The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists for press freedom, today criticized the Ethiopian government for arresting Reuters photojournalist Kumerra Gemechu and demanded his immediate release.
Gemechu, a freelance cameraperson working for Reuters, was arrested on December 24 from his house in the capital Addis Ababa, but authorities did not give any reason for his arrest.
He was produced in the court on December 25, where the judge ordered his detention for 14 days allowing the police to conduct further investigations. His arrest took place after he covered the Tigray conflict.
“Gemechu’s detention is another attempt by the Ethiopian government to intimidate journalists and prevent the coverage of the conflict in Tigray, where scores of civilians have lost their lives”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said.
“This is a gross violation of press freedom and it undermines all democratic norms that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promised to uphold when he took office. Conflicts cannot be won by arresting journalists and stifling press freedom.”
In a statement issued today, Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler condemned Gemechu’s detention. “Kumerra is part of a Reuters team that reports from Ethiopia in a fair, independent and unbiased way.
Kumerra’s work demonstrates his professionalism and impartiality, and we are aware of no basis for his detention”, Adler said. “Journalists must be allowed to report the news in the public interest without fear of harassment or harm, wherever they are. We will not rest until Kumerra is freed.”
At least six journalists were arrested last month for reporting about the conflict. According to media reports, journalists working for foreign media outlets have come under pressure from the government for their coverage of the conflict in the northern Tigray region, where government troops battled the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
The Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority has accused the foreign media of “false” and “unbalanced” coverage of the conflict. On December 16, Reuters photographer Tiksa Negeri was beaten by two Ethiopian federal police officers.