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Ethiopian Government Arrests Two More Journalists

Ethiopian authorities have reportedly arrested two more journalists in an ongoing government crackdown on the press. The Committee to Protect Journalists says the latest arrests bring the number of journalists detained since political unrest erupted four weeks ago to at least 12. Sources in Addis Ababa tell the CPJ the two arrested are Serkalem Fassil, publisher of the Amharic-language weeklies Menelik, Asqual and Satanaw -- and her husband, Iskinder Nega, also a journalist. They are reportedly being held at an undisclosed location.

The CPJ’s Africa researcher, Alexis Arief, told English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje her group finds the latest arrests “deeply troubling,” given that other journalists may have also been arrested secretly and many more may be in hiding. She says right now, that’s one of the highest numbers in Africa. Ms. Arief says the CPJ continues to monitor the situation, publish reports and express its concern to Ethiopian authorities.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government accuses the detained reporters of engaging in journalism that incites people to violence. Ms. Arief says to date, the government has produced no public evidence backing its allegations. She says the fact that police are still investigating – even weeks after the government started arresting journalists – indicates they have no proof linking the journalists’ reports with the violence that occurred earlier this month. The CPJ researcher chides the Ethiopian government for “not having a great record” on press freedom. She says the government habitually sends journalists to jail for what they write.

Ms. Arief says international broadcasters such as the VOA play an important role in providing news and information to listeners around the world. She says VOA’s role is especially significant in Ethiopia – where even now, no private radio or TV stations exist.