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Rights groups denounce Ethiopia’s arrest of Reuters journalist

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Media rights groups are protesting the Ethiopian government’s arrest of journalists, saying it indicates the erosion of press freedom in the country.

Kumerra Gemechu, a video journalist for the Reuters news agency, was arrested on December 24 at his home in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and is being detained for 14 days for police investigations, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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“Kumerra’s work demonstrates his professionalism and impartiality, and we are aware of no basis for his detention,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement Monday.

Kumerra’s arrest follows the beating of Reuters photographer Tiksa Negari by two Ethiopian federal police officers on December 16, the statement said.

“This is the latest example of how press freedom is fast eroding under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate,” said Angela Quintal, Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

With Kumerra’s arrest, eight journalists have been jailed in Ethiopia this year. Authorities in Cameroon also have jailed eight reporters, and Eritrea has imprisoned 16 journalists, according to Quintal.

In 2020, the Committee to Protect Journalists “documented a worrying pattern of holding journalists for weeks without formal charges in Ethiopia. We trust that it will not be repeated with Kumerra and urge the government to ensure that he is freed immediately and without condition,” Quintal said.

Award-winning Ethiopian journalist Dawit Kebede, who was arrested on November 30, appeared in court Monday and he will remain in jail until his next court appearance scheduled for January 10, she said.

Quintal urged the Ethiopian government to “stop harassing members of the press and immediately and unconditionally release Kumerra, Dawit and the other journalists who remain in detention in Ethiopia for their work.”

The Foreign Correspondents Association of East Africa also voiced its support for Kumerra, in a tweet.

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