Tigray war places Ethiopia among top jailers of journalists

Journalist Tesfa-Alem Tekle.

Ethiopian journalist Tesfa-Alem Tekle who was detained on October 31 this year and was later charged with links to TPLF.

Photo credit: Pool

Ethiopia's crackdown on the dissent, and people believed to support the rebel group Tigray People’s Liberation Front, (TPLF) has placed the country among Africa's top jailers of journalists.

According to a report by press freedom lobby, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Ethiopia has detained Nation Media Group journalist Tesfa-Alem Tekle and several other reporters thought to report unfairly on the military activities of the government or are seen as sympathisers of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). He is among nine journalists detained in the country as at December 1 this year, CPJ indicated on Thursday.

Mr Tesf-Alem was detained on October 31 this year and was later charged with links to TPLF but was granted bail on November 4. However, he remains detained at a yet-to-be-known location in Ethiopia. Last week, his employers, the Nation Media Group petitioned the Ethiopian government to provide information on his whereabouts.

Global high

Yet his is not the only case across Africa or even globally.  In its annual prison census report published on Thursday, the New York-based advocacy group said the number of journalists jailed for their work in 2021 reached a global high. It said 293 media workers were behind bars globally as at December 1 an increase from 280 at same time last year.

China topped the global list of imprisoned journalists with 50 media workers behind bars, Egypt’s imprisoned 25 journalists made the Arab country the African continent’s jailer of journalists ahead of Eritrea with 16 journalists in jail.

Ethiopia is ranked third with nine journalists behind bars.

Two other countries among top five jailers of journalists on the continent include Rwanda and Cameroon with seven and six media workers behind bars respectively.

Somalia too remains a dangerous place for journalists with two behind bars this year, although several others have been detained and released in separate incidents.

“This is the sixth year in a row that CPJ has documented record numbers of journalists imprisoned around the world,” Joel Simon, CPJ Executive Director said in a statement.

Intolerance

CPJ said political upheaval and media crackdowns reflect increasing intolerance for independent reporting around the world.

In Ethiopia, an escalating civil war prompted new media restrictions with authorities prohibiting some foreign media from accessing Tigray for much of the war, with communications links severed.

“Imprisoning journalists for reporting the news is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime. It's distressing to see many countries on the list year after year, but it is especially horrifying that Myanmar and Ethiopia have so brutally slammed the door on press freedom,” Simon said further.

The lobby group said in a separate statement that most of the journalists arrested since the start of the war in Ethiopia faced vague accusations of supporting the TPLF that never materialized into formal charges.

CPJ said it had also documented 24 targeted killings of journalists as at the time of the prison census, saying 80 percent of those killed were murdered.

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