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, is a powerful group of individuals that are passionate about the politics of Ethiopia and are simply interested in informing the public of the political and social happenings of the country rather than keeping them ignorant and dependent on words of wayward politicians.
It is illegal to deny detainees the right to due process and a fair trial, as well as access to appropriate legal representation. It should also come as no surprise that the abuse of detainees violates human rights. The bloggers and journalists of the Zone 9 collective do not deserve to be prosecuted, unlawfully, for reasons that are opaque and questionable.
I urge you to release the Zone 9 collective and allow them to contribute to the debate about politics rather than the country’s prison population.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Israel Association via Wikimedia