The members of the International Press Institute, meeting at their 63rd Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on April 14, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution calling on the Ethiopian government to end its practice of arresting journalists under anti-terrorism laws and to review its anti-terror statutes to protect freedom of the press.
The members noted that the broad application of anti-terror measures against journalists impinges on fundamental rights – including freedoms of the press and expression, and access to information – that are guaranteed under the nation’s Constitution as well as on its obligations under United Nations and African Union treaties.
The use of the laws in Ethiopia to arrest and detain, in some cases without formal charges, have fuelled a sense of fear among media workers, both foreign and domestic.
In Ethiopia, at least six journalists have been convicted and imprisoned under the 2009 anti-terror law, some of whom are in failing health and have had restricted access to lawyers, friends and colleagues.
Noting Ethiopia’s high-profile role as home of the African Union, IPI members said that the government must ensure that journalists are allowed to report on national security, unrest and dissenting politics without fear of arbitrary arrest, harassment or intimidation under laws intended to prevent attacks or prosecute terrorists seeking to do physical harm.
Citing the conclusions of IPI’s press freedom mission to Ethiopia in November 2013, the IPI members urged the 547-member lower house of the Ethiopian parliament to revamp the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation – specifically sections 2(6), 4 and 6, which have been used to prosecute dozens of journalists and opposition politicians – to ensure that it does not trample on the rights of freedom of speech and assembly provided under Article 29 of the Ethiopian Constitution and further guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the U.N. Human Rights Covenant.
Additionally, the IPI membership called on Parliament to exercise its independent authority and investigate the use of anti-terror laws against journalists by the security forces and prosecutors, and to approve an amnesty for those imprisoned under these laws.