Anania Sorri was detained November 17 in Addis Ababa on his way to tell friends he suspected he would be arrested, Enateyee Enat, a friend of the journalist who has followed his case closely from exile in the U.S., told CPJ.
Anania told Enateyee that he expected to be among those targeted under the six-month state of emergency declared on October 9, 2016 after months of unrest-particularly after his friend and fellow journalist, Eyouel Fisseha, was arrested, Enateyee told CPJ.
Anania frequently posts critical commentary on Ethiopian affairs on his public Facebook page, which has more than 11,000 followers. He is frequently interviewed about the situation in Ethiopia by international media, including Voice of America and Deutsche Welle, Enateyee said.
In 2015, Anania tried to publish a newspaper, Kedami Getse, as the managing editor, but he printed only one edition before authorities shut it down, Enateyee said. Ethiopian authorities frequently shut down independent publications, harass printing companies, and block websites, CPJ research shows.
Anania’s arrest could be connected to an appearance on the pro-government Fana TV station on September 25, 2016, according to the journalist’s colleagues and friends who spoke to CPJ. During the panel discussion, Anania blamed the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for the country’s problems, said Habtamu Assefa, an exiled Ethiopian journalist in the U.S.
A report on the Toronto-based online Ethiopian news and opinion Borkena website about the Fana TV appearance said Anania cited the TPLF’s “lust for maintaining power at the expense of the existence of Ethiopia as a country,” and said he was widely hailed for his bravery on social media.
According to Enateyee, the journalist was initially held at Gerji police station in Addis Ababa, where he was barred from communicating with his relatives, before being transferred to Megenagna prison where he was able to receive family visits.
As of November 30, 2016, no charges against Anania had been disclosed. Ethiopian Communications Minister Negeri Lencho did not respond to CPJ’s requests for comment in late November 2016. A ministry spokesman, Mohamed Seid, also did not reply to requests for information.