Eyoel Fisseha Damte was arrested on November 2, 2016, in relation to an argument in a bar, and granted bail by a court pending investigation, according to two Ethiopian journalists living in exile who have been following his case closely. But police, after discovering that he reported critically on Ethiopian authorities, refused to release him, telling Eyoel they were acting on the orders of the body overseeing Ethiopia’s state of emergency, according to Soleyana Gebremichael and Dawit Solomon.
Authorities can detain a person without charge for the six-month duration of the state of emergency that was declared in October after months of unrest, Soleyana, a co-founder of the Zone 9 blogging collective, told CPJ.
Eyoel is a former co-editor of the newspapers Finot Netsanet and Addis Geth. He turned to Facebook and other outlets to report after the papers closed in 2015 and 2016, in part because of government pressure on the independent press in Ethiopia, Dawit told CPJ.
On his public Facebook page, Eyoel covered jailed politicians and journalists, prison conditions, and the state of emergency. CPJ was unable to view the Facebook page or determine the number of Eyoel’s followers because it has been deactivated.
“He wrote about the torture inside Maekelaw interrogation center and he had also visited Zeway prison. After his return he wrote about jailed journalist Woubshet Taye’s illness and hunger strike,” Dawit said.
As of November 30, 2016, Eyoel had not been charged with a crime. He is at Woreda 19 police station in Addis Ababa, Dawit and Soleyana said. Enateyee Enat, a friend of the journalist who has followed his case closely from exile in the U.S., told CPJ that a friend who has visited him said he had been assaulted in custody
Ethiopian Communications Minister Negeri Lencho did not respond to CPJ’s requests for comment sent via email and text messages. Ministry spokesman Mohamed Seid did not reply to CPJ’s calls and text messages requesting comment.