The United Nations human rights chief on Friday condemned the crackdown on journalists in Ethiopia and expressed concerns at the increasing restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression in the Horn of Africa nation.
The remarks by High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay follow the recent arrest and detention of six members of the blogging collective Zone Nine and three journalists in the capital, Addis Ababa.
"I am deeply concerned by this recent wave of arrests and the increasing climate of intimidation against journalists and bloggers prevailing in Ethiopia," she stated in a news release.
The nine people arrested last week remain in custody. On April 27, they appeared before the Arada Court of First Instance. Although the exact charges against each of them remain unclear, the UN human rights office has received information that they were arrested for "working with foreign human rights organizations and inciting violence through social media to create instability in the country."
They reportedly are being held incommunicado and some of their family members who tried to bring them food over the weekend were denied access.
Since January 2012, a number of journalists have been convicted under the Anti-terrorism Proclamation to sentences ranging from 5 years to life imprisonment. Two journalists arrested in July 2012 and January 2013 under the same law are currently in detention, awaiting their trial.
"The fight against terrorism cannot serve as an excuse to intimidate and silence journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and members of civil society organizations. And working with foreign human rights organisations cannot be considered a crime," said the UN High Commissioner.