NEW YORK (AP) — Amir Aman Kiyaro, a freelance journalist accredited with the Associated Press, marked 100 days of detention without charge in Ethiopia this week, prompting the news agency and press freedom advocates to reiterate their calls for his release immediately.
“Kiyaro has not been charged with any crime and is being wrongfully detained,” AP editor Julie Pace said in a statement Thursday.
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 last month, with the government citing changing conditions in the deadly conflict between Ethiopian forces and those in the northern Tigray region.
“As we said, Kiyaro is a freelance journalist who has done important work in Ethiopia on all sides of the conflict. Clearly he is being targeted for his journalism,” Pace said.
Kiyaro’s last court appearance was on Monday, when a judge denied him bail. The judge gave police more time to investigate his case and set March 18 as the next court date.
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.
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.
“They arrested my son for doing his job, he did not commit any crime,” said Amir’s mother, Foziya Tewoldebirhan.
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.
This worries Kiyaro’s wife, Sisay Tadele, who married him last year and is eight months pregnant.
“Due to Amir’s arrest, the family and Amir himself are going through tremendous physical, emotional and psychological pain,” she said. “And as a pregnant woman, I myself face a horrible situation. I also say and believe that my husband should not have been in jail in the first place, let alone spent over 100 days away from his family, and petitioned the Prime Minister and government of Ethiopia for my husband’s immediate release.
After three months of arbitrary detention, “it cannot be clearer that the authorities have no case against Amir Amar Kiyaro and Thomas Engida,” said Muthoki Mumo, sub-Saharan Africa representative to the Committee to Protect Journalists . Terara Network editor Temerat Negara also remains behind bars in Ethiopia’s Oromia region and faces allegations of incitement and defamation of officials, Mumo said.
“The continued detention of these journalists and the blatant abuse of the justice system by the police to keep them behind bars can only be seen as retaliation for their journalism work and a message to the entire Ethiopian media community. indicating that the authorities remain intolerant of independent journalism. she says.
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.
This week, more than a dozen Ethiopian journalists condemned in an open letter the persecution of journalists, including Kiyaro, saying that “the hostile environment in which so many of our colleagues in Ethiopia currently find themselves intimidates them, languishes behind bars , lives in fear of being at very real risk of being arrested and is considering quitting their jobs or fleeing the country.
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