Seven performers of a popular YouTube music video charged with terrorism
From 30th May to 8th June 2017 the internet was shut down in Ethiopia during the exam period for students. The authorities stated that the digital blackout was to prevent a repeat of an incident last year when activists posted an official exam online and called for the postponement of the exams due to a school being shutdown in the Oromia region, where students would be unable to sit exams. Selective access to the internet, however, was available for diplomatic missions, international institutions and banks. Since November 2015, when anti-government protests began in the Oromia and Amhara regions, the government has blocked internet access on three occasions. Curtailing access to the internet, and therefore access to information and the possibility to voice one's opinions, violates citizens' freedom of expression, and comes shortly after Yonatan Tesfaye and Getachew Shiferaw were imprisoned for their social media messages.
The Ethiopian authorities continue to crack down on artists perceived as in opposition or too critical of the current regime. According to reports from Global Voices, seven producers and artists of a music video on YouTube were charged with terrorism in June for producing “inciting” audio-visual materials and “uploading them on YouTube”. They were arrested in December 2016 and had been held in detention without charges since then. Among those arrested are singer Seenaa Solomon, Elias Kiflu, Gemechis Abera, Oliyad Bekele, Ifa Gemechu, Tamiru Keneni and Moebol Misganu.
On 17th July, The Ethiopian Human Rights Project announced on Twitter that a court has granted bail at 50,000 Ethiopian Birr for journalist Elias Gebru, who has been detained since 18th November 2016 and held without official charge or due process.
A tax increase for "Category C" taxpayers, which include small and medium businesses with an annual turnover of up to 100,000 Ethiopian Birr, led to protests and strikes across the Oromia region, despite the country's State of Emergency ban on assemblies. Businesses in parts of the wider Oromia region, where widespread demonstrations took place in 2014 and 2016, as well as in Addis Abeba closed their doors in protest over the tax increase. Protesters reportedly attacked two government-owned vehicles in Ambo city on 13th July 2017. Also, reports indicated that police dispersed a youth-organised protest in Kofele.