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Ethiopia Arrests 3 Journalists Under New State of Emergency

Three journalists have been arrested in Ethiopia in the month since the government declared a state of emergency in early August.

Ethiopia declared a 6-month state of emergency on August 4 in response to conflict in the northern Amhara state. The country’s House of People’s Representatives approved the state of emergency on August 14. The state of emergency gives the government the power to arrest people without a court warrant, among other sweeping powers.

Since then, three journalists have been arrested in Ethiopia, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ. The press freedom group said all three reporters published content on the conflict in Amhara and the state of emergency.

These arrests come after Ethiopian security forces arrested eight journalists in April over their coverage related to Amhara and human rights, according to Reporters Without Borders, or RSF.

In a statement Wednesday, CPJ condemned the latest arrests and called on the government to release all journalists detained in the country for their work.

“Once again, Ethiopian authorities are targeting journalists precisely when the public needs access to diverse reporting and commentary on an ongoing conflict,” CPJ Sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo said.

Ethiopia’s Washington embassy did not immediately reply to VOA’s email requesting comment.

Ethiopia last declared a state of emergency in November 2021 at the height of the Tigray conflict. The government has a history of arresting journalists during times of conflict.

Most recently, Fekadu Mahtemework, editor-in-chief of the weekly Ghion magazine, was detained by police in Addis Ababa on August 25 under the state of emergency decree. He was then released without charge on September 4, according to CPJ. Fekadu was previously jailed for about five months before being granted amnesty in 2020.

“Ethiopian authorities should release all journalists detained for their work and guarantee that the state of emergency in Amhara will not be used to stifle the media,” Mumo said.

Yidnekachew Kebede, founder and editor of YouTube-based outlet Negari TV, was arrested on August 17. Several days later at an Addis Ababa court, police accused him of aiding “anti-peace elements” and producing video contact “with the intent of provoking violence.” Yidnekachew returned to court on September 1 and was released on bail without charge, according to CPJ.

Meanwhile, Abay Zewdu, chief editor of the YouTube-based broadcaster Amhara Media Center, was arrested in Addis Ababa on August 10 before being transferred to Awash Arba military facility on August 21. He remains in the temporary detention center, according to CPJ. The journalist was previously detained in September 2022 and April 2023 and released on bail.

Out of 180 countries, Ethiopia ranks 130 in terms of press freedom, according to RSF.

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