A statement from the European External Action Service (EEAS), EU’s Foreign & Security Policy Service led by Catherine Ashton (pictured), said the EU was “concerned about the recent arrests of bloggers, journalists and opposition members.”
The EU reiterates the importance of “protecting space for genuine political dialogue and creating an environment in which divergent voices from all parts of society can express their views freely in a constructive manner,” the statement said.
It highlights the values of exchanging such “divergent voices” from all parts of society “be it through internet and other media, or public demonstrations and associations, as assured by the Ethiopian Constitution.”
An unprecedented move by Ethiopian security forces on April 25th and 26th saw six independent bloggers writing for Zone9 blog post and three practicing journalists arrested. The police have requested a court in Addis Abeba for remand after filing an indictment accusing the detainees of working with and receiving money from foreign organizations and using social media to incite violence.
“In this context, we are concerned about the recent arrests of bloggers, journalists and opposition members and call on the Ethiopian authorities to ensure that proceedings are carried out according to Ethiopian law and respecting international and regional norms, including granting access to legal counsel and family, as well as the right to apply for bail.
As of yet, all the detainees are kept incommunicado at Ethiopia’s notorious central investigation center, Maekelawi. “We seek clarity on the circumstances surrounding the arrests and the charges involved,” the EU said.
The past week was also marked by heavy-handed police response to Oromo students’ demonstrations in many universities located in the region against the Addis Abeba proposed integrated city plan, which the students said was a plan by the federal government to annex cities in the vicinities of the capital.
Ethiopia’s major donors are often accused by rights groups for turning a blind eye to the country’s increasing human rights violations record and focusing on its economic progresses and its regional role in peace and security. “Ethiopia plays an important role throughout the region. We believe that the stability and economic growth of the region will be enhanced by strengthened human and political rights,” the statement said.