1 February 2013

Ethiopia: Journalist Arrested for Covering Muslim Protests

Photo: African Arguments
Ethiopian Muslims take part in protests in Addis Ababa (file photo).

press release

Nairobi — Ethiopian security forces have detained for two weeks without charge the editor of a newsmagazine and accused him of incitement to terrorism, according to local journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to release Solomon Kebede immediately and halt their harassment of journalists affiliated with the weekly Ye Muslimoch Guday.

Police in Addis Ababa, the capital, on January 17 arrested Kebede, managing editor of the now-defunct paper Ye Muslimoch Guday ("Muslim Affairs"), and took him to the Maekelawi federal detention center. Solomon's health is in poor condition and he has been held without access to a lawyer, the journalists said. A court date has been set for February 13.

Local journalists told CPJ they believed the arrest was linked to Solomon's columns that had criticized perceived government intrusion in religious affairs. Solomon had covered demonstrations staged last year by Muslims protesting alleged interference in Islamic Council elections. The protests were a highly sensitive issue for the government, which feared a hardline Islamist influence within the predominantly Christian country, news reports said.

In an effort to suppress coverage of the protests, authorities began to crack down on Muslim-oriented publications. At least three papers, including Ye Muslimoch Guday, were forced to stop publishing, and police detained at least two reporters of the U.S. government-funded Voice of America. Authorities also arrested Yusuf Getachew, editor-in-chief of Ye Muslimoch Guday, in July, news reports said. Yusuf is awaiting trial in Kality Prison on vague anti-state and terrorism charges. In June, police raided the Addis Ababa offices of the private Horizon printing press and ordered the publisher to stop printing Ye Muslimoch Guday. The paper has not published since July 2012.

Local journalists also told CPJ that they suspected police may have arrested Solomon so they could question him on the whereabouts of two of his colleagues from Ye Muslimoch Guday. Senior Editor Akemel Negash and Copy Editor Isaac Eshetu fled into hiding in August after police kept their homes under surveillance for weeks, local journalists said.

"We are troubled by the arrest of Solomon Kebede and the government's ongoing crackdown against the staff of Ye Muslimoch Guday," said CPJ East Africa Consultant, Tom Rhodes. "We are also concerned about Solomon's well-being in the Maekelawi federal detention center, where numerous detainees have reported being tortured. Authorities should release Solomon immediately."

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