Ethiopian authorities release, then deport French journalist

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is relieved that a French journalist has been released by the Ethiopian authorities after being held for a week in the capital, Addis Ababa, although he was quickly expelled. The authorities must end the mounting persecution of journalism in Ethiopia, RSF says.

A reporter for Africa Intelligence, a specialist news website based in Paris, Antoine Galindo was released in a welcome development late on 29 February and was deported shortly thereafter.

 Galindo had been in Ethiopia for nine days to cover an African Union summit and local news stories when he was arrested in the capital on 22 February and was accused of trying to “create chaos and violence.”

 Although he had press accreditation, the Ethiopian authorities said he was arrested because he "engaged in activities in total contradiction with the reason for his visit, in particular collecting information related to internal political affairs."

We are relieved by Antoine Galindo’s release, which allows him to be reunited with his family and loved ones in France, but we deplore the grossly unjust treatment he received because he is a journalist. He was arrested and held in difficult conditions for an entire week simply for trying to do his duty as a reporter in Ethiopia, although he had proper accreditation. His detention and expulsion send an extremely disturbing signal about the state of press freedom in this country, which has worsened significantly for both Ethiopian and foreign journalists since 2020 against a backdrop of internal conflicts. We call on the Ethiopian authorities to put an end to the escalating persecution of journalism and to allow reporters to operate freely in their country

Christophe Deloire
RSF secretary-general

Aged 36, Galindo is responsible for Africa Intelligence’s East Africa coverage and has covered the region for the past ten years. He knows Ethiopia well having been based there for several years and having visited the country several times thereafter as a reporter.

At the time of his arrest on 22 February, he was in conversation with Battee Urgessa, a representative of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The authorities did not confirm his arrest or say where he was being held until 24 February, when French consular officials and his lawyer managed to locate him. He was taken before a judge the same day and had been due to appear in court again on 1 March.

In a statement on 25 February, Africa Intelligence condemned Galindo’s “unjustified arrest” and the “spurious accusations” against him, which it said were “not based on any tangible evidence that might justify this extended deprivation of liberty.”

Galindo’s arrest came at what is a very difficult time for journalists in Ethiopia despite fairly positive signals from Abiy Ahmed after he became prime minister in 2018, and then oversaw the adoption of a law in 2021 decriminalising press offences and protecting news sources.

But the situation failed to improve, especially during the war in the northern Tigray region, which saw a sharp increase in journalists being held incommunicado and seizures of equipment in the course of a growing crackdown on media personnel. Coverage of the conflicts raging in the Amhara region has also resulted in many journalists being arrested as part of a strategy by the authorities aimed at suppressing criticism.

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