Mikiyas Tilahun, a reporter at YouTube-based news outlet Reyot Media, was arrested in Bahir Dar, the capital of Ethiopia’s Amhara state, on September 1, 2021, according to a report by privately owned news site Addis Standard and a person familiar with his case who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Mikiyas was accused of terrorism offenses and crimes against Ethiopia’s constitution but was never formally charged, according to the person familiar with his case. Police accused him of affiliating with the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front, a rebel group fighting a civil war against the federal government, the person familiar with his case said. Authorities made the allegations due to his Tigrayan ethnicity, the source said, adding that after they forced him to unlock his phone and reviewed his communications, they realized he was a journalist and interrogated him about his work. Mikiyas was initially detained at a police station in Bahir Dar, but was transferred to Bahir Dar Prison the next day, the source said. A representative of a local human rights non-governmental organization (NGO), who is familiar with Mikiyas’ case but requested anonymity for safety concerns, told CPJ that the journalist had been brought to court in Bahir Dar at least twice between September and November 2021. But the NGO representative said they were unsure of the nature of the proceedings, as Mikiyas was not represented by legal counsel and his family had not attended his proceedings.
Mikiyas’ reports were published by Reyot Media anonymously, for his safety, Tewodros Tsegaye, the outlet’s founder and editor-in-chief, told CPJ in a phone interview. Reyot Media has been critical of the Ethiopian federal government and its conduct in the war, according to CPJ’s review of the YouTube channel.
In February 2022, the Amhara State supreme court ordered Mikiyas’ release after police failed to make their case, said the person familiar with his case. However, the journalist remained detained for another month until his unconditional release on March 17, 2022, the person said. Mikiyas was assaulted by police following his arrest, according to the person familiar with his case. But his health condition during the several months of his detention was unclear, as family and legal counsel were restricted from visiting him.
CPJ’s phone call to Gizachew Muluneh, director general of the Amhara Regional State Communication Affairs Bureau, as well as an email to that bureau, went unanswered in late 2021.
Mikiyas was not included in CPJ’s 2021 prison census because CPJ was not aware of his detention at the time. In late 2022, the 2021 prison census was updated to include Mikiyas.