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3:42 pm - Sunday November 17, 3315

No justice: how impunity silences journalists [Index]

By Milana Knezevic

Ahead of the International Day to End Impunity, journalists from around the world tell Index why impunity is a serious threat to free expression

Endlk_ChaneEndalk Chala, Ethiopian blogger and co-founder of the Zone9 blogging collective (of which six members are currently imprisoned for their writing)

Impunity is a threat for free expression on many levels. In my experience I have seen impunity when it cultivates self-censorship. Let’s take the case of Zone9 bloggers. Since their arrest there are a lot of people who tried to visit them in prison, take a picture of them, attend their trial and tweet about their hearings but all of these have invited very bad reactions from the Ethiopian police.

Some were arrested briefly, others were beaten and it has become impossible to attend the “trial” of the bloggers and journalists. No action was taken by the Ethiopian courts against the bad actions of the police even though the bloggers have contentiously reported the kinds of harassment. As a result, people have stopped tweeting, taking pictures and writing about the bloggers. Apparently, the volume of the tweets and Facebook status updates which comes from Ethiopia has dwindled significantly. People don’t want to risk harassment because of a single tweet or a picture. This self-censorship could be attributed to impunity, which is pervasive in Ethiopia.

Impunity also causes a lack of trust in the Ethiopian judicial system. I don’t trust the independence of the Ethiopian justice system. I have never seen a police man/woman or a government authority being prosecuted for their bad actions against journalists. The Ethiopian government has been prosecuting hundreds of journalists for criminal defamation, terrorism and inciting violence but not a single government person for violating journalists’ rights. This tells you a lot about the compromised justice system of the country. Read more: www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/11/impunity-attacks-free-expression

Filed in: Current Affairs / News