Nairobi, July 31, 2014—CPJ is alarmed by the detention of Addis Guday (“Addis Affairs”) photojournalist Aziza Mohamed, who has been in custody for two weeks without charge. Police arrested Aziza on July 18 while she was covering Muslim protests near Anwar Mosque in the capital Addis Ababa, local journalists told CPJ. She is being held at the Addis Ababa police headquarters.
Police investigators presented Aziza before the Kirkos First Bench Court today but requested further time for their probe before bringing formal charges, local journalists said. According to local journalists who attended the hearing, police told the court that Aziza was inciting protesters to violence during the demonstration. However, Aziza told colleagues who visited her in detention that plainclothes policemen arrested her in a café near the protests, likely after noticing her camera. Police searched Aziza’s home on July 26 and confiscated several music compact discs, local journalists said.
“Time and time again Ethiopian police use the guise of inciting violence as a pretext to silence media coverage of sensitive issues,” said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. “Journalists should not pay with their freedom for doing their work. We call on authorities to release Aziza Mohamed immediately.”
Since 2012, Ethiopian Muslims in Addis Ababa have protested alleged interference in Islamic Council elections. The protests are a sensitive issue for the government, which fears a hardline Islamist influence in the predominantly Christian country, according to news reports. Both local and international journalists have been harassed for their coverage of the demonstrations.
Authorities arrested the former editor and managing director of the now-defunct faith-based magazine Ye Muslimoch Guday (“Muslim Affairs”), Yusuf Getachew and Solomon Kebbede, in July 2012 and January 2013, respectively. Both journalists were charged with inciting violence under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation. Their cases are ongoing, local journalists said.
Aziza Mohamed is the second journalist jailed from the popular, privately owned Addis Guday magazine. Police arrested editor Asmamaw Hailegeorgis along with eight other journalists and bloggers in April and this month charged them, along with one blogger in absentia, with inciting violence and terrorism, according to news reports.
Ethiopia is the second worst jailer of journalists in Africa, with at least 17 journalists incarcerated including Aziza, according to CPJ research.
CPJ’s repeated calls to government spokesman Shimeles Kemal went unanswered.