Monthly Activist Growth: Muluken Tesfaw

Muluken Tesfaw is an Ethiopian journalist and human rights activist who arrived in Finland one and a half years ago. Muluken visited our office and told about the human rights situation in Ethiopia and especially the difficult position of journalists in the country. When living in Ethiopia, Muluken founded his own newspaper, worked actively in organizations, and investigated human rights violations.

Muluken became a human rights activist when he met people who had been forced by the Ethiopian government to flee their homes to the construction project. “People lost all their possessions and had to leave their familiar home,” Muluken says. He began investigating human rights violations in order to find out the overall picture of the situation and the extent of the problem. “Activism in Ethiopia is difficult and dangerous. The government has an anti-terrorism law that applies in a situation as it is in a situation, “says Muluken. He has this personal experience: he was arrested for ten days for his inquiry, and he knows a number of other journalists and human rights activists who have been imprisoned unjustifiably.The situation in Ethiopia in terms of freedom of expression is extremely challenging. At the time of the 2015 elections, newspapers were abolished by the government and numerous journalists fled the country. At that time, Muluken was hiding, but the situation was difficult after all.

He came to Finland almost coincidentally. In the spring of 2016, the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day was held in Helsinki, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited more than 50 journalists from developing countries. Muluken was one of them. In Finland, he was told that return to Ethiopia would not be possible – the situation for journalists and human rights defenders had further escalated. He applied for asylum and was allowed to stay in Finland. “If I went back to Ethiopia, I would be arrested immediately and tortured, possibly even killed,” Muluken says.

In Finland, Muluken continues as a journalist. When we ask what the difference is to work as a journalist in Finland than in Ethiopia, Muluken laughs, “They can not even compare to each other! Ethiopia is a cemetery for journalists, while in Finland there is full freedom of expression. ”

Muluken hopes for international pressure to improve the situation in Ethiopia: “Structures must change and the EU should ensure that it does not support the undemocratic governance of Ethiopia with its development funds, ” he says.

Muluken also wants to send greetings to Finnish activists: “Speak from Ethiopia and Africa. There are good things going on there, but also raise issues of concern –   be silent. 

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