Big demonstration against law used to imprison journalists

Reporters Without Borders (www.rsf.org) 1 October 2013  ETHIOPIA Big demonstration against law used to imprison journalists An estimated 80,000 people took part in a street demonstration against Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law on 29 September in response to a call from

Reporters Without Borders (www.rsf.org)

1 October 2013 

ETHIOPIA

Big demonstration against law used to imprison journalists

An estimated 80,000 people took part in a street demonstration against Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law on 29 September in response to a call from Unity for Democratic Justice, an opposition group that spent more than three months rallying support for the protest.

Adopted in 2009, the much-criticized anti-terrorism law enables the government to justify arbitrary arrests of journalists, members of the opposition and human rights defenders.

The urgent need to amend this repressive law was of one of the recommendations that Reporters Without Borders included in its submission on Ethiopia to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 19th Universal Periodic Review session to be held between April and May next year. 

“The anti-terrorism law is one the biggest obstacles to freedom of information in Ethiopia,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Ever since its adoption, the government has had an alarming legal tool that it uses to gag dissidents. 

“Without taking any position on the politics of the demonstrators, we urge the government to hear the popular demand for immediate reform of the anti-terrorism law. We also call on the government to respect the freedom of expression of all news and information providers, regardless of their political views.”

According to the organizers, the demonstration’s aim was not only to condemn the law but also to demand the release of opposition members and journalists who have been jailed under it. They include Eskinder Nega, an activist and blogger detained since 15 September 2011 for alleged terrorist activities. Reyot Alemu, winner of the 2013 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano press freedom prize, and Woubeshet Taye, the deputy editor of the Amharic-language weekly Awramba Times, have been detained since June 2011 in appalling conditions. They are serving jail terms of five and 14 years respectively on charges of “participating in a terrorist organization and preparing a terrorist attack (http://en.rsf.org/ethiopia-columnist-s-sentence-on-terrorism-08-08-2012,43175.html).

Two Swedish journalists working for the Kontinent news agency, reporter Martin Schibbye and photographerJohan Persson, were arrested on 1 July 2011 while doing a report on human rights violations in the southeastern Ogaden region and were sentenced to 11 years in prison on a charge of terrorist activities (http://en.rsf.org/ethiopie-two-swedish-and-three-ethiopian-08-09-2011,40944.html).

They were released after 450 days in detention thanks to pressure from the international community.

In an interview for Reporters Without Borders, Schibbye said: “The mere fact that these demonstrations are taking place is a positive sign in Ethiopia. This shows the growing implication of the youth, namely through social networks, and their refusal to live in a society where journalists and dissidents can be jailed arbitrarily.”

One of the biggest problems with the anti-terrorism law is its extremely vague definition of what constitutes “terrorist activities.”

Ethiopia is ranked 137th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index (http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html).

More information about Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law: http://en.rsf.org/ethiopia-journalists-are-not-terrorists-24-01-2012,41764.html.

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4 COMMENTS
  • eritrean October 1, 2013

    Instead of Ethiopia putting her nose in Eritrea, they should mind their own problems.

    • COW FACE October 1, 2013

      I agree Eritrean ,actually we should invade Ethiopia and retreive that law ,that was sovereign law of Eritrea,that the Ethiopians are occupying, but then even breathing is a crime in our Eritrea.

      What a Sexy independence was handed out by Weyane´s 1993 signature ???Wow..

    • Raul October 2, 2013

      please you are typical sheep higdefawi , please use another name

      i have never ever seen a chicken head creature like you. as pity as shit. is this demonstration a healthy manifestation of the human right situation in Ethiopia or the other way according to your blind eyes? how about us? can we demonstrate? can we ask the whereabouts of our lost journalists? can we………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..infinity. i beg you one thing…please do not use the pen name eritrean. coze some one who insults democracy shouldn’t be allowed to use that sacred adjective. an adjective which is realized by the blood of Eritreans who passed away searching for justice and democracy, amongst them right to demonstrate. and let me remind you….close your eyes and pray for the Eritreans who drowned in the Mediteranean recently. they are the youngest siblings of the martyrs who sacrificed every thing for the betterment of them……………time is a fair judge….we will c

  • Tamrat Tamrat October 1, 2013

    This demostration tells us a lot. In the beginning of the 90s this types (content and size wise) of demonstration could have brought a massacar. Just for opposing the secession of Eritrea 9 innocent ethiopians were murdered by both eplf and tplf juntas in addis Ababa. The dictatro of tplf had said we used a live bullet because derg did not leave us With mass demonstration dispurssing Equipments. That time we knew off course we have two leaders. So the struggel started from the first day tplf started trushsing the will of the mass. This is Natural. You can not come from the war front and serve the Whole nation the way they expected from the New government. What was missing was that the reaction of tplf-eplf governemnt. Many dissappeard, murdered killed in the struggel from that time to now. Now journalists would be sent to prison but we know where they are. Their ‘crimes’ would be read and they stand infornt of a Court. The demonstrators wont be massacared. This is Called victory. You silent all this then the Public loose hope for change then we end up like ‘eritrea’. God knows who or what keeps Eritrea from exploding but Ethiopia can not afford the Eritrea style system. And this could not happen by miracle. This happened by hundred thousands sacrifice.

    I can garantee you this has nothing to do how polight or sincer is Haile Mariam. This has the Whole thing to do With the brave ethiopian sacrifice.

    Eritreans look what ethiopians have done from beginning till now. And tell us what you have done against the dictator eplf/pfdj (changing the coock name wont make the wot (zigni) better).

    Oppose eplf at home where it holds Power. Not in the city of the west where eplf has allready got its max punishment.

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