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Ethiopian journalist faces jail for talking to dissident

May 24, 2017

A court in Ethiopia convicted a journalist of encouraging revolt on Wednesday for a message he sent to a man the government considers to be a terrorist.

Ethiopian authorities arrested newspaper editor Getachew Shiferaw in 2015 and charged him under the country’s controversial terrorism laws for communicating on Facebook with a member of Ginbot 7, an outlawed group linked to arch-nemesis Eritrea, which separated from Ethiopia in 1993.

While the terrorism charges were eventually dropped, Getachew’s lawyer Ameha Mekonnen told AFP the court determined that one of the messages constituted “preparation to obstruct government officials from discharging their duties.”

“Getachew has consistently [denied] that he has made that kind of communication,” Ameha said. “Even if he has made it, he was arguing that it was in the limit of freedom of expression, it has nothing to do with any criminal behaviour.”

Getachew faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced on May 26.

Amnesty International regional director Muthoni Wanyeki called the decision “a further slap in the face for justice.”

“Getachew did nothing but share publicly-available information – to convict him of provoking revolt with the risk of a 10-year jail term, away from his loved ones, is cruel and unacceptable,” Wanyeki said in a statement.

Getachew’s arrest came in the midst of protests by the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromos, which led to hundreds of deaths and prompted the government to declare a state of emergency last October.

That declaration is scheduled to expire in July after being extended last March.

Ameha said Getachew’s newspaper acted as a newsletter for the Blue Party, one of the opposition parties in Ethiopia.

Last week, a former spokesman for the party was convicted under Ethiopia’s terrorism law for criticising the government on Facebook.

Human rights groups and allies like the United States have expressed concerns over the laws, saying they are being used to silence dissent.


Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.