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seyoum teshome

Seyoum Teshome


We are living in a dictatorial state, a totalitarian state.

Seyoum Teshome is a lecturer, writer, blogger and frequent contributor to international media coverage of Ethiopian affairs. His blog, EthioThinkTank, discusses current issues, monitors the human rights situation in Oromia, and often holds the Government to account on human rights violations, especially following its crackdowns on protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions. On 21 August 2016, Seyoum Teshome contributed to a New York Times article, in which he stated in reference to Ethiopia: “We are living in a dictatorial state, a totalitarian state”. This comment was in relation to the marathoner, Feyisa Lilesa, who made a gesture of protest at the 2016 Olympics.


In Ethiopia, human rights defenders (HRDs) work in extremely difficult conditions marked by threats, acts of intimidation, restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly, judicial harassment, and arbitrary arrests. Repressive legislation passed in recent years has been successful in silencing civil society. Severe restrictions on external funding continue to undermine the work and effectiveness of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Several human rights defenders and journalists were forced to flee the country and those who remained practised self-censorship for fear of attack or harassment.

Repeated arrests and intimidation have generated a climate of fear among HRDs and this further limited their work. HRDs are often accused of terrorism, of having a political agenda, being “messengers of Western governments”, and this comes either in form of verbal attacks and smear campaigns or of formal criminal charges. International human rights organisations have been denied access and are subjected to smear campaigns much like their local partners. HRDs working for the rule of law, human rights education and awareness, documentation of human rights abuses, and prison monitoring, have been particularly targeted. Defenders involved in monitoring the justice system, court proceedings and the observance of due process during criminal proceedings, have also been targeted, subjected to physical harassment and often denied the right to observe public court proceedings.