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Henok Abebe Gebeyehu


The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of Ethiopia has a far-reaching effect on human rights,
such as freedom of expression. The provisions of this law that impact freedom of expression
are discussed in this article. The law gives leeway to criminalize innocent acts of individuals
who are critical of government policies. It criminalizes in/direct encouragement to the
preparation, instigation and commission of terrorism through the publication of statements.
The law falls short of international standards that require only the criminalization of a
speech intended and likely to incite terrorist acts. The Proclamation demands everyone
including the media and journalists provide terrorism-related information to law
enforcement agencies. The only way to be relieved of this obligation is showing the existence
of a ‘reasonable cause’, a phrase that is not defined by the law. Moreover, the journalistic
privilege of confidentiality of information and the protection of sources is not stipulated as
an exception to the obligation of disclosure of information. Nor does the law provides the
circumstances in which a journalist may be forced to divulge her information. Though
surveillance and interception undermine democracy, a mere suspicion of terrorism gives the
National Intelligence and Security Service a power to conduct surveillance or intercept any
type of communications. The Proclamation failed to provide circumstances that a court
should consider before permitting surveillance or interception. Surveillance and
interception invade privacy and chill freedom of expression. However, the Proclamation
failed to provide any safeguards that limit the misuse of executive power against freedom of
expression. The legal ambiguity together with the nascent jurisprudence pose problems on
freedom of expression. Hence, domestic courts should draw upon or transplant principles
and their interpretations from jurisdictions like South Africa and Council of Europe to fill
legal loopholes. Moreover, the “jurisprudential dearth” could be filled and the impact of the
Proclamation on freedom of expression may be assuaged by incorporating the three-part
test (prescribed by law, legitimate aims and necessary in a democratic society) from the
well-developed jurisprudences of human rights bodies and regional courts, notably the
European Court of Human Rights, which stands at the heart of the Council of Europe


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