World Policy Institute Journal
By Rebecca MacKinnon
“We want more openness, more transparency,” Ethiopian writer Endalkchew Chala observes. “People deserve choice; people deserve access to the world’s knowledge.” For expressing views like these online, his friends were scheduled to go on trial for terrorism in early August—though the trial has since been adjourned to October 15. Perhaps because the absurd charges against them were getting more international attention than expected.
Two years ago Endalk (as his friends and colleagues like to call him) got together with several like-minded young Ethiopian writers and journalists to launch a hard-hitting blog called “Zone 9.” The blog’s name derives from Addis Ababa’s infamous Kaliti prison, divided into eight zones with political prisoners confined to Zone Eight. Young bloggers believed that the entire nation was becoming a virtual prison—effectively a ninth zone. “All of Ethiopia is part of it,” explains Endalk. In 2011, one inmate, journalist Eskinder Nega, was arrested for the seventh time after writing a column, which ironically criticized the Ethiopian government’s habit of arresting journalists on terrorism charges.