Banned In Ethiopia: Crossed Wrists, Free Speech Are Crimes Under State Of Emergency
There has been no internet connection in Addis Ababa for the past week and if you can access social media, it’s now a punishable offense in Ethiopia.
Diaspora media outlets deemed supportive of Ethiopian protesters have been banned and the Ethiopian government is threatening jail terms for speech inciting violence under a state of emergency that gives the government sweeping powers.
Banned in Ethiopia
Posting on Facebook is now a crime in Ethiopia, Quartz reported. Listening to Voice of America or German Radio and watching Oromia Media Network and Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio — outlets run by Ethiopian diaspora supportive of protesters, is also banned.
- The protest gesture of raised hands, crossed at the wrist, is banned.
- Discussing issues with foreigners that could incite violence is illegal.
- Communicating with groups deemed terrorists is illegal.
- Diplomats must get approval to travel 25 miles outside of the capital.
- Dusk-to-dawn curfew in areas around major infrastructure projects, farms, government institutions, and factories.
- Political parties are banned from giving press statements that incite violenceand religious leaders are forbidden from making political statements.
- Rallies and public meetings without the permission from authorities are forbidden.
- Security forces can detain and search suspects and their houses or offices, phones or laptops without a court order.
“The military command will take action on those watching and posting on these social media outlets,” said Siraj Fegessa, Ethiopia’s minister of defense, on state TV. Those who violate the terms of the state of emergency could face three to five years in prison.
Based in the U.S., Oromia Media Network and Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio are the two major media outlets that diaspora opposition and protesters get their information from, AFP reported, according to JacarandaFM. The two media are considered dangerous and a tool to incite violence in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government broadcast regulations Saturday effective immediately for six months during a state of emergency, declared to end violent protests in parts of the country. The protests started in November and more than 700 people have died.
Protesters are accused of destroying public and private property including a U.S. flower farm and a cement factory owned by Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote.
Oromia and Amhara, the two largest ethnic groups in the country, have been protesting marginalisation and unfair political treatment. The deaths were caused by Ethiopian security forces, according to Human Rights Watch.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn promised last week to reform the electoral system and “open up political space,” AFP reported, according to Daily Mail.
The government said it plans to allow more representation of different ethnic groups in the government. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front is dominated by the Tigray minority and holds all of the seats in parliament, Quartz reported.
“It’s too little, too late,” said Merera Gudina, president of the opposition Oromo People’s Congress, in an AFP report in Daily Mail. “The regime has always promised things to satisfy the international community, but never implements them.”
A western diplomat told AFP Monday on condition of anonymity, “This is a state of emergency and we expect repressive measures…But we also expect an opening of the political space for the opposition as stated by the president in front of the parliament. This is not what seems to be happening.”
The state of emergency won’t work, according to an editorial in the Washington Post. Instead it build more pressure, increasing the likelihood protests will explode again:
Ethiopia’s human rights abuses and political repression must be addressed frontally by the United States and Europe, no longer shunted to the back burner because of cooperation fighting terrorism. With the state of emergency, Ethiopia’s leaders are borrowing a brutal and counterproductive tactic from dictators the world over who have tried to put a cork in genuine popular dissent. It won’t work.
Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo began protesting a year ago when the government proposed annexing some farm land to Addis Ababa as part of a drive to transform this largely agricultural nation into a regional manufacturing power, DW reported.
Hundreds of protesters have died in anti-government protests in the past year, according to human rights groups and opposition activists.
Protesters’ demands have grown to include wider freedoms in one of Africa’s top-performing economies. More than 50 people died Oct. 2 in a stampede after security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters during a religious festival in Bishoftu, southeast of the capital.
Ethiopia does not need a state of emergency, said Yilikal Getnet, chairman of the opposition Blue Party, DW reported.