Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrests of two journalists working for privately-owned newspapers in the past few days.
The latest victim is Reyot Alemu, a young woman reporter for the Amharic-language weekly Fitih, who was arrested on 21 June, two days after the arrest of Woubeshet Taye, the deputy editor of the Amharic-language Awramba Times. Both are now the subject of a judicial investigation and are being held at the Addis Ababa centre for federal investigations in Maekelawi.
The authorities have not announced any charges, but it is believed they are accused of links with “terrorist” organizations.
“We call on the Ethiopian government to quickly account for these arrests, which have been carried out in an irregular manner and in which the legal limit for police custody (48 hours) has been exceeded,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The mystery surrounding their detention is unacceptable. These shady methods suggest a desire to stifle outspoken media and impose a news blackout on government abuses by scaring journalists and pressuring them to censor themselves on a regular basis. We demand their immediate release and the withdrawal of the proceedings against them."
“We are very disturbed by these arrests, which seem to have been carried out under an anti-terrorism law adopted in July 2009 and in accordance with a revision of government security policy two weeks ago. By accusing journalists of links with terrorist organizations, the government could be paving the way for repressive measures against independent media that will jeopardize diversity of opinion.”
After arresting Alemu, police searched her home and seized articles she had written, CDs and copies of the weekly with the apparent aim of using this material as evidence of “terrorist activities.”
After Taye was arrested by federal police at his home on 19 June, he was held in the utmost secrecy at the Maekelawi federal investigations centre before reportedly being taken before a court on 21 June. It is believed he could be accused of links with Ginbot 7, an opposition group which parliament recently declared to be a “terrorist” organization.
The authorities have had Taye in their sights for years and he had to resign as the editor of the Awramba Times following the media regulation agency’s constant harassment of the weekly in June 2010.