Nairobi, April 3, 2023—Ethiopian authorities should immediately release journalists Getenet Ahagre and Aragaw Sisay, and stop detaining members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On the morning of March 26, federal police officers in Addis Ababa arrested Aragaw, founder and chief editor of the privately owned YouTube-based news outlet Roha News, according to his lawyer Addisu Alagaw and his wife Hiwot Mena, both of whom spoke to CPJ by phone.
That evening, federal police also arrested Getenet, chief editor of the YouTube-based broadcaster The Voice of Amhara, from his home in the capital, according to news reports, Addisu, who is also representing Getenet, and the journalist’s sister Embet Tadesse, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
Both journalists appeared before the Arada Federal First Instance Court in Addis Ababa on March 28, where police accused them of incitement to violence on social media, according to a court document reviewed by CPJ. Authorities did not identify any specific content prompting that allegation.
The court granted police 13 more days to hold the journalists; they are due in court on April 10, Addisu told CPJ.
“Ethiopian journalists Getenet Ashagre and Aragaw Sisay should be released at once and authorities should ensure they do not face further harassment in connection to their work,” said CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, Angela Quintal, in New York. “Journalists in Ethiopia should not have to work under the constant threat of arrest. This pattern of throwing critical journalists behind bars must stop.”
On March 29, authorities brought each journalist to their homes and searched the premises, according to Hiwot and Embet.
Addisu told CPJ that authorities’ statements have been too generalized to identify what reporting prompted the incitement allegations. The Voice of Amhara recently covered topics including the vandalism of media outlets in Addis Ababa and the demolition of properties in Oromia regional state. Roha News covered the recent acquittal of journalist Temesgen Desalegn and factions within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Aragaw is also the vice chairperson of the Wollo Bete Amhara Charity Association, a nonpartisan charity group, according to Hiwot.
Last May, unidentified people, including one wearing a badge of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, abducted Voice of Amhara founder and chief editor Gobeze Sisay and held him for more than a week. In September 2022, Gobeze was detained by federal police and held for more than two months.
CPJ emailed the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice and federal police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi for comment, but did not receive any replies.