At least a dozen journalists have been detained in a wave of arrests in Ethiopia, media activists and a rights group said on Friday, in an action that has sparked international concern.
Officials in the Amhara region said more than 4,000 people were detained in an anti-crime operation, but press watchdogs and rights groups said journalists were also targeted.
The latest arrests include Temsjen Desalegan, editor-in-chief of the Amharic-language magazine “Fitih”, who was picked up from his office by security forces in plain clothes on Thursday, his colleague Misgan Jinnabu told AFP.
“Initially, they took Temsjen to a local police station… later the security forces took them to a secret location,” the editor said.
He said police also raided Temsgen’s home on Thursday and confiscated magazines, disc drives and a camera.
Another journalist and YouTuber, Yayesew Shimelis, was placed under house arrest in the capital Addis Ababa on Thursday, his former aide Bekal Alamirev told AFP.
“Yayesu has been accused by the police of inciting violence through his work,” he said. The former TV host was produced in court on Friday.
The arrests came after Nisir International Broadcasting Corporation and Ashara, both covering Ethiopian affairs on their YouTube channels, said their studio in Amhara was raided last week and employees were taken away, some to undisclosed locations. was gone.
Nisir said four employees, including journalists and back-office workers, were arrested and equipment confiscated from their workplace in the regional capital Bahir Dar.
It added that the whereabouts of two other Nisir journalists are unknown.
Ashara Media said that five of its employees have been detained.
TV host Solomon Shumi, who has a show on YouTube, was also detained in Addis Ababa last week and charged with inciting violence, his sister Tigist Shumi said.
The sweep has sparked international concern, with the US State Department expressing alarm on Tuesday over the “narrow space for freedom of expression and independent media in Ethiopia”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders this week called for the immediate release of journalists and urged Ethiopian officials to stop harassing the press.
Daniel Bekele, chief commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), an independent rights body affiliated with the state, also urged the government to free the detainees.
“The arrests of media personnel are particularly dangerous… and have implications beyond the scope of the media and freedom of expression,” Bekele said in a statement Friday.
Amhara officials supported Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his federal forces in the war with the neighboring Tigre region that began in November 2020. But divisions have surfaced since Abiy’s handling of the conflict.