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Release of five Ethiopian journalists is a positive step, but others remain in detention – UN expert

GENEVA (10 July 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, welcomed yesterday’s release of two bloggers who contributed to the independent Ethiopian collective ‘Zone 9’ and four other journalists, but noted that other journalists remain in detention in Ethiopia charged under the anti-terror law.

“The reported release of six Ethiopian journalists is an important positive move,” Mr. Kaye said. “I only hope this to be the first of other similar steps to be taken by authorities releasing other journalists and activists who continue to be in detention for exercising their legitimate work.”

The bloggers, who used an online platform to report on social and political issues in Ethiopia, were arrested in 2014 and remained in detention for over one year. Four other Zone 9 bloggers arrested last year reportedly remain in detention.

The Special Rapporteur jointly with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, had previously expressed their concern* on the prolonged bloggers’ detention and on the use of national security concerns to curb freedom of expression and association.

“Prosecuting and jailing journalists or activists for carrying out their vital work of informing public debate are not only unacceptable in international law, but can hardly contribute to national security,” Mr. Kaye stated. “National security provisions need to be clearly defined in Ethiopian criminal law, and they must not be abused.”

The Special Rapporteur called on the Ethiopian authorities to take this opportunity to carefully revise the country laws and practices dealing with the media and civil society organizations, and noted his interest in further cooperating with authorities and visiting the country. 

Mr. Kaye’s comments to the Ethiopian authorities were endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai.

(*) Check the news release:  Continued detention of Ethiopian journalists unacceptable – UN human rights experts (24 April 2015) - 
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15890&LangID=E

David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Ethiopia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ETIndex.aspx

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