Ethiopia’s Zone9 bloggers says “We are still prisoners”
Zone9 Bloggers & Journalists
Evidently six members of the Zone9 & three journalists are released from prison after they spent 14 to 18 months in prison. The three journalists and the two bloggers were released as the charges were ‘withdrawn’ in July. While the other four bloggers were acquitted in October. And one member the blogging collective, Befeqadu, was released on bail and he is yet to defend himself later this year in December on charges related with inciting violence.
However, since we walked free from prison we often are running into difficulties that suggest that we are not completely free and we can also testify that our difficulties are not easing off yet. As a result have decided to issue a brief statement on our situation:
1. The three journalists and the two bloggers who were released in July are still under travel restrictions although they got their seized passports back. For instance, Zelalem Kibret was denied exit and he got his passport confiscated at Bole International on November 15, 2015. He was traveling from Addis Ababa to Strasbourg, France to attend an award ceremony of Reporters Without Borders as Zone9 Bloggers are the recipient of the 2015 Citizen Journalism Award. Due to this complications Zelalem’s chance to travel to New York to attend CPJ Press Freedom Award ceremony is seriously hampered. We do not know why this happened to Zelalem but we want to remind that article 32 of the Ethiopian Constitution protects Ethiopians’ freedom of movement both within Ethiopia as well as to travel abroad.
2. The three bloggers, Abel Wabela, Atnaf Birahane,and Natnael Felek who were acquitted at the beginning of October have not got their seized passports and electronic equipment back. Although they have requested to have their confiscated passports and properties back stating the prosecutor’s ‘appeal’ as a reason, the concerned government agency denied them to get their properties back. But the issue of appeal is still unresolved and four weeks after their release the bloggers are yet to learn their fate
3. Abel Wabela, Edom Kassaye ,Mahlet Fantahun and Zelalem Kibret were employees before their imprisonment. But so far their employers are not willing to rehire them or allow them back to their work. The time they spent in a prison is considered is as the fault of the bloggers and they are being laid off.
4. Recently, BBC reported that Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn insisted that we not real journalists and we had terror links. Likewise, other government officials also routinely give similar unconstitutional opinions which infringes the court’s pronouncement of our innocence.
Leaving these issues unattended is making us to feel as if we are living under a house arrest. The uncertainty coupled with and other issues putting us in an incredible amount of pressure to censor ourselves. Hence, we request the Ethiopian government or the concerned government agency
1. To respect our freedom of movement
2. To return our seized properties and confiscated passports back
3. To respect the court’s pronouncement of our innocence.
Respect the Constitution
Zone9 Bloggers & Journalists
POSTTED BY DANIEL TESFAYE