Police arrested editor Kibrom Worku in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in October 2021, on suspicion of communication with a terrorist organization. As of late 2021, Kibrom remained in detention despite being granted bail.
Kibrom worked at the privately owned Ahadu Radio and Television news broadcaster since the station’s inception in 2016, first as a reporter before he was promoted to news editor, according to a colleague who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns.
On October 26, police arrived at the Ahadu Radio and Television office to detain Kibrom, who was not there, according to Abebaw Abebe and Tigabu Dessalegn, the journalist’s lawyers, who spoke to CPJ via phone.
Police summoned him and arrested him later that day, according to those sources and a report by the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America.
Four days before his arrest, Kibrom was the editor on duty when Ahadu Radio reporter Luwam Atikilti interviewed an official who claimed that forces led by the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF), a rebel group engaged in a war against the federal government, had taken control of the town of Haiyk, according to news reports and a colleague of the journalist who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns.
Ahadu Radio and Television retracted the report hours later, saying it was inaccurate, and apologized to its audience, according to Abebaw. However, later that day, at about 4 p.m., police arrested Luwam from her workplace and took her to the Addis Ababa Police Commission, also known as Sostegna, according to Abebaw and Tigabu.
Luwam and Kibrom’s colleague told CPJ that they believed the arrests were in response to the retracted report.
Since the start of the war in November 2020, Ethiopian authorities have repeatedly detained journalists and accused them of supporting or communicating with the TPLF, which was designated a terrorist organization by Ethiopia’s parliament in May 2021, as CPJ has documented.
Kibrom was brought to the Federal First Instance Court’s Arada branch on October 27, and the court granted police nine days to detain him pending investigation into allegations that he communicated with a terrorist organization, according to news reports and his lawyer Tigabu Dessalgn, who spoke with CPJ via phone. Authorities did not identify the alleged terrorist organization by name, Tigabu said.
On November 5, a court granted police seven more days to continue holding Kibrom, according to Luwam’s sister Nebyat Atakilti, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Kibrom was granted bail on November 12, but the public prosecutor’s office immediately appealed that decision to the Federal High Court; on November 16, the high court upheld the bail decision and ordered Kibrom’s immediate release, according to news reports.
However, police refused to release Kibrom as of late November 2021, and moved him from the Addis Ababa Police Commission to an undisclosed location, Tigabu told CPJ.
Separately, the Federal First Instance Court granted Luwam bail on November 5; prosecutors appealed, but the Federal High Court upheld the bail and released the journalist on November 13, her sister told CPJ.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Justice did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment in late October, and federal police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi did not answer an email or text messages requesting comment in November 2021.