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Transnational Repression: The Global Reach of Authoritarian Regimes

Transnational Repression _ Ethiopia
Graphic work : Isael Ze Etiel

Isael Ze Etiel  

In recent years, the phenomenon of transnational repression has become a growing concern for human rights advocates and democratic governments around the world. This insidious practice involves authoritarian regimes using a variety of tactics to target and silence dissidents, journalists, and activists who are critical of their governments, even when they are living in exile in foreign countries. Perpetrator states do so using intimidation and violence. This issue presents a direct threat to rights and security around the world.

One such regime that has been increasingly engaging in transnational repression is the government of Ethiopia. In a disturbing trend, the Ethiopian government has been actively seeking out individuals who can help disseminate false information and discredit independent media outlets that are critical of the government. In some cases, there have even been reports of the government considering assassinations of journalists who dare to speak out against them.

According to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2023 from the United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, on Ethiopia government Transnational Repression, the report stated that there were some reports that the government sought to intimidate critics outside its borders. In one instance, a journalist faced potential forcible repatriation from Saudi Arabia. In some cases, diaspora journalists reported that their families remaining in Ethiopia had received threats.

To further their efforts, the Ethiopian government has organized a social media army, often referred to as a “media army,” to suppress dissenting views and spread propaganda in support of the regime. These online operatives work tirelessly to silence opposition voices and create a false narrative that paints the government in a positive light.

On April 19, 2024, BBC Amharic released an investigative report uncovering that the government’s “media army” has been actively spreading deceptive and inaccurate information on various social media platforms. The report highlighted that the ruling party’s “media army,” operating under the Addis Ababa City Prosperity Branch Office, has been involved in circulating false content on Facebook to target individuals critical of the government. Additionally, they have been implicated in sharing information and images that could potentially incite hate speech.

The Ethiopian government has been targeting media outlets established abroad through the use of a “media army” to spread fake news, engage in character assassination, and report social media accounts that work against the government. This concerted effort is aimed at silencing dissenting voices and suppressing freedom of speech.

One of the methods used by the government is targeting activists and journalists who live abroad. This includes spying on them, warning them, hacking their social media and email accounts, offering money for cooperation, and even attempting assassination. These tactics are designed to intimidate and silence those who speak out against the government.

In addition, the government has been able to enlist the help of social media platforms in their efforts to suppress dissent. Platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok have policies that allow for accounts to be blocked if they receive a certain number of reports. This has led to the silencing of voices critical of the government, such as the Ethio360 media YouTube channel which is blocked on a daily basis.

What is particularly alarming about Ethiopia’s transnational repression efforts is the lengths to which they are willing to go to recruit individuals living in democratic countries, such as the USA and Europe. By offering substantial financial incentives, land, properties, and other benefits, the Ethiopian government is able to entice expatriates to collaborate with them in their efforts to oppress dissent and stifle free speech. It is concerning that individuals living in democratic countries are collaborating with repressive governments to target media outlets and activists. This highlights the need for increased awareness and vigilance to protect freedom of speech and ensure that voices of dissent are not silenced. The international community must take a stand against such actions and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

It is deeply troubling to see individuals who have benefited from the freedoms and liberties afforded to them in democratic societies willingly work to undermine those very values by supporting authoritarian regimes like that of Ethiopia. These individuals not only betray the principles of democracy but also contribute to the perpetuation of human rights abuses and repression in their home country.

As the global community grapples with the rise of transnational repression, it is imperative that democratic governments take decisive action to protect individuals at risk of being targeted by authoritarian regimes. By standing up for human rights and defending the principles of democracy, we can work together to combat this dangerous trend and ensure that all individuals are able to exercise their right to free expression without fear of retribution or persecution.

In conclusion, the issue of transnational repression poses a significant threat to democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression around the world. The case of Ethiopia serves as a stark reminder of the lengths to which authoritarian regimes will go to silence dissent and control the narrative, even across borders.

It is crucial for democratic governments, international organizations, and civil society to come together to address this growing challenge. By standing in solidarity with those targeted by transnational repression and holding authoritarian regimes accountable for their actions, we can work towards safeguarding the rights and freedoms of individuals everywhere. 

Ultimately, the fight against transnational repression requires a collective effort to uphold the values of democracy, human rights, and free speech. Only by working together can we counteract the insidious tactics used by authoritarian regimes and ensure that all individuals are able to speak out without fear of reprisal.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com

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