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Ethiopian Blogger Atnaf Berahane: Young, Courageous, and in Jail

Atnaf Berhane, member of the Zone 9 Bloggers was jailed for blogging about human right violations in Ethiopia. (Digital drawing by Melody Sundberg)

Atnaf Berhane, member of the Zone 9 Bloggers, was jailed for blogging about human right violations in Ethiopia. (Image Credit: digital drawing by Melody Sundberg. Image used with her permission)

In April 2014, nine bloggers and journalists were arrested in Ethiopia. Several of these men and women had worked with Zone9, a collective blog that covered social and political issues in Ethiopia and promoted human rights and government accountability. And four of them were Global Voices authors. In July, they were charged under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. They have been behind bars ever since, their trial postponed time and again.

Last week, we featured our debut post from a series – “They Have Names” – that hopes to highlight the individual bloggers who are currently in jail. We wish to humanize them, to tell their particular and peculiar stories. This week, Ghanaian author, Kofi Yeboah, writes about the youngest of the Zone9ers, Atnaf Berahane.  

Atnaf Berahane, 26 years old, is the youngest of the Zone9 bloggers. He was arrested in Ethiopia on April 25 and 26, 2014 alongside Abel Wabela, Befeqadu Hailu, Mahlet Fantahun, Zelalem Kibret, and Natnael Feleke (all members of the Zone 9 blogging collective) and journalists Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Tesfalem Waldyes and Edom Kassaye.

Ethiopia is a country where freedom of expression is repressed by the government. There is strict media regulation in the country, especially when it comes to discussions of politics and human rights. As a result, citizens read news mostly from the Internet.

Atnaf's passion for civic engagement and interest in disseminating information to citizens to understand what the constitution says about their right and freedom led him to co-found the Zone9 Blog: his passion for human rights activism ignited the interest to co-found the organisation. But his passion for human rights and freedoms left him in chains.

In real life, Atnaf is an ICT specialist who works with Addis Ababa city administration at Bole sub-city. The trailtrackerblog, where supporters post regular updates about the case and the bloggers’ condition, describes him as a young Ethiopian who is “known for his use of Twitter handle for hyper local updates.” Atnaf also runs his own blog and is a digital security expert.

The sad reality of the muffled aspirations of one so young as Atnaf is best captured by this post:

Is it the “Federal Republic of Ethiopia” or the “Republic of Dystopia” (police state)?

Has Ethiopia crossed into the Twilight Zone, the Fifth Dimension?…

Ethiopia today might as well be called the “Republic of Dystopia”. Young men and women barely in their 20s are arrested and jailed for “terrorism” merely for blogging on Facebook and speaking their minds on other social media.

Atnaf, together with other incarcerated Zone 9 bloggers, deserve praise and not a jail sentence. It is not only the future of Atnaf that is on trial but that of every aspiring young man/woman who dares take a repressive government to task on free speech.

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  • weslataw

    Semay, you are stupid too. “Jewish project”?? Did the other case expired? It looks like you are going to sue them with another case.

    • Semay

      You are a stupid and worthless totally failed Diaspora have no life and future at all. You are trash and backward have no brain that could tell you about the worthless life you are having and the never achieved dirty wish you are deep swimming with for so long in your stupid taught to get in Ethiopia for luxury life with foreign help.

      Mr chicken head, are you saying it is still a secret what the greedy and racist Jewish are doing in Ethiopia for so long including damaging the country image using their Medias and so called journalists?

      They are coming in the country by themselves in different shapes and forms referring different reasons pretending they are there to help. They are pretending as if they do worry too much about democracy, election, human rights, rule of law and so on in Ethiopia while in USA and UK they are the ones controlling everything including the society.

      Do you think what Soros and others are doing is about the benefit of Ethiopia? You stupid, animal. They are happy to use you against the country and when they get there, they will drop you down to hell as they are doing in other countries, too.

      Look what is happening to Ukraine and learn more about their contribution in other countries using democracy, rule of law, free press, human rights and so on in order to make the strong and stable nations failed states and causing the suffering of millions as we are witnessing in Ukraine, too.

      You silly little Diaspora. You are in hell despite you have no idea about that. you are garbage and remain this way the rest of your stinky life in abroad waiting they will take you to Ethiopia to give you power as it was the case in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, FSA army in Syria and many more where all these nations became failed states as result.

      Do you want to see Ethiopia that way because of them? Of course, you do. Because you are a chicken head human thing and too desperate in life looking to happen the same thing to others including the country, unfortunately you sick animals is associating with to hurt her. However, you will never get your way in Ethiopia except being like an insect in abroad relaying on the greedy and racists to do for you, which is hahahaha and never happen.

  • Ellery

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