The arbitrary arrest of journalists since the beginning of the conflict in the Amhara region of Ethiopia has caused an information gap leading to insufficient awareness about the state of affairs in the region for both persons who depend on formal and informal media for news.
In response to the ongoing conflict, the Government of Ethiopia has declared a six-month state of emergency across Amhara and sanctioned wide powers to security personnel to arrest and detain in disregard of lawful due process which includes the right to appear before the court and the right to legal counsel. The effect of this law has resulted in massive arrest of journalists and the subjection of same to torture and inhumane conditions such as inadequate food and water.
On August 26, 2023, Tewodros Zerfu, a presenter and program host of online media outlets, Yegna TV and Menelik Television, was arrested by the police at a café in the capital, Addis Ababa, according to media reports.
In the same week, on August 30, Nigussie Berhanu, a political analyst and co-host of “Yegna Forum” a bi-weekly show on Yegna TV, was arrested by two policemen dressed in civilian-looking clothing.
On September 11, 2023, seven federal police officers arrested Yehualashet Zerihun, the program director of the privately owned station, Tirita 97.6 FM, at his home in Addis Ababa, with no specific reason for his arrest according to reports by Tirita and Yehualashet’s wife, Meron Jembere.
It is reported by the media that the three journalists were initially detained at the Federal Police Crime Investigation Center, Addis Ababa, but have since been transferred to the Awash Arba military camp where political prisoners are held in Afar State, 145 kilometers east of the city. According to media reports, there are other journalists who have also been detained at the Awash Arba military camp.
The current fate of journalists covering the conflict in Amhara is one fraught with risks of arrests and detention under severe conditions at the Awash Arba military camp, underscoring the unchecked powers of the Government of Ethiopia amid the shutdown of electricity and internet in the region making it harder to monitor the situation in the Amhara region.
Freedom of expression is a right guaranteed and protected under the constitution of Ethiopia and to this end, AFEX holds the Government of Ethiopia responsible for its failure to guarantee the right to freedom of expression of journalists covering the conflict in the Amhara region. AFEX also notes the abuse of power to detain journalists under inhumane conditions in the Awash Arba military camp.
We call on the Government of Ethiopia to release all detained journalists and restore to them their freedoms to enable them report and monitor the situation in the Amhara region.