Nine journalists and bloggers arrested in Ethiopia ahead of Kerry visit

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The Ethiopian authorities have arrested nine journalists and bloggers on allegations that they worked for foreign human rights groups or used social media to incite violence.

According to sources cited by the International Press Institute, some of the people arrested were among a group that met with the IPI’s representatives during a press freedom mission to the country in November 2013.

Three of the nine worked for Amharic and English newspapers. The others wrote for the dissident Zone 9 blog. All were reportedly arraigned in an Addis Ababa court on Sunday (27 April), the day after their arrest.

One of the arrested, the editor of a weekly, said they are all being held at the central police station in Addis Ababa and have been denied access to lawyers, family and colleagues.

According to the Zone 9 blog, the nine were charged with “working with foreign human right activist organisations… and inciting violence through social media to create instability in the country”.

IPI’s press freedom manager Barbara Trionfi said: “The Ethiopian authorities seem determined to crush any independent source of information, be it in print or online, and local, regional and international press freedom groups have so far failed to halt the ongoing harassment.”

“There needs to be concerted international pressure from Ethiopia’s donors and partners, including the European Union and the United States, to end the abuse and to pressure the Ethiopian leaders to respect their constitutional and international obligations to respect fundamental rights of media freedom.”

US secretary of state John Kerry arrived in Ethiopia yesterday “to advance peace and democracy”. His visit prompted Pen America to write a letter urging him to take up the case of the nine arrested journalists and bloggers.

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