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Ethiopian rights body seeks release of detained journalists

Ethiopian rights body seeks release of detained journalists
FILE- Ethiopian Prime Minister Ably Ahmed speaks during a media conference   -  
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Michel Euler/Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. -

Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, a body attached to the Ethiopian government, has called for the release of journalists and media personnel after new arrests in recent days in the capital Addis Ababa and Amhara.

"The arrest of media personnel is particularly alarming (...) and its repercussions extend beyond the media space and freedom of expression," its head Daniel Bekele said in a statement Friday.

Several human rights groups have in the past accused Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government of increasingly intimidating the media and harassing opponents as it seeks to quell unrest in regions.

On Thursday, May 26, Two journalists were arrested in Ethiopia, their colleagues said on Friday, bringing to at least 12 the number of media workers detained in the past week in a wave of arrests that has raised international concern.

Temesgen Desalegn, the editor of the Amharic-language magazine Fitih, was arrested by plainclothes security forces at his office in the capital Addis Ababa on Thursday morning, his colleague Misgan Zinabu told AFP.

"They first took Temesgen to a local police station (...) The security forces then moved him to a secret location," he said, adding that his home was also searched and magazines, hard drives and a camera seized.

Another journalist and YouTuber, Yaysewe Shimelis, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home in Addis Ababa, his former colleague Bekal Alamirew told AFP.

"He is accused by the police of inciting violence through his work," he said, indicating that the former TV host appeared in court on Friday.

The arrests come a week after two YouTube news channels, Nisir International Broadcasting Corporation and Ashara, announced that their studios in the northern Amhara region had been raided and some employees arrested.

The regional authorities said that more than 4,000 people had been arrested in an anti-crime operation. But several media organisations say that media outlets and journalists are also being targeted, in Amhara and elsewhere in the country.

Nisir International Broadcasting Corporation said four of its employees - journalists and administrative staff - were arrested and equipment seized in the regional capital Bahir Dar.

The fate of two more of its journalists remains unknown.

Ashara said five of its employees were arrested during a raid on its premises in Bahir Dar.

A TV host Solomon Shumye, who has a YouTube show, was also arrested in Addis Ababa last week and charged with inciting violence, his sister Tigist Shumye said.

The arrests are causing international concern.

The US State Department on Tuesday expressed alarm at the "shrinking space for freedom of expression and independent media in Ethiopia".

The Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders called for the immediate release of the detained journalists and for the authorities to stop harassing the press.

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