EQUATORIAL GUINEA /Detained in September 2017
UPDATE: On May 28, after having been banned from travelling for three months, political cartoonist and blogger Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé was finally able to leave Equatorial Guinea.
UPDATE: On March 7, 2018, an Equatoguinean court released Ramon after having served six months on trumped-up charges of “money-laundering” and “counterfeit.” The prosecution dropped all charges after the police officer who had accused Ramon of engaging in counterfeit confessed he had been following orders from his superiors who wanted to implicate Ramon in this criminal activity.
On September 16, 2017, Equatoguinean authorities detained political cartoonist and blogger Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. He was accused of “money laundering and counterfeiting” and was arrested alongside two of his friends with Spanish nationality, who were quickly released later that day. Civil society members believe Ramón’s arrest and detainment was in connection to his illustrations, which are critical of Equatorial Guinea’s government and the country’s authoritarian President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. In 2017, he also worked with the civil society organization Equatorial Guinea Justice (EGJ) on a human rights art project. On December 7, 2017, and Equatoguinean judge ruled Ramón was guilty.
In November 2017, the Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) awarded Ramón their 2017 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning, which his wife accepted on his behalf. Since his detainment, artists around the world have expressed solidarity with Ramón by drawing pictures calling for his release. View their illustrations here.
ETHIOPIA /Detained in December 2015
“If speaking for those killed on the streets constitutes a crime, I will take it as my badge of honour. I will get my judgment form history and God.”
UPDATE: On March 5, 2018, Yonatan was released from Zeway prison in the Orioma State. Yonatan had been among a list of journalists and politicians who were freed mid-February, but his release was delayed after he refused to sign a “pardon” statement that required him to admit guilt to his charges. He was finally set free after spending over two years in prison.
Yonatan is a former spokesman for the Semayawi (Blue) opposition party and was arrested in December 2015. He was detained for his Facebook comments against the government’s plans to extend Addis Ababa’s city limits into Oromia’s farmlands. He was held without charges until May 4, 2016, when he was finally charged with “‘incitement, planning, preparation, conspiracy and attempt’ to commit a terrorist act.” Authorities claimed that his comments encouraged people to rise up against the government as well as prolong the protests in the Oromia region. Authorities had also accused him of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a banned separatist movement which the government labeled a terrorist organization.
The international community including Amnesty International has called for his release saying that he was arbitrarily arrested and had no ties to the OLF. On May 16, 2017, the Ethiopian Federal High court fourth criminal bench passed a guilty verdict against Yonatan Tesfaye and sentenced him to six years in prison.
On November 2017, the Supreme Court downgraded the terrorist charges to criminal charges; the Court ruled that Yonatan had no ties to terrorism but that he had still provoked and/or prepared crimes that disrupted constitutional order. Under criminal charges, Yonatan’s sentence was reduced to three and a half years instead of the initial six.
ETHIOPIA /Detained on November 30, 2016
UPDATE: Dr. Merera Gudina’s hearing finally took place on July 7, 2017 after months of delays. The court refused to dismiss charges against Dr. Gudina and delayed his access to a list of prosecution witnesses until a constitutional court approves the request. His next hearing is scheduled for July 31. Click here to join Ana Gomes, member of the European Parliament (EP) and World Movement for Democracy Steering Committee, in asking the Ethiopian government to #SetThemFree!
Dr. Merera Gudina is a prominent scholar and chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). He was arrested on November 30, 2016, by Ethiopian authorities at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. Dr. Gudina was returning from Belgium where he testified before the European Parliament about human rights abuses in Ethiopia. On February 22, 2017, he was formally charged with terrorism, “disrupting constitutional order,” and “giving a false and damaging statement about the government to the media.” If found guilty, he could serve up to 10 years in prison.
Dr. Gudina is also accused of violating Ethiopia’s six-month state of emergency by associating with Dr. Nega who is a leader of the Patriotic Ginbot 7 (G7), an opposition group that is considered a “terrorist organization” by Ethiopia’s ruling party. The state of emergency, which suspends constitutionally guaranteed rights and gives sweeping powers to the security sector, was declared on October 9, 2016, in response to ongoing anti-government protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions.
Dr. Gudina is a former member of the Ethiopian parliament, and leads the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (MEDREK). He is also an internationally respected scholar and published author.
ETHIOPIA / Detained April 25, 2014
Reeyot Alemu, a journalist who regularly contributed to weekly newspaper Féteh and a high school English teacher, was arrested on June 21, 2011. The authorities attempted to silence her with the anti-terrorism law and the criminal code. She faced 14 years of imprisonment, along with a fine of 33,000 birrs (USD 1,850), despite the fact that she earned less than $100 per month. In 2012, an appeals court reduced her sentence to 5 years and dropped most of the terrorism charges. Before imprisonment, she founded her own magazine Change in 2010, in which she covered critical social and political issues, including poverty and gender equality. Her outstanding journalism helped her to win the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 2013.
ETHIOPIA / Detained April 25, 2014
Asemamaw Hailegiorgis has been set free on July 8, 2015!
Asemamaw Hailegiorgis, a journalist with information technology background, was arrested on April 25, 2014. He faced terrorism charges along with other Zone 9 bloggers and journalists who aim to spread awareness of human rights violations. Hailegiorgis worked for Addis Guday magazine for seven years and finished as a managing editor. He also organized his own radio program about IT on Addis Ababa city FM radio station.
ETHIOPIA / Detained April 25, 2014
Tesfalem Weldeyes has been set free on July 8, 2015!
Tesfalem Weldeyes, a journalist who worked as a freelancer for Addis Standard and many other Ethiopian media, was arrested on April 25, 2014. He was charged with terrorism alongside a number of Zone 9 bloggers and journalists who aim to spread awareness of human rights violations. After 439 days of imprisonment, Weldeyes was freed.
ETHIOPIA / Detained April 25, 2014
Edom Kassaye has been set free on July 9, 2015!
Edom Kassaye is a journalist who had served as a reporter for various media since 2008. Along with other Zone 9 bloggers and journalists who aim to spread awareness of human rights violations, she was imprisoned on April 25, 2014 with charges of terrorism. She briefly worked for “The Ethiopian Herald,” a government English daily, and was an employee of Radio Fana and Global Voices Amharic. Although she was not a member of Zone 9, she participated in numerous online campaigns held by Zone 9. Referred to as “Miss Integrity” by other bloggers, she is deeply committed to active citizenship while under repression.
ETHIOPIA / Freed April 6, 2018
Mahlet Fantahun is a former database administrator at the Ministry of Health in Addis Ababa and is a co-founder of Zone 9, an Amheric blog run by a group of activists whose motto is: “We blog because we care.” The blog is “mainly aimed at creating an alternative and independent platform of ideas on the socio-political conditions of Ethiopia—in which public discourse will be encouraged.”
The name is a play off of the eight zones in Kality Prison, the main jail where Ethiopia’s political prisoners are held. The bloggers refer to the entire country as “Zone 9” because of Ethiopia’s lack of democratic freedoms. In November 2015, the Zone 9 bloggers were awarded the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Fantahun received her degree in Applied Mathematics. She seeks to foster civic engagement by posting critical comments on social and political issues in Ethiopia on her Facebook page.
Fantahun was released after serving an unjust 12 day detention without any formal charges at Gotera-Pepsi Police Station in Addis Ababa. She was arrested with 11 other journalists, who were also freed.
On March 25, 2018, Fantahun was re-arrested along with 11 other human rights activists and journalists. The arrests were carried out while the defenders were attending a private gathering in Addis Ababa at the home of journalist Temesgen Desalegn. The gathering was held in recognition of the recent release of thousands of political prisoners amidst ongoing and widespread protests against political marginalization and land grabbing in the Oromia and Amhara regions which began in late 2015. Fantahun, along with fellow Zone9 blogger Befeqadu Hailu, was arrested for violating the State of Emergency provisions that forbid gathering en masse and is being held at Gotera-Pepsi Police Station in Addis Ababa.
Fantahun was arrested on April 25, 2014. Like other Zone 9 bloggers and journalists who aim to spread awareness of human rights violations, she was charged with terrorism. On July 9, 2015, Fantahun was released and her charges were dropped.
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