Belay Manaye of Ethio News was arrested in November 2023 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. In December, he was transferred to a military camp in Awash Arba, where he was held without charge.
Belay, who was previously arrested in 2020, is one of eight Ethiopian journalists in CPJ’s 2023 prison census who were arrested during the year after reporting on the conflict in the Amhara region, Ethiopia’s second most-populous region.
In 2020, Belay co-founded Ethio News, and he serves as chief editor and a presenter for the YouTube-based news channel, which had over 187,000 subscribers as of late 2023, according to CPJ’s review and co-founder Belete Kassa.
On November 13, 2023, a group of uniformed police officers and other security personnel dressed in civilian clothes arrested Belay near the Ethio News office in Addis Ababa’s Arat Kilo neighborhood, Belete and the journalist’s wife Belaynesh Nigatu told CPJ. The reason for the journalist’s arrest was unclear, they said.
As of late 2023, Belaynesh, who had visited Belay in jail, told CPJ that her husband had not been questioned or informed of the reason for his arrest but feared that it had been made under legal provisions introduced when a six-month state of emergency was declared on August 4 in response to conflict in Amhara region. As co-hosts of two daily news programs on the channel, Belay and Belete had extensively covered the conflict.
In late 2023, the Fano militia in Amhara were fighting federal forces, in a conflict that started in April, after the federal government announced a controversial decision to integrate regional militia into the federal army. The Fano were previously allied with the federal government in a civil war in northern Ethiopia that ended with a peace deal in November 2022. The Amhara conflict was ongoing as of late 2023.
The state of emergency law, reviewed by CPJ, gives security personnel wide powers of arrest and suspends the due process of law, including the right to appear before a court and receive legal counsel. Ordinarily, Article 19 of Ethiopia’s constitution requires police to produce detained persons in court within 48 hours.
Hundreds of people were arrested in the months following the declaration of a state of emergency, according to news reports, including at least eight journalists with a record of covering the Amhara conflict. In addition to Belay, three other journalists arrested after the state of emergency—Bekalu Alamrew, Abay Zewdu, and Tewodros Zerfu—remained detained in late 2023 and are included in CPJ’s prison census.
Belete said that Ethio News could not operate without Belay and had suspended daily broadcasts since his arrest. As of late 2023, Ethio News had not published new content on YouTube or its Facebook page since Belay’s arrest, according to CPJ’s review. On December 12, Ethio News announced the resumption of their work, without Belay, after a month of hiatus.
On December 6, Belay was transferred from the federal police detention center to the Awash Arba military camp, some 240 kilometers (145 miles) east, according to Belete.
Belay was previously arrested in 2020 with a colleague on allegations of inciting violence. He was released on bail after 46 days without being formally charged, according to a post he published on X, formerly Twitter, and the Addis Standard.
In December 2023, federal police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi told CPJ in an emailed statement that he could not comment on the detention of Belay and other journalists since the August 4 declaration of a state of emergency in response to conflict in the Amhara state and referred CPJ to the command post, which was established to oversee the state of emergency.
As of late 2023, CPJ’s queries via email and messaging app to the federal ministry of justice, and government spokesperson Legesse Tulu, who is a member of the state of emergency command post and has issued statements on behalf of the body, did not receive any responses.