Addis Ababa – Two Ethiopian journalists working for YouTube channel Ethio-Forum have been arrested this week, one of them just days after being released from almost a month in detention, a friend said on Thursday.
The channel’s founder Yaysewe Shimelis was taken from his home early on Monday “by around four plainclothed security forces according to neighbours who witnessed the arrest”, the friend told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Yaysewe’s current whereabouts are not currently known, the friend added.
Abebe Bayu, a former TV journalist and Ethio-Forum presenter, was also arrested at his home late on Wednesday and his location is not known.
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Yaysewe’s arrest was “deeply concerning, given Ethiopian authorities’ history of repeatedly arresting him and holding him for weeks without formal charges”.
“Authorities should immediately disclose his whereabouts and state their case against him, or release him without charge,” said the CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumo.
“They should also stop using the judicial system as a tool to punish journalists whose reporting does not align with the government’s narrative,” she said in a statement.
The CPJ said that since 2020, Yaysewe has been arrested at least three other times, including in mid-2021 when he was held for weeks at a military camp in the Afar region.
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On May 26, he was detained along with several other journalists and media workers for allegedly inciting the public against the government and released on bail on June 20 without being formally charged.
There was a wave of arrests targeting media workers in late May, with some accused of operating without authorisation or fomenting ethnic or religious conflict.
“If everybody with a YouTube channel is considered a journalist and there is no means of regulating what is said, to the extent that it is pushing along these ethnic and religious cleavages and creating or fomenting cleavages along societal and ethno-linguistic lines, it’s very problematic” said Billene Seyoum, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Ethiopia is currently ranked 114th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders.