October 28, 2015
Zelalem, Yonatan, Bahiru and Abraham.
A new “Freedom on the Net 2015” report released today by the US based Freedom House has details about De Birhan Blog’s co-blogger, Zelalem Workagegnehu and his three friends Yonatan Wolde, Abraham Solomon, and Bahiru Degu, who have all been arrested since July 8, 2014 in Kilinto, Ethiopia.
Several other critical bloggers and online activists were arrested in July 2014, including Abraha Desta and Zelalem Workagegnehu, both academics and bloggers who were held without charges for four months until October 2014 when they were charged for their alleged support of the opposition group Ginbot 7. They were also charged with using social media to contact members of Ginbot 7. Widely known for his Facebook posts criticizing the ruling party, Abraha Desta was reportedly beaten brutally before being taken to an unidentified prison. Three other individuals—Yonatan Wolde, Abraham Solomon, and Bahiru Degu—were also arrested around the same time for allegedly applying for an internet security and social media training abroad. At a court hearing in August 2015, the defendants’ cases were delayed until November.
The report found that Ethiopia is within the “Not Free” category scoring 82. It also found that authorities in 40 of 65 countries imprisoned people for sharing information concerning politics, religion, or society through digital networks, up from 38 in last year’s report. According to the research results, China was the world’s worst abuser of Internet freedom, followed by Syria and Iran.
Since June 2014, 32 of the 65 countries assessed in Freedom on the Net saw Internet freedom deteriorate. Notable declines were documented in Libya, France, and — for the second year running — Ukraine, amid its territorial conflict with Russia. Internet freedom saw its biggest gains in Sri Lanka and Zambia, which both experienced a recent change in government.