Ethiopia arrests Associated Press freelance journalist | Press Freedom News

Police in conflict-affected Ethiopia have arrested a freelance video journalist working for the Associated Press (AP), the US News Agency and state media reported.

On Wednesday, the AP called for the immediate release of Amir Aman Kiyaro, who it said was arrested in the capital, Addis Ababa, on November 28 after returning from a reporting trip.

Two other local journalists, identified by state media as Thomas Engida and Addisu Mulneh, were also arrested.

Journalists working in Ethiopia face restrictions under a nationwide state of emergency declared last month by the government, which has been locked in a brutal 13-month conflict with fighters in the northern Tigray region .

The declaration, valid for six months, allows suspects to be detained without trial for as long as the state of emergency lasts and allows house-to-house searches without a warrant.

The emergency rules prohibited the sharing of unofficial information about military movements and battlefield results, with residents also prohibited “from using various types of media platforms to directly or indirectly support the terrorist group” – a reference to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). ), which fights government forces.

Ethiopian police inspector Tesfaye Olani accused the three journalists of breaking state of emergency laws by seeking to spread “propaganda” about the TPLF and its ally, the Oromo Liberation Army. He said their actions could result in prison terms of seven to 15 years.

Footage of the three journalists, along with their identity cards, was released by state media in a video report of their arrest.

“The Associated Press is extremely concerned that AP freelancer Amir Aman Kiyaro has been detained by the Ethiopian government on charges of promoting terrorism,” said the senior vice president and editor-in-chief of AP, Julie Pace, in a statement.

“These are baseless allegations. Kiyaro is a freelance journalist who has done important work in Ethiopia on all sides of the conflict. We call on the Ethiopian government to release Kiyaro immediately.

Separately, the state-affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Wednesday it was monitoring the situation of four other detained local journalists, including two whose whereabouts are unknown.

In a statement on Twitter, called for the immediate disclosure of the whereabouts of the two detainees to their families and lawyers and to guarantee their visitation rights.

“The commission also reiterates that the relevant authorities should closely monitor that the declaration of the state of emergency is implemented in a manner that strictly respects human rights principles.”

Much of the conflict-affected areas in northern Ethiopia are suffering from a communications breakdown and access for journalists is severely restricted.

Journalists behind bars

Meanwhile, in a new report released on Thursday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said there were 488 imprisoned media professionals worldwide, the highest number since the NGO started counting a year ago. over 25 years.

“The number of journalists detained for their work has never been so high since RSF began publishing its annual report in 1995,” the NGO, which fights for press freedom, said in a statement. .

The number of journalists killed has fallen to 46, but the 20% increase in jailings of media professionals is largely due to government crackdowns in Hong Kong, Belarus and Myanmar.

RSF said it had never seen so many female journalists detained, with the total number of 60 representing a third more than in 2020.

The report follows a review by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which put the number of 293 journalists behind bars in its own report last week – a new world record.

According to CPJ, Ethiopia has imprisoned 14 journalists since declaring a state of emergency on December 2.

“The Ethiopian government should release all journalists detained for their work and stop using the state of emergency as a pretext to infringe on freedom of expression,” said CPJ Sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo.