SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 28, 2013

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Addis Ababa University

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Ethiopia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 28, 2013, an Addis Ababa University student was arrested and charged with criminal defamation for allegedly posting criticisms of Arba Minch University officials and Arba Minch city administrators on his Facebook page.
According to sources, police apprehended the student, Manyazewal Eshetu, on the campus of Addis Ababa University and brought him to a prison in Arba Minch, a city in southern Ethiopia. Police informed media that Mr. Eshetu had been arrested for posting “imbalanced, defamatory and unconfirmed information…that defamed the university and city administrators on Facebook.” According to sources, the student stated on Facebook that there was corruption among Arba Minch University officials and city administrators. A high-level university official reportedly confirmed the reasons for the student’s arrest. On March 29, Mr. Eshetu appeared in court where police sought additional time to investigate his case. At time of reporting, Mr. Eshetu remains in police custody.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about apparent interference with students’ rights to peacefully express their views. Students and other members of higher education communities have the right to engage peacefully in expressive activity, including on social media networks.  State and university authorities have a responsibility to protect students engaged in such peaceful activity and to refrain from abusive legal process or detention. Arrests and coercive detention aimed at limiting students’ peaceful expression undermine university values and democratic society generally.  Where restrictions are deemed necessary to protect against defamatory material, internationally recognized standards on free expression would require that such restrictions must be narrowly applied and rarely, if ever, warrant detention or criminal sanctions for nonviolent expression.