New York, May 28, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the detention of a journalist without charge since Monday and calls on Ethiopian authorities to release him immediately. An Ethiopian court on Tuesday extended by 14 days the pre-trial detention of Elias Gebru, according to news reports.
Ethiopia’s federal police in the capital, Addis Ababa, summoned Elias, editor-in-chief of the independent news magazine Enku, for questioning in connection with a column published in his paper, according to news reports. The Awramba Times reported that the column discussed a monument recently erected outside the capital in honor of ethnic Oromos massacred in the 19th century by Emperor Menelik’s forces. The monument has ignited divisions between some Oromos and supporters of the emperor’s legacy.
Local journalists said authorities were attempting to link the paper’s publication to the deadly clashes between Oromo student protesters and security forces last month. Ethiopian authorities claimed eight protesters were killed in the violence, while news outlets and human rights groups cited witnesses as saying that security forces killed more than a dozen protesters.
At least 17 other journalists are in jail in Ethiopia in connection with their journalistic work, according to CPJ research. Only Eritrea holds more journalists behind bars in Africa, CPJ research shows.
“The detention without charge of Elias Gebru is the latest move by the Ethiopian government to tighten the noose on the country’s independent press,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on authorities to release Elias immediately and to stop arresting journalists as a means to quell information and debate.”
Elias is being held at the Maekelawi detention center, according to local journalists.
In 2008, thousands of copies of Enku magazine were seized by Ethiopian authorities in connection with the paper’s independent coverage of the trial of a pop singer who had been critical of the government, according to news reports. The copies were later returned.