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Global Voices: Ethiopian Protester Sentenced to Six Years Behind Bars for Facebook Posts May 27, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Because I am Oromo.
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Ethiopian Protester Sentenced to Six Years Behind Bars for Facebook Posts

Yonatan Tesfaye. Photo shared on Twitter by Eyasped Tesfaye @eyasped

This week in Ethiopia, two prominent human rights advocates and critics of the ruling government were given long-term prison sentences for “incitement” on Facebook.

On May 25, Yonatan Tesfaye was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for “inciting” antigovernment protests in nine Facebook updates.

Breaking: fed court sentenced former oppos’n Blue party PR head to six years & 3 months in jail for terrorism

The 30-year-old activist has been an outspoken opponent of government’s violent response to the popular protest movement that has challenged Ethiopia’s ruling party and government since 2015. Yonatan had previously served as a press officer for the leading opposition Blue Party before resigning in 2015.

Yonatan was jailed for nine Facebook posts that expressed solidarity with the protesters, called for open dialogue and pleaded for an end to the violence.

The day before his sentencing, Yonatan’s former colleague Getachew Shiferaw, was found guilty of inciting violence for a private message he sent to colleagues through his Facebook messenger app. The former editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Negere Ethiopia, Getachew was sentenced to one year and six months in prison:

Breaking- court sentenced , editor-in-chief of Negere Ethiopia NP, to 1yr & half in jail, time he already served

The Facebook message that allegedly contained inciting content made reference to a heckling incident targeting late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at a 2012 symposium in Washington, D.C. In the message Getachew wrote, “since the political space in Ethiopia is closed heckling Ethiopian authorities on public events [sic] should be a standard practice.”

These cases are among many others of less well-known citizens who have spoken out against the regime’s violent targeting of protesters demanding protections for land rights and other fundamental freedoms. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 800 people have died at the hands of Ethiopian police, and thousands of political opponents have been imprisoned and tortured during the protests.

Facebook is a key tool for activists — and law enforcement

Facebook, along with other social media platforms, has had a central role in interactions between authorities and protesters. Ethiopian authorities have blamed social media for waves of protests that began in April 2014 and have continued ever since. In October 2016, Facebook was blocked in Ethiopia as part of the government’s state of emergency. But activists — and likely Ethiopian law enforcement — have continued to use the platform via VPN.

Although it is difficult to know the precise number of detainees, dozens of arrests appear to have been triggered by a person posting, liking or sharing a post on Facebook. Others have been arrested for communicating with diaspora-based activists through Facebook messages.

These cases have been compounded by an increasingly common practice in which Ethiopian authorities demand that detainees divulge their Facebook logins and passwords. In some cases, people have been arrested before being charged, forced to hand over their Facebook credentials, and then charged based on what authorities find in their accounts.

Police will arrest activists, force them to hand over their Facebook credentials, and then charge them based on what they find in their private message logs.

Getachew was charged with “inciting violence” after he was forced to give his username and password of his Facebook page. The private chat texts on his Facebook message were presented as evidence in his charge sheet.

Whatever the court decides, friends and family members of Yonatan and Getachew wanted the case to end. So, they would learn their fate, to take their fight to the next stage. But their case, like so many others court cases, had been delayed.

In Ethiopia, it is not uncommon for court cases involving bloggers journalists and politicians to take longer than other cases. This causes exhaustion for defendants and brings pain to their loved ones.

Yonatan and Getachew each spent 18 months in jail before they learned their fate. They were brought before the court at least a dozen times. Their private Facebook accounts were laid bare by authorities. Judges failed to appear in court, and police failed to bring defendants to court on their trial days, causing their cases to drag on for 18 months.

Facebook has been a critical platform for Ethiopian activists and rights advocates working to document and communicate human rights violations. This makes the experience of Yonatan and Getachew an especially chilling story for Ethiopians.

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Global Voices: As WHO Director-General Election Nears, Ethiopia’s Candidate Is Accused of Cholera Cover-Ups. #WHA70 May 16, 2017

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As WHO Director-General Election Nears, Ethiopia’s Candidate Is Accused of Cholera Cover-Ups

A Unicef-supported pump in Ethiopia. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

In January 2017, when Ethiopia’s candidate for director-general of World Health Organization, Tedros Adahanom, stormed to the top of the final three candidates — beating out six other candidates — it was a high time for Ethiopia’s government.

Although Adahanom had faced ferocious opposition from his fellow citizens, he has largely made it through unscathed, giving a propaganda victory for Ethiopian state media. With his well-funded campaign, Adahanom has traveled to more than 120 countries, and his supporters felt confident that his election is all but a matter of time.

Then on May 13, the New York Times ran a story reporting that a “prominent global health expert” had accused Adahanom of concealing three cholera epidemics from 2008 to 2011 during his tenure as Ethiopia’s health minister. Lawrence O. Gostin made the allegations; he is an informal adviser to one of Adahanom’s opponents in the director-general race, the UK’s David Nabarro, but Nabarro told the New York Times that he had not instructed Gostin to make the accusations on his behalf.

Finally! The @NYTimes calls out @WHO DG candidate @DrTedros for covering up cholera epidemic using the euphemism of Acute Water Diarrhea. https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/863525012258656257 

Abebe Gellaw, a prominent Ethiopian journalist in the diaspora, wrote on Facebook that it was only the beginning:

New York Times has a hard-hitting article on Tedros Adhanom. Tedros says it is a “smear campaign”. But the revelation is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot more will come out in the next few days…

A screenshot of the New York Times article on Tedros Adahanom. Click the image to read the story on nytimes.com

The explosive article made Adahanom and his supporters defensive while it created a sense of vindication for his opponents. Adahanom has denied the allegations. A former Reuters journalist who wrote Ethiopia’s cholera outbreak in 2009, however, responded on Twitter that the accusations as detailed in the New York Times story was consistent with what he had seen.

In 2009, when Tedros was health minister, I obtained minutes of an NGO/UN meeting, in which a cholera outbreak was acknowledged.

NGOs, UN and government refused to comment. And UN officials pressured me not to run story. Full story here: http://reut.rs/2pLNcz5 

Photo published for Cholera/diarrhoea outbreak hits 18,000 in Ethiopia

Cholera/diarrhoea outbreak hits 18,000 in Ethiopia

Cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases have infected 18,000 people in Ethiopia over the last three weeks in many parts of the country, including the capital Addis Ababa, according to a document seen…

reuters.com

At the time, UN officials regularly complained in private that lack of acknowledgement from govt stopped them getting more aid in.

In responding to the allegations, Adahanom accused Nabarro’s camp of engaging in smear campaign with imperialistic intentions. Pro-government groups took this line of accusation even further, claiming Nabarro is working with Ethiopian opposition groups that are labeled as “terrorists.”

Ethiopia’s semi-official news outlet accuses the current special advisor to the UN Secretary General, Dr. David Navarro with terrorism.

😳 https://twitter.com/abbaacabsa/status/863805131342700545 

Since April 2014, a popular protest movement in Ethiopia has challenged the government, which in turn has responded brutally. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 800 people have died, and thousands of political opponents and hundreds of dissidents have been accused of terrorism. Since October 2016, authorities have imposed some of the world’s toughest censorship laws after it declared a state of emergency.

Now, the tactic of calling opponents “terrorists” has spilled over Ethiopia’s borders and might create blowback for Adahanom as his record is examined critically by international media.

The health ministers of WHO member states will vote for the new director-general on May 23, 2017.

Global Voices: Ethiopia Locks Down Digital Communications in Wake of #OromoProtests July 15, 2016

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Odaa OromooGlobalVoicesViber, twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp Are strictly forbidden in Fascist regime (TPLF) Ethiopiatweet tweet #OromoProtestsOromo students Protests, Western Oromia, Mandii, Najjoo, Jaarsoo,....

Ethiopia Locks Down Digital Communications in Wake of #OromoProtests

By Endalk, Global Voices, 14 July 2016


When students in Ginchi, a small town 75 km west of Addis Ababa, organized a demonstration in November 2015, US-based opposition media activist Jawar Mohammed, began posting minute-to-minute ‘live’ updates of the protest on his massively popular Facebook page, which has over 500k followers.

What started as a small-scale student protest over Ethiopian government’s plan to expand Addis Ababa into adjacent farm lands of Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest constitutionally autonomous state, evolved into a series of largest and bloodiest demonstrations against Ethiopian government in a decade leaving at least 400 people killed, many more injured, and thousands jailed.

Along with Jawar’s live updates about the protests on Facebook, netizens saw a flood of digital photos, videos, blog posts, and tweets on other social media platforms coming from inside Ethiopia, mostly under the hashtag #OromoProtests.

For over a decade, the Ethiopian government has been violently cracking down on protesting students in Oromia, but these incidents have never garnered the online attention they did this time around. With scant coverage by foreign media from the front lines, and silence and misinformation coming from Ethiopia’s largely pro-government media outlets, the Internet emerged as the main channel used to disseminate information about protests. Jawar’s Facebook page and Twitter feedbecame the official-yet-unofficial story of the protest, leading diaspora writers to identify Jawar as a key shaper of public opinion on the events.

Though these networked communication dynamics are commonplace in many parts of the world, they are novel in Ethiopia, where Internet penetration hovered just below 5% in 2013, which is the last time that Internet access data was collected there by the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency.

The steady stream of #OromoProtests content triggered various attempts by the government to limit digital traffic and block telecom services in Oromia.

In a bid to quell the growing role of social media in magnifying the stories of protests and to regain the upper hand, Ethiopia’s state-owned telecommunication monopoly EthioTelcom blocked social media platforms including Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in Oromia for at least two months. Around the same time, EthioTelecom also announced plans to begin charging customers for using popular voice over internet protocol (VoIP) applications such as Viber, Facebook messenger, Skype, and Google hangouts.

According to local media reports, EthioTelecom plans to enforce a new price scheme for VoIP data usage by deploying technologies that will more heavily regulate data plans and what kinds of apps operate on devices of each subscriber active on EthioTelecom network. In an unprecedented move, EthioTelecom also announced a plan to track, identify and ban mobile devices that are not purchased from the Ethiopian market. This move will allow EthioTelecom to keep a track of exactly what data is being sent to and from each subscriber active on the network. It remains unclear exactly how this technology will work, but it unquestionably demonstrates EthioTelecom’s intention to take full political advantage of its monopoly.

Despite being one of the poorest countries in terms of Internet penetration in Africa, #OromoProtests garnered wall-to-wall coverage by the US based Ethiopian diaspora satellite television stations, particularly OMN and ESAT. Both stations picked various stories of #OromoProtests from social media and rebroadcast them to millions of Ethiopians living off the grid of mobile phone infrastructure.

To top all this off, on the heels of the protests, the parliament passed a stringent computer crimes law that looks very much like an effort to criminalize protest-related online speech and to more effectively utilize digital communication as a tool of public surveillance.

In a critical piece about the new law, the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote,

Ethiopia’s prosecutors have long demonized legitimate uses of technology, claiming in court that the use of encryption, and knowledge of privacy-protecting tools is a sign of support for terrorists….By criminalizing everyday actions it ensures that anyone who speaks online, or supports online free expression, might one day be targeted by the law…. [This regulation] will intimidate ordinary Ethiopian citizens into staying offline, and further alienate Ethiopia’s technological progress from its African neighbors and the rest of the world.

According to reports, the new legislation further limits already-diminished digital rights such as freedom of expression and privacy, criminalizing and levying severe punishments for defamatory speech online. The legislation also obliges service providers to store records of all communications along with their metadata for at least a year.

 

17 Oromo Children Killed by Authorities in Ethiopia Land Protests January 26, 2016

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Odaa OromooAgazi, fascist TPLF Ethiopia's forces attacking unarmed and peaceful #OromoProtests in Baabichaa town central Oromia (w. Shawa) , December 10, 2015Hanna doja. Oromo child, 1st grade student in Kombolcha, Horroo Guduruu, Oromia. Attacked  by Ethiopian regime fascist  forces on 31st December  2015


17 Children Killed by Authorities in Ethiopia Land Protests

By   Ellery Roberts Biddle,  Global Voices

Burial of Nasrudin Mohammed, a protester killed in December 2015. Photograph by Gadaa.com.


 

Ethiopian authorities have killed at least 17 children and injured many more involved in peaceful land rights protests since December 2015.

Demonstrations over a plan to expand the capital into the ethnic region of Oromia began in Ethiopia in late November. Since then, there have been 140 confirmed deaths of protesters at the hands of government authorities. Of the 17 minors killed by authorities, most were between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. Citizen media reports also show that many more school children have been injured in the protest movement.

The protesters are speaking out against the so-called “Master Plan” to expand the capital city, Addis Ababa, into Oromia, fearing that the proposed development will result in direct persecution of the Oromo ethnic group, including mass evictions of Oromo farmers from their land. Oromo people, who represent the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, have experienced systematic marginalization and persecution over the last quarter century. Some estimates put the number of Oromo political prisoners in Ethiopia at 20,000 as of March 2014. The country’s ruling elite, of the EPRDF party, are mostly from the Tigray (only 6% of Ethiopia’s 90 million population ) region, which is located in the northern part of the country.

In parallel with efforts of global organizations such as Human Rights Watch, local activists have worked to document and preserve evidence of these killings since early December. Last week, Ethiopian media scholar Endalk Chala and Oromo activist Abiy Atomssa published a map of confirmed deaths based on a crowdsourced data set comprised of reports from citizens, activists, social media, local media networks and VOA’s Amharic service.

 

 

Eighth grader Barihun Shibiru of West Shawa was among a handful of minors who were arrested and executed once in official custody. Shibiru’s funeral was held on December 17.

Citizen videos have also helped document and confirm deaths of minors, including a video that shows students crowding around the body of Lucha Gamachu, a 9th grader at Burqa Wanjo Secondary School. The video was published on Facebook by Jawar Mohammed.

We ask that any person who has evidence of the death or disappearance of protesters please contact us at editor@globalvoicesonline.org.

https://globalvoices.org/2016/01/25/17-children-killed-by-authorities-in-ethiopia-land-protests/

Oromia: OromoProtests Endure Brutality and Censorship Amid Land Struggle January 16, 2016

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Odaa Oromoo#OromoProtests, Qabosoon itti fufa jedhu aayyoleen#OromoProtests against the Ethiopian regime fascist tyranny. Join the peaceful movement for justice, democracy, development and freedom of Oromo and other oppressed people in EthiopiaKakaa Oromoo

Ethiopian Protesters Endure Brutality and Censorship Amid Land Struggle

Global Voices, January, 15, 2016

Students mourning at Haromaya University. Photo shared widely on social media.

Students mourning at Haromaya University. Photo shared widely on social media.

Students in Ethiopia’s largest administrative region, Oromia, have been braving state-sponsored violence and censorship since November 2015 to protest a government development plan.

Human Rights Watch has reported that at least 140 peaceful protesters have died since the demonstrations began. Those killed include university and secondary school students, farmers and school teachers.

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Ethiopian authorities and pro-government commentators say the number of dead is around five people.

Why are people protesting?

The protesters are speaking out against the so-called “Master Plan” to expand the capital city, Addis Ababa, into Oromia, fearing that the proposed development will result in direct persecution of the Oromo ethnic group, including mass evictions of Oromo farmers from their land.

Read more: Why Are Students in Ethiopia Protesting Against a Capital City Expansion Plan?

The government claims that the plan is only meant to facilitate the development of infrastructure such as transportation, utilities, and recreation centers.

The oppression of the Oromo people

Oromo people, who represent the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, have experienced systematic marginalization and persecution over the last quarter century. Some estimates put the number of Oromo political prisoners in Ethiopia at 20,000 as of March 2014.

The country’s ruling elite are mostly from the Tigray region, which is located in the northern part of the country.

The students also demand, among other things, that Oromo, the language of the Oromo people, be made a federal language. Despite being the most widely spoken language in Ethiopia and the fourth largest African language, it is not the working language of the federal government.

This is the second wave of protests against the plan in less than two years. The development project was stalled following protests in May 2014, but also saw at least nine demonstrators killed and hundreds of ethnic Oromo students imprisoned. Officials decided to resume implementation of the project in November 2015, sparking renewed demonstrations.

The government’s crackdown on free expression

Social media and satellite TV channels have proven to be critical communication avenues for protesters, despite Ethiopian authorities’ often cutthroat efforts to silence their critics.

Participants have captured photos, audio and video of security forces’ brutal efforts to stop the peaceful protests, including using live ammunition to disperse crowds at universities in Oromia. The material has then frequently been shared on the Facebook pages of prominent activists or uploaded on Ethiopian online platforms such as EthioTube, a video platform run by Ethiopians living abroad.

In response, the government has launched a propaganda campaign against the use of the social media, with state-owned media organizations dedicating multiple programs to the argument that online platforms are being used by so-called “forces of harm” to instigate violence and tarnish Ethiopia’s image.

Read more: Ethiopia Protest Videos Show State Brutality, Despite Tech Barriers

Given that less than four percent of Ethiopians have access to the Internet, documentation of protests does not exist solely online. Photos and video shared online by demonstrators are regularly picked up by diaspora satellite television news programs (such as ESAT and Oromia Media Network) that broadcast to tens of millions of Ethiopians in Amharic and Afan Oromo, two of Ethiopia’s major languages.

Read more: Ethiopia Censors Satellite TV Channels as Student Protests Draw Global Media Attention

Executives from the two satellite channels have reported that Ethiopian authorities attempted to meddle with their broadcasting services. Citizens have written posts on Facebook indicating that security forces were attempting to remove satellite dish receivers from rooftops in the Oromia region.

Oromo protesters gather in Addis Ababa. Flickr image uploaded by user Gadaa.com.

Oromo protesters gather in Addis Ababa in May 2014. Flickr image uploaded by user Gadaa.com. CC BY-ND 2.0

Amid the crackdown, authorities also arrested two opposition politicians, two journalists, and summoned five bloggers from Zone9 collective, who were acquitted of baseless terrorism charges just two months ago.

The government censorship machine has extended to music, as well, with at least 17 Oromo singers being banned from airwaves since December 2015 for lyrics that the Ethiopian Broadcast Authority deemed to show “nationalistic tendencies.”

Read more: Inside Ethiopia’s Self-Defeating Crackdown on Oromo Musicians

Ethnic Oromo singer Hawi Tezera was reportedly beaten, arrested, released and then rearrested in the space of just seven days by government security forces in connection with her song about the protests.

An estimated 140 people killed

Security forces have been ruthless in their attempts to disrupt the protests. Photo and video evidence suggests that most of these killings were done by bullets fired at close range.

At least 10 people died from torture inflicted while they were in prison, according to Oromo rights activists.

Read more: Mapping the Deaths of Protesters in Ethiopia

Global Voices author Endalk created an interactive map with help from Oromo activist Abiy Atomssa of 111 people who have died during the protests in recent months. We ask that any person who has evidence of the death or disappearance of protesters please contact us at editor@globalvoicesonline.org.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/1021d39e0f637892402b2e37799ed3be/mapping-the-dead-in-oromo-protest-2/index.html

Resources for eyewitness reporters

Many of the photos and videos that have circulated online have done so with little to no context included, making it difficult for independent observers to verify the content. There are simple steps that citizen reporters can take in order to remedy this, such as including a recognizable landmark in an image or video and showing a current newspaper with the date clearly displayed. The following guides offer more detail:

Related:-

Killings by security forces & mass arrests continue, particularly of university students.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/15/dispatches-government-backs-down-will-protests-end-ethiopia

Ethiopia likely to see further riots and deaths without genuine reform

The brutality of fascist Ethiopian regime (TPLF) against Oromo people in 21st century, Jan. 2016


In interviews in villages across the Oromo region, young students and aging farmers said the unrest was because of the plan. But there is a deeper vein of dissatisfaction among the Oromo people, who make up some 40 percent of the country’s population of nearly 100 million.

Oromos feel they are treated like second-class citizens and complain that corrupt local officials demand bribes and make money off shady land deals that don’t give farmers enough compensation.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ethiopia-is-facing-its-worst-ethnic-violence-in-years/2016/01/13/9dbf9448-b56f-11e5-8abc-d09392edc612_story.html?postshare=2051452800110880&tid=ss_tw

Global Voices: Oromia: #OromoProtests: Mapping the Deaths of Protesters in Ethiopia January 11, 2016

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Odaa Oromoo#OromoProtests against the Ethiopian regime fascist tyranny. Join the peaceful movement for justice, democracy, development and freedom of Oromo and other oppressed people in EthiopiaGlobal Solidalirty rally with #OromoProtests in Oromia@Seattle 29 December 2015Hanna doja. Oromo child, 1st grade student in Kombolcha, Horroo Guduruu, Oromia. Attacked  by Ethiopian regime fascist  forces on 31st December  2015

Mapping the Deaths of Protesters in Ethiopia

 

Oromo protesters gather in Addis Ababa. Flickr image uploaded by user Gadaa.com.

Warning: Interactive map contains graphic and disturbing images.

Since the beginning of November 2015, at least 140 peaceful protesters have been killed in Ethiopia according to Human Rights Watch. Photo and video evidence suggests that most of the people were killed by bullets fired at close range.

There are also reports by Oromo rights activists indicating that at least 10 individuals died from torture inflicted while they were in prisons.

University students, women, farmers and school teachers have all been victims of government violence.

Among the dead, more than 70% are male students. Male farmers account for about 20% of the deaths.

The remainder are women. A seven-month pregnant woman along with her sister-in-law were killed while they were running away to escape arrest.

It was reported their bodies were discovered in scrub-land days after their disappearance.

Below is an interactive map created by this author with help from Oromo activist Abiy Atomssa. The map lists 111 people that have died during the protests in recent months.

We ask anyone who has evidence of the deaths or disappearance of protesters to contact us via editor@globalvoicesonline.org.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/1021d39e0f637892402b2e37799ed3be/mapping-the-dead-in-oromo-protest-2/index.html

Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Ethiopian government and pro-governmentcommentators say the number of dead is around five people.

In a radio interview, the head of a pro-government human rights commission, Addisu Gebregziabher said for the sake of security the government was forced to use violent measures against protesters.

The protests began when the government made plans for the expansion of the capital Addis Ababa into land inhabited by the Oromo ethnic group, which accounts for almost a third of Ethiopia’s population.

The decision compounded poor relations between the Oromo and the government dominated by members of the northern Tigrayan minority.

The culturally distinct Oromo people complain of a lack of economic opportunity in Ethiopia and regular state violence against Oromo communities.

https://globalvoices.org/2016/01/11/mapping-the-death-of-student-protesters-in-ethiopia/