The Freedom Chat: Zone 9 Blogger Soleyana Gebremichael
The Freedom Chat is an ongoing video series by Sampsonia Way featuring interviews with journalists and other media workers facing censorship and repression in their home countries. In these Q&A’s, conducted via video chat, journalists talk with Sampsonia Way about press freedom, anti-free speech legislation, and exile.
Ethiopia, which ranks #142 out of 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index from Reporters without Borders, is the fourth worst jailer of journalists in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). In 2012, Soleyana Gebremichael (née Shimeles) co-founded Zone 9, an Ethiopian blogging collective which criticized the government for its anti-constitutional political repression, corruption, and social injustices. In 2014, Ethiopian authorities arrested six bloggers affiliated with the Zone 9 collective on charges of terrorism. Soleyana was was charged in absentia with terrorism. In July 2015, shortly before U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Ethiopia, authorities released Mahlet Fantahm and Zelalem Kibret from prison and dropped all charges against them. The other four bloggers remain in prison. Earlier this month, CPJ named the Zone 9 bloggers among the winners of the 2015 International Press Freedom Award.