Two Ethiopian journalists, held arbitrarily for four months, due to appear in court
With two journalists said to have “promoted terrorism” due to appear before an Addis Ababa court today, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Ethiopian authorities to free all arbitrarily detained journalists and to stop bringing baseless accusations against them with the aim of deterring them from covering the 17-month-old civil war.
Amir Aman Kiyaro, an accredited Associated Press video reporter, and freelancer Thomas Engida have been held arbitrarily for the past four months without any formal charge although the police accused them of “promoting terrorism” when they were arrested in Addis Ababa on 28 November after interviewing members of what the authorities regard as a terrorist group.
According to the Associated Press, the two journalists must either be formally charged or released at today’s hearing. If charged with promoting terrorism, they could face up to 15 years in prison.
“Since the start of the civil war, dozens of journalists have been jailed in a completely arbitrary manner for weeks or even months before being released for lack of evidence to support the serious accusations made against them,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We call on the authorities to put a stop to these arrests, which are solely designed to prevent journalists from doing their job, and to release all those still detained.”
According to RSF’s information, at least one other journalist is currently detained arbitrarily in Ethiopia. It is Terrara Media editor Tamirat Negera, who was arrested on 10 December, when his home was searched and his work equipment was confiscated. It is still not known where he is being held.
The civil war that broke out in November 2020 between Ethiopian federal troops and rebels from the Tigray region has displaced several hundred thousand civilians and killed many others, although the exact death toll is hard to assess. It has also resulted in a clampdown on the media without precedent since Abiy Ahmed became prime minister 2018.
Some media outlets such as the Addis Standard news site have been suspended, others have had to reduce their coverage of the civil war and others have had to stop altogether. They include the Awlo Media Center, which announced in October 2021 that it had suspended its activities because of threats and harassment.
Simon Marks, an Addis Ababa-based reporter for the New York Times, was expelled without any official explanation in May 2021, a few weeks after being stripped of his accreditation for “lacking impartiality” and for disseminating “fake news.”
After rising in RSF's World Press Freedom Index for three years, Ethiopia fell two places in the 2021 Index and is now ranked 101st out of 180 countries.