The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in Ethiopia to release the editor-in-chief of Negere Ethiopia online newspaper, Getachew Shiferaw, who was arrested on Friday, according to news reports.
“Ethiopia prides itself on development, but economic growth is a hollow achievement if the public does not enjoy fundamental human rights such as the right to receive and share information and divergent viewpoints,” CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine said. “Authorities should immediately release Getachew Shiferaw, drop all charges against him, and allow journalists to do their jobs.”
Getachew’s arrest follows the detention on December 19 of Fikadu Mirkana, a news anchor at the state-run broadcaster Oromia Radio and TV, who was arrested at his Addis Ababa home. The arrests come amid protests over a planby authorities to expand the Ethiopian capital, which campaigners say would displace hundreds of thousands of farmers, according to news reports. Authorities have cracked down on the demonstrators as well as clamping down on critical and independent voices in the press. At least five protestors have been killed and hundreds arrested, according to news reports.
Getachew was arrested by federal police on December 25 while walking to his office in Addis Ababa in the morning, news reports said. He is being held at Maekelawi, the main federal police investigation centre, where political detainees have been tortured or ill-treated, according to a 2013 report by Human Rights Watch.
Getachew appeared Saturday in court, where police were granted permission to hold him for 28 days for interrogation, after which he is likely to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, news reports said. Ethiopia’s broadly wordedanti-terrorism law criminalizes any reporting that authorities deem encouraging to groups and causes the government labels as terrorists, including banned political opposition groups. CPJ wrote a letter to the government expressing its concern shortly after the law was passed in 2009.
Negere Ethiopia is affiliated with the Blue Party, an opposition movement that has campaigned for greater political openness in Ethiopia, news reports said. The newspaper was forced to suspend its print edition a year ago, and now is distributed via social media. The outlet covers political trials, including proceedings against opposition politicians and journalists, co-founder of the Zone 9 blogging collective Soleyana S. Gebremichael told CPJ. It reported on calls by the Blue Party and the Oromo Federalist Party for a public demonstration to be held today, but for which authorities denied permission.
The director general of Ethiopia’s Government Communications Affairs Office, Getachew Reda, did not immediately respond to emailed questions from CPJ.