Ermias Tesfaye, a reporter and administrator with news analysis website Ethiopia Insight, was arrested on November 3, 2021, at his office in Burayu, a town on the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa that is under the administration of the regional Oromia State.
Police detained Ermias at the Wereda One Police Station in Burayu, without filing charges or disclosing any allegations against him. Authorities later accused him of links to the Oromo Liberation Army, an insurgent group, claiming that he built connections through his coverage of Oromia politics, according to a person familiar with the details of his detention, who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal.
In a statement posted on Twitter on December 14, Ethiopia Insight said it believed Ermias was detained as part of the media crackdown following the state of emergency declared on November 2 amid an ongoing civil war. Shortly after the arrest and during interrogations, police beat Ermias with sticks and the butts of guns, but he did not receive treatment for the minor injuries, according to the person who spoke to CPJ anonymously.
Ermias was released January 6, 2022, according to a tweet he posted.
In late 2021, when CPJ called Oromia regional state police commissioner Ararsa Merdasa for comment, he said he was not aware of Ermias’ detention and promised to investigate. Ararsa did not answer CPJ’s subsequent calls or text messages in late 2021. In several phone interviews and statements sent via messaging application in November and December 2021, federal police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi said that journalists detained at the time in Ethiopia were held for breaching the country’s laws, and not for their work. Jeylan did not respond to a subsequent message asking for more information on Ermias’ case.
Ermias was not initially included in CPJ’s 2021 prison census because his case had not been made public at the time. In late 2022, the 2021 prison census was updated to include Ermias.