Freelance journalist accredited to AP detained in Ethiopia

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Freelance video journalist Amir Aman Kiyaro who works with The Associated Press poses for a photograph at his wedding Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021 in Ethiopia. Amir Aman Kiyaro, a freelance video journalist accredited to The Associated Press in Ethiopia has been detained by police in the capital, Addis Ababa, the news organization said Wednesday Dec. 15, 2021. Kiyaro was detained under the country’s new war-related state of emergency powers on Nov. 28 after returning home from a reporting trip. He has not been charged. (Handout via AP)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A freelance video journalist accredited to The Associated Press in Ethiopia has been detained by police in the capital, Addis Ababa, the news organization said Wednesday.

Amir Aman Kiyaro was detained under the country’s new war-related state of emergency powers on Nov. 28 after returning home from a reporting trip. He has not been charged.

Officials with the Ethiopian Media Authority, the prime minister’s office, the foreign ministry and other government offices have not responded to repeated requests from the AP for information about him since his detention. State media on Wednesday reported his detention, citing federal police, and said he was accused of “serving the purposes” of a terrorist group by interviewing it. The report said local journalists Thomas Engida and Addisu Muluneh also were detained.

Federal police inspector Tesfaye Olani told state media that the journalists violated the state of emergency law and Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law and the violations could lead to seven to 15 years behind bars.

In a statement, AP’s Executive Editor Julie Pace urged that Kiyaro be freed: “The Associated Press is extremely concerned that AP freelancer Amir Aman Kiyaro has been detained by the Ethiopian government, accused of promoting terrorism. These are baseless allegations. Kiyaro is an independent journalist who has done important work in Ethiopia on all sides of the conflict. We call on the Ethiopian government to release Kiyaro immediately.”

She said the AP until now had chosen to keep the case out of the public eye while the news organization worked on potential diplomatic channels.

Ethiopia’s government in November declared a state of emergency, which includes sweeping powers of detention, after a year of war as rival forces from the country’s northern Tigray region in collaboration with the Oromo Liberation Army moved closer to the capital. The government this year declared both the Tigray forces and the OLA as terrorist groups.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war that erupted in November 2020. The Tigray forces say they are pressuring the government to lift a deadly blockade on their region but also want Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to step aside. Mediation efforts by the United States and African Union for a cease-fire have made little progress.

Kiyaro has covered both sides of the war this year for the AP, including groundbreaking reporting on the alleged mass killings by Tigray forces in the community of Chenna Teklehaymanot after the fighters in recent months moved into Ethiopia’s neighboring Amhara region.

In late November, the country’s state of emergency command sought to restrict media reporting on the war, forbidding the sharing of non-official information on “military-related movements, battlefront results and situations.” Foreign media have been barred from Tigray for much of the war, with communications links severed.

The government-created Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Wednesday said it was monitoring the situation of four other local journalists detained in recent weeks. Last month, it said it was alarmed by the conditions of the detentions of perhaps thousands of people who have been swept up under the state of emergency. It urged authorities to immediately release people detained without “evidence establishing reasonable grounds for suspicion.”

Spokesmen for the commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Kiyaro.

“Ethiopia has again become one of the worst jailers of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement last week, describing the media environment as “hostile” three years after the prime minister took office and his government freed journalists as part of sweeping political reforms that have since been eroded.

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Follow AP stories about the war in Ethiopia at https://apnews.com/hub/Ethiopia

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