The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Friday called for the release of journalists and media personnel following new arrests in recent days in the Addis Ababa and Amhara regions, reported The Africa News.
“The arrest of media personnel is particularly alarming (…) and its repercussions extend beyond the media space and freedom of expression,” the Ethiopian rights body’s head Daniel Bekele said in a statement.
Several press watchdogs and human rights groups continue to accuse Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government of increasingly intimidating the media and harassing opponents as it seeks to quell unrest in regions.
The Ethiopian authorities recently arrested media reporters in Amhara and Oromiya regions and justified the arrests by accusing them of siding with rebels.
According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Temesgen Desalegn of Feteh Magazine and Yayesew Shimelis of Ethio Forum Media were arrested in Addis Ababa on Thursday.
Last week, the authorities held five journalists of media outlet Ashara in Amhara in connection to their coverage of a volunteer militia known as Fano.
The Ethiopian rights commission head Daniel Bekele said the total number of detained journalists was now 16 and called for their immediate release.
“No claim about the alleged offense committed through media justifies the violation of the newly adopted media law which clearly prohibits pre-trial detention of persons charged with committing an offense through the media,” he said in a statement.
The arrests have also evoked international attention.
On Tuesday, the US State Department expressed alarm at the narrowing space for freedom of expression and independent media in Ethiopia. It urged the Ethiopian government and regional authorities to uphold the rule of law and provide all applicable procedures for any individual arrested.
The Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders also called for the immediate release of the arrested journalists and for the authorities to stop harassing the press.