Category Archives: Articles

Abridged and contextually translated articles written by Zone 9 bloggers which are brought to support allegations – Part One

A guide to the works of Zone9ers which are brought to the court as an evidence. As the majority of the works are in Amharic it is important to have a glimpse of their work in English. The following are excerpts, quotes and passages translated contextually.

Note: This writings are brought to support the accusations of terrorism related activities.

Title: Freedom and Bread  

By: Natnael Feleke

Published date: June 5, 2012

In his introduction Natnael has painted the level of fear the country has been experiencing. He gave instances of this fear culture that engulfed Ethiopia. Elders advise young people to avoid discussing politics in public. He highlighted why freedom and bread are a contested issues in Ethiopian politics. He provocatively asked which (bread or freedom) should be prioritized. In the article organized in five subtitles Natnael has shown the plight of Ethiopians in relation with freedom and bread. Natnael argued even though we need bread we also need freedom as Zimbabwean blogger famously put it “we need food but we also need freedom to speak against people who steal our food”. To read the Amharic version click here.

Title: The price of censorship   

By: Natnael Feleke

Published date: Feb 12, 2013

This article is written as part of advocacy efforts of Zone9ers to stop censorship in Ethiopia. In his anecdote Natnael used a video from a commemorative event organized by Pen America for award winning journalist Eskinder Nega. In the video (available here) American investigative journalist Carl Bernstein and actor, producer and director Issac Liev made a speech highlighting the achievement of journalist Eskinder Nega and the importance of freedom of speech. The reason Natnael make this event anecdotal to his article is to show how media operates in free environment contribute for the greater cause of humanity. He mentioned Carl Bernsteins investigative reporting during the Watergates scandal which led to the dramatic resignation of President Richard Nixon. He attributed the resignation of the president to the working and free American media environment of the 1970s. Natnael contrasted this with repressive media environment and the price journalists and bloggers pay to have an open and independent media environment. He further argued censorship and control has an economic impact. He made a reference of the works of the Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen. According to the article no substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent country with democratic form of government and relatively free press. So Natnael has argued that free press is critically important in fight against poverty. To read the Amharic version click here.

Title: Love and Exile

By: Solomon Abreha, Not a member of Zone9 and based in Europe

Published date: Oct 9, 2012

Unless brief introduction about the causes of exile the article is nothing political. It is about love affairs among Ethiopians who live in exile. To read the Amharic version click here.

Title: Had Wael Ghonim been an Ethiopian

By: Befekadu Hailu

Published date: Jan 7, 2013

Befeqadu wrote an imaginary interview with the Egyptian Internet activist and computer engineer. He assumed what Ghonim would respond to his questions has he been Ethiopian.Excerpts from an imaginary interview.

Q: What is your name?

A: My name is Bekel Gerba, Reyot Alemu, Argaw Ashine, Mesfin Negah, Shibre Desalegne, Ahmedin Jebel, Olabna Lelisa, Eskinder Nega, Yusuf Abdela, Anduaalem Aragie. I am an Ethiopian whose human rights are downgraded and got harassed, beaten, incarcerated and exiled for just being myself.

Q: How old are you?

A: Well, I have lived my entire life under dictatorship

Q: Do you have any personal relationship with people you mentioned above?

A: I have never met them in person but they are all kind of inspiriting people. I share a dream of being free. I hope I will meet them in person one day.

Q: Why are you doing this?

A: I hate repression. It is so aching to see people downgraded from their dignified humanity to an object of repression. I will keep on doing what I am doing.

Q: Don’t you fear when you do this?

A: I have fears and fear is only human. But I shall keep doing what I am doing. To read the Amharic version click here.

Title: Journalism or manufacturing consent    

By: Endalkachew H/Mikael

Published date: June 23, 2012

It is a piece which criticize the developmental journalism practiced by state media.  The writer argues state media journalism is used to manufacture consent. To read the Amharic version click here.

Title: Let our voice be heard

By: Endalkachew H/Mikael and Befekadu Hailu

Published date: Aug 15, 2012

It is a feature article about repression of people’s right. The writers took the title from Ethiopian Muslims religious rights activists facebook page. They illustrated the lack of freedom across all spectrum of life. To read the Amharic version click here.

Title: How should we be heard?

By: Mahlet Fantahun

Published date: Aug 11, 2012

In the article Mahlet commented on the basic communication breakdown between citizens and the government. She raised the importance of communication for good governance. She also commented on transient and ephemeral nature of Ethiopia’s media reporting and invited her readers to suggest any better ways of communications. To read the Amharic version click here.

Title:  Legacies and Visions of Meles Zenawi

By: Soliyana Shimeles  

Published date: Nov 12, 2012

On this piece Soliyana reflected on hyped and highly glorified legacies of Meles Zenawi. She listed ten major legacies that the late Meles has left behind. Bad governance, poor civic society organizations and fear are among them. It is a contrast for a flawless character Meles has got from state media. To read the Amharic version click here.

Title: Ethiopian Censorship and law past and present

By: Zelalem Kibret   

Published date: Feb 21, 2013

In this article Zelalem has reflected on censorship history and its implications in scholarly manner. He highlighted the Ethiopia’s legal frame work of censorship broadly. To illustrate his point he quoted Ethiopia’s most storied writer laureate Tsegaye Gebremedihin said “Among 41 theaters I have written (including the one’s I translated and wrote in English) twelve of them were all banned. Twenty one of them were tainted. Three of them were half altered. Four of them are not yet staged. From the three anthologies (two of them not yet published) of my poems I have compiled, thirsty seven individual poems got me spanked by the Ethiopia’s bureau of censorship, government security people, or top officials…. “. Zelalem conclude that even though the current Ethiopia’s constitution has avoided institutional censorship he has shown proclamations that have instituted censorship after the 2005 Ethiopia’s controversial election. He wrapped up his article with a beautiful quote from Ben Shahn “You have not converted a man because you have s silenced him”, To read the Amharic version click here.

Endalk Chala

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Why Ethiopia criminalizes online free speech? Research round-up – review

Why does a country of about 90 million populations (Second in Africa next to Nigeria) with an Internet penetration of less than 2 percent need to criminalize an online free speech? It looks absurd right? Not exactly, considering government of Ethiopia’s inherent feudalistic desire to grip on every bit of information in the society criminalizing an online freedom of speech is something that is not unexpected.

The Ethiopian government’s record in handling the issues of freedom of expression which are enshrined in its own constitution is dreadful and it is reprehensible for a government that pride itself for lifting millions of people out of ‘poverty’. The issue of lifting millions of people out of poverty is dubious and it is usually calculated using data that comes from a statistical authority which is in the pocket of the ruling party. (More on that later) The matter is well documented in various researches and reports. Here is how the Ethiopian government rolls on the research reports. Understandably the reports are all from foreign based NGOs or members of Western academic institutes as there are neither academic nor civil society organizations which are allowed to operate freely in Ethiopia.

While the rest of African countries are enjoying a relatively superior level of access to the global information system via the Internet the monopolistic control of EthioTelecom, the only ISP in the country, by Ethiopian government hinders access to the majority of Ethiopians. The government claims that they are holding on the telecom sector because they believe it is only government not the private sector which can work towards realizing the objective of universal access of the Internet. But is the Ethiopian government working for the objective they set for themselves as achieving universal access of the Internet? Forget the cut-off date for the realization of this objective and the answer is no. Studies frequently have shown that beside meager level of access to telecom services the quality of the service is dreadfully bad.

The perseverance of such bad services is not without cause and for a detailed analysis of one of the cause which is corruption, see the WORLD BANK’s chapter eight report of the 2013. Corruption in the Telecommunications Sector in Ethiopia: A Preliminary Overview.

Most of the current news reports on the matter exclusively focused on describing the repression of journalists and bloggers and their report is about episode in time, with less or no political and social context of the country in which the media operates. A Sub-Saharan African media expert and journalism professor, Terje S. Skjerdal professor at Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication, Kristiansand, Norway has made Ethiopian media and journalism his fiefdom of study over a number of researches now, about Ethiopia’s censorship, the roles of Ethiopian States in keeping media under their grip, about digital diasporas, about the fine between journalism and activism. In 2012 with his PhD thesis Terje show how journalism values are in a constant conflict in Ethiopian state media culture. They are all worth reading.

Even though too few there have been some excellent research reports about Ethiopia’s new media politics and repression. In this regard Iginio Gagliardone’s New media and the developmental state in Ethiopia is a superb piece of research report which tries to put the repression of the new media in perspective. The annual Freedom House report titled Freedom on the Net is a good starting place for those want to have a contextual understanding of the repression.

Elsewhere, if someone wonders to know the legal protection of freedom of expression, there are two papers worth your time. In 2010 Gedion Timothewos has written about the jurisprudential dearth of freedom of expression in Ethiopia. Despite a poplar claim that says freedom of expression has at least a constitutional protection Gedion argues there are fairly high amount of limitations imposed on freedom of expression in Ethiopia through duly enacted laws .It available here. The other one is Tracy J. Ross’s paper which analyses Ethiopia’s press law. You can read it here.

Endalk Chala