CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — An Ethiopian court has extended the three-month detention without charge of journalist Amir Aman Kiyaro to give police an additional 11 days to interview witnesses, then says the state must charge him officially or release him.
Kiyaro, a freelance journalist accredited to the Associated Press, has been in detention since November. The next court date for Kiyaro’s case has been set for March 29.
“The Associated Press is appalled by today’s court decision to keep Amir Aman Kiyaro in custody. He is still being held without charge,” said AP editor Julie Pace.
“We urge the Ethiopian government to release Amir immediately and end his unjust detention,” Pace said. “As we said, it’s clear he’s being targeted for his independent journalism.”
The video journalist was arrested on November 28 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, under a war-related state of emergency. The state of emergency was lifted in February as the government discussed changing conditions in the deadly conflict between Ethiopian forces and those in the northern Tigray region.
State media, citing federal police, said he was accused of “serving the purposes” of what they called a terrorist group by questioning its leaders. Local journalist Thomas Engida was arrested at the same time and faces similar charges.
Officials from the Ethiopian Media Authority, Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry and other government offices did not respond to repeated requests from the AP for information on Kiyaro.
Federal Police Inspector Tesfaye Olani told state media that the journalists had violated Ethiopia’s state of emergency law and anti-terrorism law, and that such violations could carry sentences of seven to 15 years behind bars.
After three months of arbitrary detention, “it can’t be clearer that the authorities have no case against Amir Amar Kiyaro,” Muthoki Mumo, sub-Saharan Africa representative to the Committee for the Protection of journalists.
Kiyaro’s supporters have launched a social media campaign calling for his release: #FreeAmirAmanKiyaro.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018 with sweeping political reforms that in part won him the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. Several journalists were released from jail and for a brief period no journalist in Ethiopia was in jail. But media advocacy groups that once hailed those reforms have since criticized the dramatic setback that has followed, especially since the start of the war in Ethiopia in November 2020.
Earlier this month, more than a dozen Ethiopian journalists in an open letter condemned the persecution of journalists, including Kiyaro, saying “the hostile environment in which so many of our colleagues in Ethiopia currently find themselves intimidates them, languishes behind bars, lives in fear of the very real risk of arrest and is considering quitting their jobs or fleeing the country.
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