Ethiopia Arrests French Journalist

Washington — A French journalist on assignment in Ethiopia is in custody after being arrested in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Antoine Galindo, who works for the Paris-based media outlet Africa Intelligence, was arrested at a hotel while interviewing Bate Urgessa, a spokesperson for the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) party.

Police also detained Bate, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists or CPJ.

Police accused the reporter of "conspiracy to create chaos," according to a statement by Galindo's employer. He was detained Thursday and a court on Saturday ordered that the journalist be held until March 1.

Angela Quintal, who heads CPJ's Africa program, told VOA that Galindo's whereabouts were unknown for a day, and that police and the intelligence service at first denied he was in custody.

"Police asked for two weeks to investigate his case further. They also wanted to have access to his telephone and the judge gave them a week," Quintal said.

Africa Intelligence in a statement said that a lawyer for the publication attended the hearing Saturday.

The publication added that it "condemns the unjustified arrest ... and calls for [Galindo's] immediate release."

Galindo heads the Eastern Africa and Horn section of Africa Intelligence. He traveled to Ethiopia on February 13 to cover the African Union summit and other local reporting assignments, according to his employer.

The Ethiopian Embassy in Washington did not respond to VOA's email requesting comment.

International press freedom groups condemned the arrest and called for Ethiopian authorities to free Galindo.

"The baseless and unjustified detention of Antoine Galindo for carrying out his legitimate journalistic duties is outrageous," CPJ's Quintal said in a statement.

Quintal said that Ethiopia has a "dismal" press freedom record and is detaining at least eight other journalists.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders or RSF said in a statement that Galindo's arrest comes amid a difficult climate for media in Ethiopia.

"The authorities are trying to control the narrative of recent social and political tensions, [and] there is growing hostility towards independent journalism that seeks to cover any national issues," said Sadibou Marong, who is director of RSF's sub-Saharan Africa bureau.

"The authorities are also targeting foreign media and journalists. Antoine Galindo's totally arbitrary detention is a terrible example," Marong added.

Human rights activists have criticized Ethiopia's restrictions on media, including coverage of conflicts and security issues.

Foreign journalists have been expelled from Ethiopia or denied accreditations to work in recent years. The last case of foreign journalists being detained was in 2011, when two journalists from Sweden were arrested.

They were sentenced to 11 years in prison for helping and promoting a rebel group and entering the country illegally before being pardoned and released the following year, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed freed dozens of jailed members of the media when he came to power in 2018 as part of a raft of political reforms.

But critics say his government has cracked down hard on dissent as civil conflicts, including a 2020-2022 war in the northern Tigray region, have broken out.

Abiy says he is guaranteeing stability and law and order in the multiethnic nation.

Simegnish Yekoye contributed to this report. Some information for this report came from Reuters.

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