Amnesty urges Ethiopia to release journalists

Amnesty International urges the Government of Ethiopia today to immediately release five journalists arrested on ‘unsubstantiated terrorism charges’ a month ago.

Five Ethiopian journalists arrested one month ago and arraigned in court on 3 October on charges of “incitement to terrorism” must be released immediately and unconditionally, after the police failed to produce any shred of evidence for their alleged crimes, Amnesty International said today.

“It is shocking that after a whole month of arbitrarily detaining the journalists incommunicado, all the Ethiopian police could produce in court was a file containing a letter they sent to the National Intelligence and Security Services asking for assistance in investigating the matter.

The five journalists, all men, are Bikila Amenu, Abdisa Gutata; Firomsa Bekele, Gadaa Bulti and Adugna Keso. They were arraigned in court on 3 October for a pre-trial hearing after being arrested at one of their homes in the Gerji neighbourhood of Addis Ababa on 5 September 2019.

“The absence of credible evidence points to the fact that there is nothing to investigate. The Ethiopian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release these journalists and let them get on with their lives,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

The journalists who are part of the Sagalee Qeerroo Bilisumaa, or the Voice of Youth for Freedom, have been prolific reporters on human rights violations and political developments in Ethiopia since 2011.

They were a key source of information on the sustained protests that erupted in Oromia in 2015, protests that sparked the events that ultimately resulted in a change of leadership in the country.

“The use of Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism proclamation to arbitrarily arrest journalists is completely out of step with reforms witnessed in the country. This law must be revised to align with international standards and must no longer be used to harass journalists,” said Seif Magango.

Amnesty International has witnessed a surge in the number of arrests based on the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation since June 2019.