Zelalem Workagegnehu, De Birhan
Authorities arrested Zelalem at his home in the capital, Addis Ababa, on July 8, 2014, during a mass crackdown on opposition leaders and social media activists ahead of the 2015 elections, exiled Ethiopian journalists told CPJ.
On October 31, 2014, Ethiopia’s Federal High Court chargedZelalem under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism law with having links to the diaspora-based opposition group Ginbot 7, according to local journalists and news reports. No evidence was provided regarding his alleged links to Ginbot 7, which the government has designated a terrorist group.
Zelalem, who covers Ethiopian politics and geopolitical issues in the Horn of Africa for the news website De Birhan and contributes to other news websites, was working with exiled Ethiopian journalists to organize a journalism training and security course for himself and two of his colleagues, local journalists said. Zelalem and his colleagues were planning to launch a blog similar to Zone 9, a blogging collective whose members were arrested earlier that year and have since been released, the sources told CPJ.
De Birhan was established in September 2009 as a blog, then became a website that covers news and analysis of Ethiopia and East Africa, according to the website. The website covers politics, culture, and social issues.
Zelalem, who was studying for a master’s degree in public administration at Addis Ababa University at the time of his arrest, is being held at Kilinto Prison, in the capital Addis Ababa, local journalists said. He is in good health, according to his family who visited him. His trial was scheduled to begin on November 23, 2015.
He did not appear on CPJ’s 2014 prison census because the journalist’s family had asked CPJ not to publicize the case, hoping that quiet advocacy would free him. In 2015, after Zelalem had been imprisoned for more than a year, his family asked CPJ to go public with his case.