Teklehaimanot Girmai, a former radio reporter for the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation’s (EBC) Tigrigna language service until his dismissal in August 2021, was arrested at his home on November 4, 2021.
Teklehaimanot, who was detained without appearing in court and without access to legal counsel, was initially taken to the Addis Ababa Police Commission and later transferred to the Aba Samuel high security prison in the capital, according to a family member who spoke with CPJ via messaging app on condition of anonymity due to concern for their safety. Police said the arrest was related to the state of emergency declared November 2 amid an ongoing civil war, according to the relative. The family member added that they believed Teklehaimanot was arrested due to his Tigrayan ethnicity and work at the EBC, particularly the programming that led to his suspension. The EBC dismissed him for allegedly violating its code of conduct in connection to an August 10 radio program that management said “implicitly” helped the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front by suggesting that the government was shutting down businesses owned by people of Tigrayan ethnicity, according to the documents reviewed by CPJ.
Teklehaimanot was released on February 24, 2022, days after the state of emergency was lifted, without ever being formally charged, the family member said.
When CPJ called the EBC for comment in December 2021, the person answering the phone requested queries via email; CPJ’s emails to the address provided went undelivered. People who answered CPJ’s two subsequent calls to the EBC could not be heard clearly. In December 2021, federal police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi told CPJ via phone that no journalists were detained in Ethiopia for their professional work but rather for “violation of the existing law of the country,” without addressing specific cases.
Teklehaimanot was not initially included in CPJ’s 2021 prison census because CPJ was unaware of his case at the time. In late 2022, the 2021 prison census was updated to include Teklehaimanot.