Senegal: CPJ calls for immediate release of Ethiopian blogger

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - Ethiopian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release prominent blogger Seyoum Teshome, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said.

In a statement made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Tuesday, the press freedom watchdog disclosed that Ethiopian police arrested Teshome on 1 October and put him under custody.

Teshome is a frequent commentator on Ethiopian affairs who writes for the website and lectures at Ambo University's campus in Woliso, some 110 km (68 miles) southwest of capital Addis Ababa.

CPJ revealed that the police arrested him from his home in Addis Ababa, searched the house and confiscated his computer.

It was not immediately clear what charges, if any, Teshome faces.

"This arrest of a prominent writer and commentator is deeply disturbing as it comes against a backdrop of government moves to stifle protests and criticism," remarked CPJ Deputy Executive Director, Robert Mahoney.

"Seyoum Teshome should be released without delay and without condition."

According to CPJ, Seyoum is a prolific writer, and international media frequently seek him out for comments on events in Ethiopia.

In a recent New York Times article on the Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa, who crossed his arms in a sign of solidarity with anti-government protesters at the finish line of the men's marathon at the Rio Olympics, Seyoum was quoted as saying the athlete's symbolic protest action had struck a blow against the Ethiopian government's carefully constructed image as a thriving developing state.

"This was what the government was afraid of," he was quoted as saying.

The statement pointed out that thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent months to protest what they see as government abuses and the outsized representation of people from the northern Tigray ethnic group in government.

It said last Sunday, dozens of protesters died in a stampede after police fired teargas canisters and warning shots to disperse an anti-government protest at a religious festival in the heartland of the Oromo people, where the protests have drawn the highest level of support.

The statement, citing Human Rights Watch estimates, said about 400 protesters died in the seven months leading up to June.

CPJ disclosed that going by its 2015 prison census findings, Ethiopia was the third-worst jailer of journalists in Africa.

Several bloggers are said to be among those held on vague terrorism-related charges, including the prominent blogger Eskinder Nega, who is in the fifth year of an 18-year sentence following his arrest in September 2011 after he wrote an article highlighting the use of anti-terrorism legislation to harass opposition activists.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 4Oct2016

04 october 2016 16:28:31

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