IPI condemns the illegal detention of 19 Ethiopian journalists and media workers who were arrested by security forces in Addis Ababa and the Amhara region as part of an “anti-crime operation” for offenses that include “incitement to violence” and other vague offenses.
The arrests began May 10 when Muhayadin Abdullahi, an Oromo journalist and editor at Harari Mass Media agency, was detained in police custody. He was later released on May 19. On the day of his release, four media workers from Nisir International Broadcasting Corporation and five from Ashara Media in Amhara region were arrested. Solomon Shumiye, host of YouTube channel Geneyanu, was reportedly arrested on May 20 after he went to the police station in search of his sister who was detained there. May 26, 27, and 28 saw three more journalists from Finfinnee Integrated Broadcasting, Alpha TV and YouTube-based media outlet Toha TV arrested.
These arbitrary and indiscriminate arrests that netted reporters, editors, social media television hosts, human resources and finance officers, among 4,000 other arrests, were mostly conducted without a court order in Amhara State.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission denounced the arrest and detention of journalists in a statement as ‘’unlawful’’, noting that the country’s media law prohibits pre-trial detention for any alleged offenses committed through the media, and called for the immediate release of the journalists. “The arrest of media personnel is particularly alarming because it is contrary to the 2021 Media Law and its repercussions extend beyond media space and freedom of expression”, said Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Chief Commissioner Daniel Bekele.
IPI joins the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in calling for the journalists’ release.
‘The series of arrests and detentions of journalists in Ethiopia in May is appalling”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “This raises great concern for press freedom and independent journalism in a country confronted with internal conflict, where independent voices and professional journalism are indispensable to providing credible and reliable information and foster the peace process’.”
He added: “We call on the Ethiopian authorities to release the journalists and allow all reporters in the country to do their work free from fear, arbitrary arrests, detentions and other legal reprisals.”