Ethiopia: Civil society calls for the immediate release of detained journalists

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on the Ethiopian authorities to immediately release 11 journalists and media workers arrested and detained since May 19 in Amhara state and the capital Addis Ababa for doing their work.

 

On May 19 2022, security operatives inhumanly raided and abducted the arrested persons from their respective offices and homes for covering and reporting on various events, including politicians critical of the government. Those arrested include five journalists and media workers of the privately-owned YouTube channel Ashara Media, four journalists and media workers of the YouTube channel Nisir International Broadcasting Corporation, Meskerem Abera, the founder and editor of private broadcaster Ethio Nekat Media; and Solomon Shumeye, the founder and owner of private broadcaster Gebeyanu Media.

Several journalists and activists have become victims of state-sponsored attacks in Ethiopia, and their arrests and detentions do not follow basic human rights principles. Such excesses by security operatives threaten press freedom and independent media as a foundation of democratic and accountable governance in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government must protect the right to freedom of expression and information. 

“CIVICUS condemns the intimidation by the Ethiopian authorities, which takes the form of kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, and illegal detentions of journalists and media actors. We demand a quick, fair, and independent investigation to hold accountable security operatives who continue to commit inhuman acts and blatantly violate the human rights of journalists and activists with impunity”, said Paul Mulindwa, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer.  

 

The  Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa guarantee the protection of journalists and media practitioners. It is absurd that the arrested journalists were doing their job and peacefully reporting on an issue of national significance. The recent spate of violent attacks against journalists and media actors reminisces the brutal regimes that the country went through.

Background

The government authorities and security operatives in Ethiopia are conducting massive operations across the country, resulting in the arrest of more than 4,500 people in one region of Amhara. The crackdown on journalists, activists, and others, dubbed a “law enforcement operation,” came into effect on Sunday, May 20 2022, following remarks of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on the need to “protect citizens and ensure the survival of the nation”. Subsequently, on Monday morning, security officials in the northwestern Amhara region announced the arrests of more than 4,500 people under the guise of “upholding law and order, dealing with criminal activities and getting rid of outside enemies.” Amhara is the second-most populous region in Ethiopia that has been a key constituency for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. However, the recent developments suggest that the region is not happy with its government handling a war with the neighbouring region of Tigray. The Prime Minister is thus cracking down on dissent in the country. 

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civic freedoms in countries across the globe, rates civic space in Ethiopia as repressed