Abreha Hagos, an Ethiopian state-media journalist, was arrested on November 7, 2020, and was accused of anti-state crimes. Police claim that he collaborated with the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front, a political party in armed conflict with the federal government.
Abreha works as a reporter for the Arabic-language Al-Alem newspaper, one of six publications run by the state-owned Ethiopian Press Agency, according to a report by the privately owned news website Addis Standard and the journalist’s wife, Selamawit Kiros, who spoke to CPJ via phone.
On November 7, police arrested Abreha from the Ethiopia Press Agency’s office in Addis Ababa, along with two of his colleagues, Haftu Gebregzhiabher and Tsegay Hagos, according to their lawyer, Wubshet Kassaw, who spoke to CPJ via messaging application.
On November 8, police searched Abreha’s home and confiscated various books and papers, Selamawit told CPJ.
On November 9, Abreha, Haftu, and Tsegay appeared in court without a lawyer present, during which police were granted 14 days to hold them in custody without charge, pending investigation, Selamawit and Wubshet said.
On November 23, the three journalists appeared at the Federal First Instance Court in Addis Ababa, where police requested more time to investigate, according to Wubshet and Addis Standard. During that hearing, Abreha, Tsegay, and Haftu’s cases were combined with those of seven other individuals, including Addis Standard editor Medihane Ekubamichael, according to that report.
Addis Standard reported that some of the detainees expressed concern at the move to join the cases, and requested that they be dealt with separately.
At the November 23 hearing, the Federal First Instance Court ordered that Abreha and his co-accused remain in detention for eight more days, after police claimed they needed more time to collect statements, banking information, and to arrest potential co-conspirators, according to that Addis Standard report.
On December 1, Abreha, Haftu, and Tsegay were granted bail, but were not released after police appealed the order, according to Wubshet.
On December 2, during an appeal hearing at the Lideta Federal High Court in Addis Ababa, police claimed that all 10 co-accused had collaborated with the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front and others to cause ethnic conflict, to smear the government, and to violate the constitution, according to court documents seen by CPJ.
Police claimed that they had evidence that Haftu had misrepresented the conflict between the federal government and the Tigray state administration in his work as a journalist and had therefore contributed to an escalation of the conflict, according to those documents.
Wubshet told CPJ that police did not level any specific allegations against Medihane, Tsegay, or Abreha, and that it was unclear what had motivated authorities to target them for arrest.
In November 2020, Ethiopia’s federal government launched military operations against the leadership of the northern Tigray state, following months simmering tension and after reports that regional forces had attacked federal military positions, according to media reports.
In early December, Abreha was held at the Addis Ababa Police Commission, also known as Sostegna, his wife told CPJ.
In late November, Federal Police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi and the prime minister’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, both referred CPJ to the office of the federal attorney general for comment on the cases of Abreha and several other detained journalists. That office did not respond to emails from CPJ requesting comment on the cases of the Ethiopian Press Agency journalists.