Nairobi, December 22, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in Ethiopia to release news anchor Fikadu Mirkana. Fikadu, who works for the state-run broadcaster Oromia Radio and TV, was arrested at his Addis Ababa home on Saturday morning, according to news reports.
CPJ could not determine the reason for Fikadu’s arrest. It comes as Oromia Radio and TV has, in recent weeks, covered protests against a plan to expand the Ethiopian capital, in a move that campaigners say would displace hundreds of thousands of farmers, according to news reports. Dozens of protesters have been killed during clashes with police during the unrest in the regional state of Oromia, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
“Journalists have a vital role to play in ensuring the flow of information, both from the Ethiopian government and also, critically, from those who will be affected by its decisions,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine in New York. “We call on authorities to release Fikadu Mirkana immediately.”
It is not clear where Fikadu is being held and neither his family nor his lawyers have been allowed access to him, an Addis Ababa-based journalist, who has spoken with Fikadu’s family and who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, told CPJ.
The Ethiopian authorities in Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for details about Fikadu’s arrest.
In recent weeks, the Ethiopian government has used anti-terror rhetoric against campaigners, with the communications minister, Getachew Reda, branding them “terrorists” and “demonic,” according to a column by Awol Allo, a fellow in human rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science, published Saturday on Al-Jazeera‘s website. This language usually presages a crackdown on dissenters, the column said. Protests in Oromia, a region that stretches across central Ethiopia and is home to a third of the country’s population, have affected at least 30 towns and prompted the arrest of more than 500 people since mid-November, according to news reports.
Ethiopia is the third largest jailer of journalists on the African continent, with at least 10 behind bars on December 1, CPJ’s 2015 prison census shows.