Ethiopian authorities arrested two journalists in the span of one week, the Committee to Protect Journalists said, asking the East African nation to allow for greater openness.Getachew Shiferaw, editor in chief of Negere Ethiopia online newspaper, was arrested on Dec. 25, following the Dec. 19 detention of Fikadu Mirkana, an anchor at state-run broadcaster Oromia Radio and TV.
An Ethiopian court granted permission to hold him for 28 days for interrogation after which he is likely to be charged under the nation’s anti-terrorism law, according to the CPJ. The rules criminalize any reporting that authorities might consider encouraging to causes or groups the government labels as terrorist.
“Ethiopia prides itself on development, but economic growth is a hollow achievement if the public does not enjoy fundamental human rights such as the right to receive and share information and divergent viewpoints,” Sue Valentine, the CPJ’s Africa coordinator, said in an e-mailed statement.
Ethiopia’s police also detained Bekele Gerba, a leading opposition figure from the Oromo ethnic group that’s been protesting against an urban development plan over the last month, according to a government spokesman.
Bekele and three other detained leaders of the Oromo Federalist Congress, or OFC, are suspected of inciting violent demonstrations against the expansion of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia regional state, Communications Minister Getachew Reda said.
“They’re suspected of committing crimes and conspiring to organize mobs to destroy property,” he said by phone from the capital on Thursday.
Security forces killed 82 unarmed Oromo demonstrators during the protests that began last month and spread across Oromia, Ethiopia’s most-populous region that surrounds Addis Ababa, according to the OFC. The government is still collecting information on fatalities and vandalism, Getachew said.
Amnesty International said last October that 5,000 Oromos had been illegally detainedfor political reasons since 2011. Bekele Gerba was released from prison in April after serving less than three years of an eight-year sentence for working with the banned Oromo Liberation Front.
The arrests on Thursday are part of another widespread crackdown against Oromo political activists and demonstrators, said Merera Gudina, the OFC’s leader. “I think the government is very angry because millions of people are protesting for their rights across Oromia, so they are trying to punish the opposition,” he said by phone from Addis Ababa on Thursday.