Nairobi – Police in war-hit Ethiopia have arrested a freelance video journalist working for The Associated Press, the US news agency and state media said on Wednesday.
AP called for the immediate release of Amir Aman Kiyaro, who it said was arrested in the capital Addis Ababa on November 28 after returning from a reporting trip.
Journalists working in Ethiopia face restrictions under a nationwide state of emergency declared last month by the government, which has been locked in a brutal 13-month conflict with Tigrayan rebels.
Two other local journalists, identified by state media as Thomas Engida and Addisu Mulneh, were also detained, according to state media.
Images of the three men, as well as their ID cards, were broadcast by state media in a video report on their arrest.
“The Associated Press is extremely concerned that AP freelancer Amir Aman Kiyaro has been detained by the Ethiopian government, accused of promoting terrorism,” AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Julie Pace said in a statement.
“These are baseless allegations. Kiyaro is an independent journalist who has done important work in Ethiopia on all sides of the conflict. We call on the Ethiopian government to release Kiyaro immediately.”
Ethiopian police inspector Tesfaye Olani accused the three journalists of breaching state of emergency laws by seeking to disseminate “propaganda” about the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and its ally the Oromo Liberation Army which are fighting government forces.
He said their actions could be punishable by prison terms of seven to 15 years.
Much of the conflict-affected zone in northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted.
At the end of November, Ethiopia announced new state of emergency rules banning the sharing of non-official information about military movements and battlefield outcomes, an order that was seen as an attempt to further restrict media reporting on the war.
The government also barred residents from “using various types of media platforms to support directly or indirectly the terrorist group” – a reference to the TPLF – and warned of unspecified consequences for anyone who ignored the decree.
Meanwhile, the state-affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said Wednesday it was monitoring the situation of four other detained local journalists, including two whose whereabouts are unknown.
In a statement on Twitter, it called for the immediate disclosure of the whereabouts of both detainees to their families and legal counsel and to guarantee their visitation rights.
“The commission also reiterates that the relevant authorities should closely monitor that the state of emergency proclamation is implemented in a manner that strictly adheres to human rights principles.”
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report last week that nine journalists were behind bars in Ethiopia in 2021.
Picture: Getty Images