Nigerian based journalist, Simon Ateba, still detained in Cameroon

Simon Ateba

Simon Ateba

Simon Ateba, a journalist based in Nigeria has been arrested in Cameroon. Ateba is charged with espionage while working on a story of Nigerian refugees who fled to Cameroon. According to the International Centre for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ):

Ateba, a Cameroonian who has worked as a journalist in Nigeria for over a decade, was arrested on Friday afternoon at the Minawao refugee camp and taken to Makolo in the far north of Cameroon and has been accused of spying for the Boko Haram insurgency group which is waging a Jihadist was in the north east Nigeria. He has spent two nights in detention.

TheNews reports that Atebe gave the following account on his Facebook wall:

I was given my phone for five minutes to make some calls. Just spent my first night in Mokolo cell with two Nigerians who fled Boko Haram terrorist attacks between Gwoza and Maiduguri in a town or village called Sigesia. My first night in a cell in Cameroon far north was because I went to a refugee camp with about 50,000 Nigerians to do an independent reporting without them allowing me to do so.

Atebe also tweeted the following:

Atebe has already spent two days in detention since his arrest on August 28, 2015. He deserves his freedom.

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African Solidarity and the #FreeZone9Bloggers Tweetathon on May 14

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

One of the ingrained aspect of our shared humanity is extending empathy to friends and family when they are most in need of it.

It is no longer news that six Ethiopian bloggers and three journalist who have been arrested for using social media.  The Ethiopian government is fast becoming notorious for gagging online free speech and press freedom.

A Tweetathon is a Twitter campaign, it is like a online marathon. This and this are examples of previous Tweetathon organised by Nigerian bloggers.

#FreeZone9Bloggers: A Tweetathon Demanding the Release of Jailed Ethiopian Bloggers  [Designed by Blossom Nnodim]

#FreeZone9Bloggers: A Tweetathon Demanding the Release of Jailed Ethiopian Bloggers [Banner design: Blossom Nnodim]

The #FreeZone9Bloggers Tweetathon is our way of expressing solidarity with our incarcerated friends but above all to mount international pressure on the government of Ethiopia to release these netizens:

Join Nigerian bloggers Blossom Nnodim (@blcompere) and Nwachukwu Egbunike (@feathersproject), along with Global Voices editor Ndesanjo Macha (@ndesanjo) from Tanzania for an Africa-wide tweetathon in support of the nine bloggers and journalists arrested in late April and currently being detained in Ethiopia. […]

Date:   Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Time: 2pm – 5pm West Africa time / 1pm – 4pm GMT (click here to find your time zone)

Hashtag: #FreeZone9Bloggers

Hosts: Blossom Nnodim (@blcompere), Nwachukwu Egbunike (@feathersproject), Ndesanjo Macha (@ndesanjo)

Join us this Wednesday — tweet until your fingers hurt and demand freedom for the Zone 9 bloggers!

 

Blogging is not a crime!

 

#FreeZone9Bloggers: Why Is Ethiopia Strangling Free Speech?

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

The grave injustice a nd threat to the most fundamental rights are being abused in the most flagrant manner in Ethiopia. It has never been an easy task to be a journalist anywhere on this planet, however it seems to be journalist or blogger in Ethiopia necessarily translates into a death sentence. 

6 bloggers

What does a free and vibrant online and offline press pose a threat to the Ethiopian state? Why is Ethiopia on this self-destructive race to assume the number on enemy of free speech in the African continent? When did it become a crime to be a journalist and to preach the truth and serve it for all? One cannot but ask these questions following the recent arrest of six members of Zone Nine Bloggers Collective in a country reputed to be the cradle of Homo sapiens.

The six arrested bloggers are – Abel WabellaAtnaf BerhaneMahlet FantahunNatnail FelekeZelalem Kibret and Befekadu Hailu. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that they are being charged for “working with foreign human rights organizations and using social media to create instability in the country”.

This Global Voices Advocacy post details the fear of Ethiopian netizens for the six arrested bloggers and their own safety. “Formed in 2012, the Zone Nine group has leveraged significant critiques of ruling government policy and practice.” Endalk continues by giving a deeper context to the dangerous but brave work done by the Zone Nine Bloggers Collective: “We have managed to conduct online campaigns in an effort to raise awareness about political repression in the country. We are also dedicated to translating international news for local audiences — through our partnership with Global Voices, we launched Global Voices in Amharic two years ago.” 

Ethiopia has a repressible history of stifling free speech. Reeyot Alemu (a columnist and English school teacher) and four other journalists were arrested in 2011 and convicted based on a trumped up charge of terrorism. The other journalists are Woubshet Taye, Eskinder Nega, Yusuf Getachew and Solomon Kebede.

Eskinder Nega, journalist and blogger, was handed an 18-year jail sentence under the Ethiopian anti-terror law. Nega’s crime was for voicing his opposition, in an article, against government’s silencing vocal critics. Mr Nega was awarded the 2014 Golden Pen of Freedom.

The grave injustice and threat to the most fundamental rights are being abused in the most flagrant manner in Ethiopia. It has never been an easy task to be a journalist anywhere on this planet, however it seems to be journalist or blogger in Ethiopia necessarily translates into a death sentence. Sadly the African Union plays the ostrich while the Ethiopian government morphs into a rabid predator of free speech in the continent.

Free speech is on trial in Ethiopia, it is not simply a matter of strangling press freedom. Rather Ethopia has taken the sloppy path of killing of any form of dissent. The social media is the newest victim in this deliberate and systemic plan to gag Ethiopians forever. Having sealed the fate of traditional journalists, the government is now set for a major crackdown on their online counterparts. It is doubly painful that the very essence of a free web is being challenged in the 21st Century and yet only very few seem to care. There is no excuse for the deadly silence of the continents main stream media on this grave assault. None whatsoever!

First Published in AfricanHadithi (April 30, 2014)

 

#FreeZone9Bloggers – Ethiopian Bloggers Jailed for Using Social Media

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

6 bloggers

Six Ethiopian bloggers – Abel Wabella, Atnaf Berhane, Mahlet Fantahun, Natnail Feleke, Zelalem Kibret and Befekadu Hailu – and three journalists – Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Tesfalem Waldyes and Edom Kassaye – have been arrested. They are all facing prosecution for using social media.

This post by Global Voices Advocacy gives the background of the bloggers, a detailed review of their arrest and apprehension it has created in Ethiopian blogosphere.

The nine bloggers and journalists were arraigned in court last Sunday (April 27, 2014). They were charged with  “working with foreign human rights organizations and using social media to create instability in the country”.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned their arrest and have called for the immediate release.

Below is a storify story – curated by the CPJ –  narrating their arrests and the reaction of Ethiopian netizens: