Ethiopia: News Analysis – Ten journalists and media personalities arrested in Bahir Dar, Addis Ababa in just three days

Addis Ababa – A dozen journalists and media personalities have been arrested in the space of three days, according to reports. The arrests were made in Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region, and in Addis Ababa according to information acquired from the media and the families of the detainees.

The crackdown was first reported on May 19 when digital media, Ashara Mediaand the overseas-based TV channel Nisir International Broadcasting Company announced the arrest of their staff.

Ashara media announced the arrest of 5 members of its staff on May 19, 2022. The media house listed the names of its employees, Kelemu Gelagay Akene, Daniel Mesfin, its cameramen and editors as well as its journalists Gashaye Nigussie Ferede, Getenet Yalew and Habtamu Melese. Addis Standard has learned that they did not appear in court until this news broke.

Similarly, Nisir Media also informed its social media followers that on May 19, at approximately 4:45 p.m. local time, security forces and Amhara Regional Police “illegally” surrounded its studio, arrested 3 of its journalists and confiscated electronic equipment.

The next day, Solomon Shumiye, a guest of the Gebeyanu Youtube Channel was also arrested on May 20, 2022. His arrest came after he went to the police station looking for his sister who was also arrested there. She has since been released, but Solomon remains in custody.

Tigist Shumiye, Solomon’s sister, told Reuters that Solomon appeared in court after his arrest along with three other suspects and that the court had given police 14 days to remand him in custody and investigate him.

Speaking to Addis Standard, Tigist said Solomon had been held at Third Division Police Station, commonly known as Sostegna, in Addis Ababa and said his next court appearance would be on May 30.

In a continuation of these arrests, Meskerem Abera, a university professor and political commentator, was arrested by security forces at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa after landing in Addis Ababa from a flight leaving Bahir Dar on May 21. She appeared in the Arada division of the Federal Magistrates Court in Addis Ababa yesterday.

During the hearing, investigative police told the court they were investigating Meskerem for “inciting riots and creating mistrust between the Amhara region and the federal government” and asked for 14 days in pre-trial detention until until she arrests her collaborators.

Lawyers for the defendant, for their part, argued that the police request, while detaining their client, was in violation of media freedom and was inappropriate. They argued that the suspects had worked publicly on the media. Explaining that if their client had committed a crime, she could not have operated in public and been arrested at Bole airport, her lawyers said. They also asked the court to grant her bail stating that she was breastfeeding a 7-month-old baby and had a permanent place of residence.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has raised concerns about what it called “unlawful arrests” in a press release published on Sunday. Commissioner Daniel Bekele (PhD) said: “Federal and regional security forces should refrain from arresting suspects before criminal investigations and imprisoning journalists for their work and arresting people regardless of warrant and inform family members when people are arrested and bring them to court.”

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