A group of six bloggers based in Ethiopia known as the “Zone9” bloggers, were arrested and detained by police forces between 25 and 26 April, 2014. It is understood that two freelance journalists were also arrested.

The arrests appear to be part of a coordinated and almost simultaneous operation in which Zone9 members Befekadu Hailu, Atnaf Berahane, Natnael Feleke, Mahlet Fantahun, Zelalem Kibret, and Abel Wabela were arrested and taken to Maekelawi Police Station, a federal detention centre in Addis Ababa.

Tesfalem Weldeyes, a freelance journalist, was also arrested in the operation. Human Rights Watch have reported that Edom Kassaye, a second freelance journalist, was arrested, but had no further information on her status.

The offices and homes of the Zone9 group were searched during the operation, and computers and literature belonging to the members were seized by police.

Police have charged the members with inciting violence through the use of social media and creating instability in the country. No legal counsel was initially offered and the group appears to be being held incommunicado, with family members prevented from visiting the detainees.

The arrests follow a period in which the Zone9 group had decreased their activities and visibility due to ongoing intimidation from security forces. The group announced on 23 April 2014, via social media, that they were intending to increase their activism after this lull in their activities. It is believed that this statement prompted the crackdown and arrests of the group.

Article 19 have reported that two other members of Zone9 are currently in Nairobi. Soliyana Shimeles was already in Nairobi on assignment for Freedom House, whicle Jomanex Kassaye was warned about the arrests and went into hiding, managing to board a plane to the Kenyan capital. Article 19 is concerned over the safety of Shimeles and Kassaye, as there have been cases in the past of Kenyan security agents abducting asylum seekers and returning them to Ethiopia. – See more at: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/25881#sthash.08DzyZqS.dpuf