London, 6 May 2014 – PEN International, ARTICLE 19, Civicus and Freedom Now will shine a spotlight on the unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression in Ethiopia. Recent weeks have seen renewed arrests of journalists and bloggers, and the expulsion of representatives of civil society activists from the country. This crackdown has taken place in the run-up to its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations in Geneva, which is taking place today, 6 May 2014.
The UPR is the process by which all UN Member States are assessed on a rolling basis every four and a half years by the Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
‘It is disappointing that few of the recommendations on freedom of expressions – including those accepted by Ethiopia – have been implemented in the intervening four years,’ said Ann Harrison, Director of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
‘Freedom of the press remains severely restricted and a new wave of writers, including independent bloggers is taking place. Anyone held for peacefully expressing themselves should be released immediately and unconditionally.’
PEN International, ARTICLE 19, Civicus and Freedom Now are hosting a side-event where exiled Ethiopian writers Girma Fantaye and Hika Fedeke Dugassa will be speaking about their experiences in a panel moderated by PEN. The two Ethiopian writers are currently in placements offered by PEN’s partner organisation, the International Cities of Refuge Network. They will be joined by Patrick Mutahi, from Article 19’s East Africa office who was recently expelled from Ethiopia where he was due to conduct civil society training ahead of the UPR, and Maran Turner, the Executive Director of Freedom Now.
In September 2013, the PEN International, along with the Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom Now submitted a shadow report to the UNHRC detailing violations by the Government of Ethiopia on free speech with recommendations to the authorities.
The recommendations in the shadow report include: release journalists and activists imprisoned or detained for reasons connected to their exercise of free speech and association; repeal legislation which restricts free speech; end restrictions on international broadcasters and blocking of international websites; permit freedom of movement for independent journalists, end the blocking, filtering, and monitoring of internet and mobile phone usage, which severely limit digital freedom and the right to free expression and permit UN human rights mechanisms to visit the country.
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