Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, Voice of America had a conversation with three Ethiopian bloggers: Seyoum Teshome, Befekadu Hailu and Anania Sorri.

By Marthe van der Wolf (Voice of America) |

Ethiopia’s state of emergency has seen thousands of people detained, allegedly in connection with the unrest last year in the Oromia region. Those arrested have included journalists and bloggers. VOA sat down with three of them in Addis Ababa ahead of World Press Freedom Day (May 3).

University lecturer and commentator Seyoum Teshome was arrested in October and detained for two months after he gave a radio interview to Deutsche Welle in which he criticized the government.

Since his release, Seyoum has continued to post several times a week on various political blogs and social media about current affairs.

“I got so many warnings from the local officials, from the command post, from the security officials. It’s very, very risky. If you stop, that means you are surrendering to that fear. And to confront that fear you have to keep writing, so I’m going to keep writing to challenge the fear that they want to sustain in the country,” Seyoum said.

Ethiopia’s government spokesman did not answer phone calls for comment. However, the government has repeatedly said over the years that those arrested are terrorists posing as journalists.

From bad to worse

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) says the state of emergency declared in October has further curtailed press freedom and access to information. As a result, RWB ranked Ethiopia 150 out of 180 countries in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index. That is eight spots lower than the previous year.

Blogger Befekadu Hailu says he has seen the change firsthand.

“When you freely express yourself before the state of emergency, you have the risk of getting jailed, but the security officials have to come up with an excuse to take you to court. Now they don’t need any excuse,” Befekadu said.

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