The International Press Institute (IPI) today strongly condemned the re-arrest of recently freed Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega and other journalists, bloggers and politicians and called for their immediate release.

Ethiopian authorities on Sunday made the arrests at a gathering outside the capital city of Addis Abeba. Nega, who received the IPI-IMS World Press Freedom Hero Award in 2017, had been recently released after spending more than six years in prison on a spurious terrorism conviction.

Local media have said authorities also rearrested also journalist Temesgen Desalegn; bloggers Befekadu Hailu, Zelalem Workagegnehu, Mahlet Fantahun and Fekadu Mehatemework; and politicians Andualem Aragie, Woineshet Molla, Yidenehackew Addis, Sintayehu Chekol and Tefera Tesfaye.

According to reports, the reasons given for the arrests were the display of a prohibited national flag at the gathering and the violation of a ban on unauthorized gatherings under Ethiopia’s state of emergency.

Earlier this year, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn initiated a mass release of political prisoners from Ethiopian jails following anti-government protests. However, Desalegn announced his resignation shortly thereafter, and the government promptly declared a state of emergency.

Ethiopia is expecting a new prime minister to take charge in the next few days.

IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen called on authorities to release Nega and other detained journalists and bloggers.

“Ethiopia’s decision last month to release Eskinder Nega alongside hundreds of other political prisoners indicated progress toward a new era of respect for free expression in Ethiopia”, he said. “These arrests are a significant and disappointing step backward, and suggest that Ethiopia’s new state of emergency is being used as an excuse to silence critical voices.”