WASHINGTON, January 30 (Sputnik) — The United States has raised concerns over Ethiopia’s decision to proceed with trials against several bloggers and journalists, which undermines free and open media in the country, US Department of State Spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement.
“The United States is concerned by the Ethiopian Federal High Court’s January 28, 2015, decision to proceed with the trial of six bloggers and three independent journalists on charges under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation,” the statement issued Thursday said. "The decision undermines a free and open media environment—critical elements for credible and democratic elections, which Ethiopia will hold in May 2015.”
The United States urges the Ethiopian government to ensure that the trial is fair, transparent, free of political influence and in compliance with international human rights obligations and Ethiopia’s constitutional guarantees.
“The use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation in previous cases against journalists, activists, and opposition political figures raises serious questions about the implementation of the law and about the sanctity of Ethiopians’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” Psaki stressed in the statement.
At least 22 journalists, bloggers, and publishers were criminally charged in Ethiopia in 2014, and more than 30 journalists were forced to flee the country in fear of persecution, according to a Human Rights Watch report published last week.