In Ethiopia, the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression, and association continue to be undermined and restricted, and civic and political space is particularly controlled for those undertaking human rights activities. During this reporting period, the targeting of HRDs and journalists significantly increased in the wake of the Oromo protests that began in December 2015.
Freedom of peaceful assembly
Security forces in Ethiopia have used excessive force to disperse widespread demonstrations in the Oromo region of Ethiopia. The protests began in response to the expansion of the capital Addis Ababa under the government’s Integrated Development Master Plan. The government’s subsequent crackdown on the protests in Oromia region has led to the deaths of at least 150 protesters and to thousands being arbitrarily arrested and detained. On 15 December 2015, the Ethiopian government called those participating and supporting the demonstrations “an organised and armed terrorist force” in an attempt to legitimise the restrictions on and targeting of peaceful protesters.
Freedom of expression
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 10 journalists currently remain in prison and 57 have gone into exile since 2010, making Ethiopia the fourth most censored country in the world.
Numerous HRDs and journalists have faced intimidation, threats and arbitrary arrests as a result of their work on the Oromo protests. On 19 December 2015, Fikadu Mirkana, a news anchor at Oromia Radio and TV, was arrested and taken into police custody. Within the same week, on 25 December 2015, Getachew Shiferaw, Editor-in-Chief of Negere Ethiopia, was also arrested in relation to his work covering the Oromo protests. Both remain imprisoned and have been denied access to legal counsel. Even after the Ethiopian Government withdrew their Master Plan, the protests and targeting of the media has continued. On 3 March 2016, Bloomberg correspondent William Davison and freelance journalist Jacey Fortin were arbitrarily detained for 24 hours along with their translator for reporting on the Oromo protests.
Violations of freedom of expression and the press have become commonplace in Ethiopia. Since the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation was enacted in 2009, it has repeatedly been used to silence the media and at least 24 journalists have been charged with terrorism.
On 10 March, Solomon Kebede, the former managing editor of Ye Muslimoch Guday newspaper, who has been detained since January 2013 on anti-terrorism charges, was sentenced to at least 3 years and 10 months in prison. It is unclear whether the sentence may actually be longer, or if time served would count towards the sentence.
Freedom of association
The Charities and Societies Proclamation (2009) continues to hamper the efforts of human rights defenders in the country. The law requires that NGOs obtain 90% of their funding from within Ethiopia, which has severely restricted the capacity of organisations to continue to operate and organise human rights activities.
NGOs that manage to operate do so in a heavily restrictive environment. For example, two field investigators working for the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (HRCO), essentially one of the few Ethiopian human rights NGO operating in the country, were briefly arrested and questioned by police in December 2015 in relation to their work on the Oromo protests.
 “Ethiopia: Civil Society Calls Upon Human Rights Council to Investigate Government Crackdown on Oromo Protest”, EHAHRDP, 24 February 2016, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2016/02/ethiopia-civil-society-calls-upon-human-rights-council-to-speak-investigate-government-crackdown-on-oromo-protest/
 “Civil society groups urge the international community to address killing of Oromo protesters”, DefendDefenders, 14 January 2016, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2016/01/ethiopia-civil-society-groups-urge-the-international-community-to-address-killing-of-oromo-protesters/
 “10 Most Censored Countries”, Committee to Protect Journalists, 27 April 2015, https://cpj.org/2015/04/10-most-censored-countries.php
 “Djibouti, Ethiopia and South Sudan: DefendDefenders Condemns Attacks and Arrests of HRDs and Journalists”, DefendDefenders, 15 January 2016, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2016/01/djibouti-ethiopia-and-south-sudan-defenddefenders-condemns-attacks-and-arrests-of-hrds-and-journalists/
 “Ethiopia Detains Journalists Covering Oromo Protests”, Newsweek, 7 March 2016, http://europe.newsweek.com/ethiopia-detains-journalists-covering-oromo-protests-434307
 “Caught Up in Bitter Contests”, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, 30 September 2015, https://www.defenddefenders.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Caught-Up-in-Bitter-Contests.pdf
 “In Ethiopia, journalist detained since 2013 handed jail sentence”, Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 March 2016, https://cpj.org/2016/03/in-ethiopia-journalist-detained-since-2013-handed-.php
 “Djibouti, Ethiopia and South Sudan: DefendDefenders Condemns Attacks and Arrests of HRDs and Journalists”, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, 15 January 2016, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2016/01/djibouti-ethiopia-and-south-sudan-defenddefenders-condemns-attacks-and-arrests-of-hrds-and-journalists/