Ethiopia Arrests 2 Journalists, 7 Others on Terrorism Charges

Ethiopian officials arrested nine people, including two journalists, on charges of terrorism, said Shimeles Kemal, state minister for communications.

They are accused of “organizing a terrorist structure to destroy, demolish and sabotage essential power and telecommunications infrastructure,” he said by phone today from Addis Ababa, the capital. The arrests took place last week. They have “nothing to do with viewpoints they have published,” said Shimeles.

The arrests “should be viewed as a strong measure by the government to protect freedom of speech,” since they are connected to alleged plots to destroy telecommunications infrastructure, he said. Two members of the opposition Ethiopian National Democratic Party were among those detained, Shimeles said.

Ethiopia “has a well-documented history of using false charges to jail critical journalists and force detainees to sign false confessions,” said Mohamed Keita, a spokesman for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, in an e-mailed response to questions today. “Ethiopia trails only Eritrea as Africa’s foremost jailer of journalists.”