It has been 54 days since six members of the Zone Nine blogging collective and three journalists believed to be associated with the group were arrested in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The group formed in 2012 in an effort to report on and increase public discussion about political and social issues affecting a diverse cross-section of Ethiopian society.
On their Facebook page, they describe themselves as young Ethiopians seeking to use fact-based reporting and analysis to create a new, more nuanced narrative of life in Ethiopia today:
The bloggers have appeared in court four times since their arrest on April 25, 2014 — their next court date has been set for July 12, 2014. Each time, police have asked for more time to carry out their investigation of the group. Although they have been informally accused of “working with foreign organizations that claim to be human rights activists and agreeing in idea and receiving finance to incite public violence through social media,” they have been issued no formal charges as of yet. Close friends and allies of the group fear that they will be charged with terrorism, similar to journalists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu , both Ethiopian journalists who have been in prison since 2011.
Following their arrest, Global Voices Online released a statement calling for their release, invited supporters to join the #FreeZone9Bloggers campaign through letter-writing and online efforts, and organised the FreeZone9Bloggers Tweetathon on May 14, 2014.
As the Zone9 bloggers continue to languish in jail, the Ethiopian government is allegedly training bloggers to attack those who criticise the government online:
Nigerian British YouTube comedian Ikenna Azuike dedicated an episode of his satirical news show “What’s Up Africa” to the bloggers’ plight. In ”Zone 9 Bloggers Paradise in Ethiopia,” he jests:
Why is the Ethiopian government afraid of bloggers? Alemayehu G. Mariam explained :
The author continued :