The Ethiopian bloggers charged as terrorists
A group of journalists and bloggers known as the Zone Nine collective have felt the full force of a government media crackdown. With their colleagues imprisoned awaiting trial they took over Six members of Ethiopia’s blogging collective and three journalists, known as Zone Nine, are facing terrorism charges. In an alleged plot to “destabilise the nation” they stand accused of having links to banned rebel group Ginbot 7 and planning attacks.
The group have been imprisoned since April, with critics accusing the government of making unnecessary delays to the trial at their expense. There have been seven hearings and it emerged that the latest, due to be held this week, would be postponed until 20 August.
The Zone Nine mantra is “we blog because we care”. They became known for criticising the government and its policies. Last month, their colleagues mobilised online campaigners, asking them to use the hashtag #FreeZone9Bloggers to protest in favour of their release.
Freedom activists have criticised the detention of the bloggers. Responding to the court issuing the terror charge on the 18 July, Human Rights Watch said Ethiopia is making a “mockery of its own judicial system” and “hiding behind an abusive anti-terrorism law.”
A sustained government crackdown has crippled Ethiopia’s independent press and a briefly “thriving and energetic blogosphere” has been silenced by government censorship, says blogging website global voices. Freedom House categorises Ethiopia’s press as “not free”.
We invited two members of the blogging collective, Soliyana Shimeles and Endalk Chala to takeover @guardianafrica to answer your questions. Where does the case stand? How do they cope with censorship? And what do they hope for the future?