African Media

Ethiopian government continues crackdown on media: Oromo protests and Zone 9 bloggers

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Authorities in Ethiopia have arrested two journalists linked to coverage of protests in the Oromia region. Getachew Shiferaw, editor-in-chief of the Negere Ethiopia online newspaper, is reportedly to be charged under the country's anti-terror legislation and Fikadu Mirkana, a news anchor at the state-run broadcaster Oromia Radio and TV, was arrested at his home in Addis Ababa. The arrests follow protests in the Oromia region over the government’s plan to extend the boundaries of the capital city to incorporate nearby farmland. Bloggers from the Zone 9 blogging collective were also summoned to appear in court at the end of December as the prosecution appeals their acquittal on terrorism charges. Zone 9 has been particularly critical of the Ethiopian government and five members of the group were cleared in October. Ethiopia is often accused of stifling press freedom with the Committee to Protect Journalists group saying that the “public does not enjoy fundamental human rights such as the right to receive and share information and divergent viewpoints”. The CPJ ranks Ethiopia as the third worst jailer of journalists on the African continent. African Media speaks to two Ethiopian journalists in the diaspora…

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Dhabasa Wakjira, a founder of US-based Oromo Voice radio station, presenter on Australia’s 3ZZZ

“I don’t know the exact reason for the arrests, but obviously it’s when there’s some kind of demonstration or arrests, the first targets are always journalists. The government technically runs a democratic system, but in practice they run a very repressive system. In any situation, they focus on the media to hide the outbreak of arrests or demonstrations. It is the nature of the government for the past 25 years.”

Endalk Chala, member of Zone 9 blogging collective

“Since their acquittal they are active on Twitter, on social media and two of our members have written a very good article about the Oromo protests. They’ve given very good contextual articles about why the Oromo are protesting against the expansion of the capital city Addis Ababa. They [the bloggers] were told to collect the [court] summons paper after we have had posted a solidarity note on our Facebook page. It could be related to this. But the case has been there, the prosecutor has been saying, ‘I’m going to appeal the decision’. It could be related. There is a widespread crackdown going on in the country, especially in the Oromia region, students are being killed, arrested arbitrarily and there were even extrajudicial killings on the streets of this big region. It could be related as part of the crackdown.”

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