BBC News: Jailed Zone Nine Bloggers Spark Ethiopia Trend on Social Media

The Zone9 bloggers arrested on Friday, April 25, 2014. (Zone Nine Collective)

BBC News

30 April 2014

Just when US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Ethiopia, six of the nation’s leading bloggers have been arrested.

On Friday afternoon at 5pm Addis Ababa time, the mobile phones and inboxes of nine Ethiopian bloggers began to beep and vibrate with frantic messages. One of the members of social media activist group Zone 9 had been arrested – and others were being warned. But the alerts came too late and by the next day, five more bloggers and three journalists had been arrested All nine are in custody whilst police investigate allegations that the individuals have been working with foreign organizations, rights activists, and “using social media to destabilise the country”.

The arrests highlight the highly political role social media now plays in Ethiopia. Officially a democracy, human rights groups have repeatedly complained about the lack of press freedom there. Most of the TV and radio stations are state run. Because of this, the opposition and activists, including those based abroad, have come to dominate social media conversation in the country.

As you’d expect, then, since the arrests a protest hashtag, #Freezone9bloggers, has been tweeted over eight thousand times. Respectable by international standards, but a top trend in a country where the internet is estimated to reach just over 1% of the population. The Zone 9 bloggers began writing together two years ago and they use the platform to criticize the government, accusing it of human rights abuses and building poor infrastructure for example.

Read more at BBC.

Related:
Kerry Responds to Kristof ‘s Tweet About Arrests of Bloggers in Ethiopia (TADIAS)
Ethiopian Government Charges Journalists With Inciting Public Violence (VOA News)
Nine journalists and bloggers arrested in Ethiopia ahead of Kerry visit (The Guardian)
Ethiopia jails nine journalists, renews press crackdown (CPJ)
Arrests Upstage Kerry’s Ethiopia Visit (Human Rights Watch)
Six Members of Zone Nine Blogging Collective Arrested in Ethiopia (TADIAS)
Ethiopia: Multiple arrests in major crackdown on government critics (Amnesty.org)
Six Members of Blogging Collective Arrested in Ethiopia (Global Voices)

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