Monday, 28 December 2020 19:32

Reuters cameraman ‘arrested, held without charge’ in Ethiopia

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Ethiopian police have arrested a Reuters cameraman at his home in Addis Ababa last week and
have kept him in custody without charge, the international news agency said while condemning
the arrest that came two weeks after the beating of its photographer by Ethiopian police.
Kumerra Gemechu, 40, was handcuffed and taken away in front of his family last Thursday by
10 armed federal police officers who did not give a reason for his arrest, Reuters said in a
statement on Monday.
 “Kumerra is part of a Reuters team that reports from Ethiopia in a fair, independent and
unbiased way. Kumerra’s work demonstrates his professionalism and impartiality, and we are
aware of no basis for his detention,” Stephen Adler, editor in chief of the news agency, said in
the statement.
“Journalists must be allowed to report the news in the public interest without fear of harassment
or harm, wherever they are. We will not rest until Kumerra is freed.”
At a brief court hearing on Friday, where no lawyer was present, a judge ordered Kumerra’s
detention for a further 14 days to give police time to investigate, Reuters cited his family as
saying.
Police also confiscated Kumerra’s phone, a computer, flash drives and papers, according to the
family.
Kumerra’s arrest follows government pressure on some journalists working for international
news outlets who have covered the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where government
forces have been battling the former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Kumerra covered the Tigray conflict, but Reuters was unable to determine whether his arrest was
connected to his work.
Reuters said government officials did not respond to questions about whether his coverage was at
issue.
On December 16, Reuters photographer Tiksa Negeri was beaten by two Ethiopian federal police
officers.
Ethiopia’s media authority, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority, accused Reuters and other
international media outlets of “false” and “unbalanced” coverage of the fighting in Tigray in a
November 23 statement on its Facebook page.
“We stand by our reporting on the conflict in the Tigray region and will continue to report on
Ethiopia with integrity, independence, and freedom from bias, as we do all around the world,”
Reuters said in a separate statement.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Kumerra’s detention was “the
latest example of how press freedom is fast eroding under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed after a
short-lived hope of reform”.
CPJ said there were at least seven journalists in custody in Ethiopia for their work when the
organisation carried out its annual census of jailed journalists on December 1.
Five of those arrests took place after the Tigray fighting broke out on November 4, it added.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and about 950,000 displaced in the month-
long conflict.

    The government says it is now in control of the restive region, but it tightly controls access and
    some areas still do not have mobile phone coverage.
    (Source : Al Jazeera, 28 Dec 2020)








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