Freedom of the press in the civil war in Ethiopia
Human rights organization demands release of imprisoned journalists (Press Release)
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has accused the Ethiopian government of fomenting a climate of fear and self-censorship in the country's media by arbitrarily arresting journalists. The human rights organization emphatically demanded the release of six arrested journalists who are currently detained without contact to the outside world. Four of the media workers were arrested during the last 24 hours alone – based on charges of spreading fake news about the armed conflicts in Tigray. "The systematic attempts to intimidate the media show that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is not committed to human rights. Ethiopia is increasingly turning into an authoritarian state that does not shy away from human rights violations or armed conflicts in order to secure the existing order," criticized Ulrich Delius, the STP's Director, in Göttingen on Thursday.
The human rights organization also criticized the fact that Ethiopian government agencies had kept several media workers from reporting from the civil war region of Tigray. "Despite the dramatic escalation of violence in the north of the country, there is no transparency – and it is hardly possible to do independent research. The country is falling back into a dictatorship, reminiscent of the times in which the authorities tabooed the suffering of the civilian population under the civil war for many years," Delius stated.
Four journalists were arrested last week: Abreha Hagos, Haftu Gebregzhiabher, and Tsegaye Hadush from the Ethiopian news agency EPA, as well as Udi Mussa from the Oromo Media Network (OMN). Further, Medihane Ekubamichael, the editor of the prestigious English-language newspaper Addis Standard, was arrested on Monday this week. He had already been arrested shortly before, last Saturday – on the same day that the journalist Bekalu Alamirev of Awlo Media was arrested. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission expressed its concern about the arrest of the media workers via Twitter.
It was only on September 8, 2020, that Ethiopia had three journalists arrested only a few hours after they had been released by court order. Belay Menaye and Mulugeta Anberbir as well as their cameraman Misganaw Kefelgn are still in custody today. OMN employees Chibsa Abdulkerim and Melese Direbssa, who were taken into custody on July 2, 2020, are still being held without charge.