Wave of arrests of media workers in Ethiopia

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of journalists and media workers in northwestern Ethiopia’s Amhara region who have been victims of a wave of arbitrary arrests and are being held incommunicado. The authorities must stop persecuting journalists, RSF says.

At least nine media employees, including journalists with Nisir International Broadcasting Corporation and Ashara who cover national news on their YouTube channels, were arrested by members of the security forces on 19 and 20 May.

What with arbitrary arrests, withdrawing accreditation and expelling foreign reporters, press freedom violations and attacks on journalism have increased in Ethiopia since the start of the month,” said Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF’s West Africa bureau. “The authorities must put an immediate end to the practice of holding journalists incommunicado and seizing equipment, which is fuelling the growing climate of hostility towards media personnel. All detained media workers must be freed at once, and seized studio equipment must be returned.”

During a raid on Nisir International in Bahir Dar, the Amhara region’s capital, security forces arrested four of its journalists and administrative employees. The TV channel said in a statement that two of them were being held in a prison in Bahir Dar while the other two were believed to be held incommunicado 185 km from the city.

Five Ashara employees were also thought to be held incommunicado in a remote location. In all, more than 4,000 people were arrested in the Amhara region in a “law enforcement operation” after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government spoke of the need to “protect citizens and ensure the survival of the nation.”

The increase in arrests of media personnel is alarming journalists’ organisations such as the Ethiopian Mass Media Professionals Association, which has called on the government to stop imprisoning journalists.

Journalists are being subjected to many other reprisals as the war in the northern Tigray region continues to fuel tension. Tom Gardner, The Economist magazine’s correspondent in Addis Ababa, was expelled on 16 May, three days after the authorities withdrew his accreditation. Yegna TV journalist Gobeze Sisay was detained on unknown charges by the security services for six days at the start of May. It is not known where or in what conditions he was held.

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Updated on 24.05.2022