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Committee to Protect Journalists Demands Release of Ethiopian Reporters

  • Kim Lewis

The press freedom organization, Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, has demanded the release of an Ethiopian journalist who has been detained by Ethiopian authorities for almost three weeks.

The call comes as the CPJ says Muslim journalists have been targeted in recent months by the government for what they believe is part of an attempt to suppress coverage of ongoing protests in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The detained journalist, Yusuf Getachew, is editor of a Muslim affairs magazine. Local journalists say he was taken from his home on July 20 to the Maekelawi Federal Detention Center. The next day he was charged with treason. Two other journalists for the Muslim press have since gone into hiding.

Tom Rhodes, who is based in Nairobi, is the east Africa consultant for the Committee to Protect Journalists. He talked about some of the conditions journalists are working under now in Ethiopia.

“One of the problems is that getting information in Ethiopia is getting harder and harder because a lot of our sources are scared to speak out. This is really indicative of the conditions of press freedom in Ethiopia today,” said Rhodes.

He said it is not clear what the charges are for the arrest of Getachew.

“One thing I should throw in there is that Ethiopia has a very good record of religious tolerance. Muslims and Christians seem to work quite well together, so it is surprising there seems to be this targeting of the Muslim press,” said Rhodes.

He said he thinks the police crackdown is largely attributed to the protests that started last January.

“Many Muslims felt that the government was interfering too much with the appointments of the Islamic Council and other issues,” said Rhodes.

Over time, the protests gained momentum, and magazines geared towards the Muslim community were covering the protests, and to some extent, showed support for them.

Rhodes said the Ethiopian press in the diaspora, particularly in Washington, DC, has been very vocal and supportive of the Muslim press, whether they are Christians or Muslims speaking out.

“However the journalists within the country are quite silent about it,” said Rhodes.

He said he has spoken with journalists both inside and outside of the country, and they all have said they have not seen limitations to press freedom this severe within the country.

“What we’re facing now is probably worse than what happened in the past election crackdown in 2005,” said Rhodes.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has made attempts to reach the Ethiopian government for comment regarding the targeted crackdown on press freedom for the Muslim community; however, up to this point, the government has not responded.

“I should hasten to point out that CPJ had quite a fruitful meeting about a month and a half ago when we visited Addis. It is not as if we’re cut off from communication,” said Rhodes.

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