Ethio News, symbol of press freedom’s persecution in Ethiopia

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Ethiopia’s endless persecution of media covering the war in the Amhara region, now symbolised by Ethio News, a YouTube channel that had 190,00 followers until forced to close last November by the arrest of one of its two founders. The other founder has just been forced to flee the country.

Co-founder and deputy editor Belete Kassa Mekonnen fled Ethiopia a few weeks ago fearing for his life and the possibility of arbitrary arrest. In a letter posted on the Amhara Association of America website on 15 March, he reported that he had learned from military sources that a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Previously, in January, he reported that neighbours had told him he was under surveillance and that “plainclothes security agents” had been seen near his home “asking questions about him.”

Ethio News had been providing detailed, independent reporting on the fighting in the Amhara region until forced to close when the other co-founder, Belay Manaye, was arrested on 13 November in the capital, Addis Ababa. His phones, computer and Wi-Fi router were seized.

Since his arrest, Manaye has been held at Awash Arba, a military camp in the middle of a desert 150 km east of the capital, where he sustained injuries during a sandstorm that have not received appropriate medical care, RSF has been told by three sources speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Ethio News channel is the symbol of the Ethiopian government’s appalling persecution of journalists, especially those covering the Amhara war. Some languish in cells in the capital, some are sent to camps in the middle of the desert, and others are forced to flee abroad. We denounce the constant persecution to which journalists covering Ethiopia’s internal conflicts had been subjected for the past several years.

Sadibou Marong
Director of RSF’s Sub-Saharan Africa bureau

At least six journalists are currently detained in connection with their coverage of the conflict in the Amhara region, including three who have not been charged, according to RSF’s tally. In February, the authorities also arrested Antoine Galindo, a French journalist working for the specialised news site Africa Intelligence, and held him for a week.

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