Ethiopia: New journalist arrests put press freedom gains at risk

Amnesty International
The Ethiopian government risks rolling back the great progress it made on media freedom last year, said Amnesty International, after the government announced plans to charge journalists and media outlets for their reporting on the armed forces.

Since taking office in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has overturned the repressive civil society law and released dozens of detained journalists and bloggers. By the end of 2018, not a single journalist remained behind bars, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and, in 2019, Ethiopia leapt 40 places up the World Press Freedom Index.

However, following a wave of arrests of journalists in the past weeks, the Ministry of Defence on 8 July announced plans to charge journalists and media houses for “publishing defamatory information about the Ethiopia National Defence Forces”.

This new round of arrests is a hugely regressive move that risks rolling back the progress witnessed in 2018. All journalists arrested must be immediately released and all charges against them unconditionally dropped.
Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

“After making great strides on press freedom, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government received glowing tributes, and the honour of hosting this year’s World Press Freedom Day event,” Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes said.

“This new round of arrests is a hugely regressive move that risks rolling back the progress witnessed in 2018. All journalists arrested must be immediately released and all charges against them unconditionally dropped.”

Berihun Adane, Editor-in-Chief of the privately-owned Asrat TV and the weekly Berera newspaper, was arrested on 26 June, while Elias Gebru, editor of the Enqu magazine, defunct since 2014, was arrested on 6 July.

Both journalists have since been charged under the Anti- Terrorism Proclamation (2009), which was used by previous governments to bring trumped-up charges against its critics.

The latest round of arrests in the wake of the 22 June assassination of the army chief of staff and other high-ranking government officers, has also targeted activists and members of the opposition National Movement of the Amhara.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Abiy Ahmad started well in his reforms and many people were blindly following him without raising any questions about his political stance or without knowing his long term strategy.
    What has become clear is that Abiy Ahmad has no any political strategy, no road map, no long term strategy about where he is going. He is 100 % following EPRDF programme. As time goes on and more and more challenges appear on the scene, this is becoming even more apparent. The Anti terror is coming to life again, the constitution and abyotawi democracy are alive and kicking. Al local and national levels the political structure of eprdf is very much intact. nothing has changed, at woreda, district, killil level. displacemrnt , lawlesness murder, has increased

    coruptionnis rife,

  2. Now medemer chearleaders will wakeup from their enchanted false dreams. The call for armed opposition forces to join in peace talks and reconciliation has been a great strategy and reverse Trojan horse to neutralize them by EPDRF. Anyway instead of calling the EPDRF opportunists by their name they let the popular movement being hijaked by EPDRF. They played the game meticulously. If you go back and dig back on EPDRF cadre old forums they even envisioned to split into two parties in comminng elections just to mock democracy and neuter any Pan-Ethiopian movement like the late AEUP. I wonder what was the condition given by Isasyas to the opposition Pan-Ethiopian groups like Ginbot 7 for them to join the medemer when they could well have galvanized most Ethiopian resistance against EPDRF except the fringes of extreme nationalists? What is the real reason also of the sudden deterioration of the much celebrated Ethiopian and Eritrea relation improvement? What happened between a year ago and now? Did the EPDRF gov changed its alignment? Do Isayas government actually want an ethnic splitted Ethiopian or consider that as a risk and a challenge for his own multiethnic Eritrea? Both regime are close and hermetic but their interactions and the flow of their relationship does say there is a dynamic that does mean more depper than the surface. Add to that the self exiled TPLF and galloping OLF. It is a matter of time before all deceptions are layed in our eyes.

  3. If About EPDRD/ODP/ADP were sincere in their motives they would appoint an independent judicial system when they are already controlling the legislative (the house) and executive powers. appointing Birtukan to the election board and Daniel to the human rights commission is a farse when the all the checks and controls is controlled by EPDRF. Their own faraw ethnic based Constitution is a farsw as there is no absolutely that checks and balances even to enforce what is written in their own constitution over the EPDRF central democracy directives. All central democracy directives are channeled through phone calls to appointed security, army and judicial chiefs which are also EPDRF loyals. So I am not sure what the heck EPDRF is talking about the rule of law when itself bypasses all of moral decency to use the law in its own advantage to stay in power?

  4. I thought we are done with the arrests of journalists in that country. What was the reason? Evidence please!!!! Hello!!! Evidence for the arrests, please!!! If the alleged journalist had anything to do with the brutal murder of the officials, then shame on him. But I doubt it because I have not read any report by the government that includes the evidence. What the reporters should bear in mind is to stay the course of being a true and independent journalist. A journalist cannot be a reporter and an activist at the same time. Otherwise, he/she will not escape the entrapment of being used either by the regime or the opposition. We have seen enough of that. You have read it. I have read it. There were journalists madly in love with the ruthless Mengistu and those who followed him. I also heard that some of the so-called journalists used to compose poetry for ‘revolutionary songs’ for Mengistu for ‘eradicating’ those anti people citizens. And also some of them, I was told that they had managed to escape the Meles dragnet and were able to found media outlets here among the Diaspora so they can still sing to their ‘Menge’. A friend had shown me a video clip where one of them was using the honorary guest ‘Chairman Mengistu’. This noble profession has been stained so bad in that country by such kowtowed ‘newsmen’ that it is going to take them a generation or more to clean up such a sell-out tradition.

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