world voices of international literature


Statement presented at the 2014 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature in New York

Exactly one week ago today, six bloggers and three journalists were arrested in Ethiopia. They call themselves Zone 9. The name was derived from the section of Kality Prison where journalists are held, which is called Zone 8. According to the bloggers, Zone 9 represents the invisible prison that surrounds all the citizens of Ethiopia, who may be arrested at any time for exercising their right to free expression. Ethiopia operates one of the most sophisticated internet monitoring and filtering systems in the world, and these arrests are the latest example of impunity in the country. Journalists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu continue to suffer in prison for their free expression on lengthy sentences.

The motto of the Zone 9 bloggers is simple: “We Blog Because We Care”. They blogged in the face of government harassment, threats, surveillance and intimidation, and they filled the silence created by the government’s ongoing crackdowns on free speech and dissent.

Today, we say that we write because we care. Journalism, writing, and blogging are not crimes. We call upon the government of Ethiopia to release all 17 journalists and bloggers imprisoned in the country.  And we also urge President Obama and the U.S. Government to support human rights and free expression in Ethiopia.

From Left: Deji Bryce Olukotun, Gado, Chinelo Okparanta, Mukoma wa Ngugi, Tope Folarin

Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan / PEN American Center