Reporters Without Borders demanded on Monday that 12 journalists detained in a wave of arrests in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa be released immediately.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the majority of the journalists were arrested on June 30, including one who runs a YouTube channel critical of the administration.
The journalists’ detention were not explained until July 2, when police linked them to a terrorist group, referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Since November, federal troops have been fighting TPLF forces in Tigray, but they withdrew at the end of June due to rebel advances, prompting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration to declare a unilateral ceasefire.
Journalists covering the crisis in Ethiopia have been subjected to severe restrictions by the Ethiopian government.
“We condemn these mass arrests of journalists, which clearly aim to deter independent investigative reporting on the war in Tigray,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.
“These arrests, conducted in a completely opaque manner, are all the more shocking because, just a few months ago, the Ethiopian parliament voted a new media law decriminalising most press offences,” added Froger, calling for their release.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission expressed “severe” concern over the arrests over the weekend, claiming that “the detainees have not been granted visitation rights by their lawyer or their family.”
Simon Marks, a New York Times foreign journalist, was ejected from Ethiopia in May after publishing a series of critical pieces on the fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray area.
In recent months, a number of Ethiopian journalists and interpreters working for major news organizations such as AFP, Reuters, the BBC, and the Financial Times have been detained while on the job.
On Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom index, the Horn of Africa country is ranked 101 out of 180 countries worldwide.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN