Until earlier this week, Bilal Worku was a senior journalist with Ethiopia’s state broadcaster, EBC. He announced his departure whiles supposed to be on official duty citing principally crippling working conditions.
Worku was on the team that accompanied deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen to the UK-Africa summit which took place in London.
He failed to return home as scheduled and subsequently sought asylum saying he had been threatened by high-ranking government officials.
Despite big reviews in the area of press freedom under the Abiy Ahmed – led government, the journalist who served at EBC for nine years said the reality showed the opposite.
Bilal told BBC Amharic: “There is no way I can go back and live freely in Ethiopia,” going on to accuse the PM’s office of interfering with work at the EBC.
“There is no press freedom or editorial independence for that matter. Whenever I try to tell the truth through my work I get threats. I can’t say much as I fear for my family’s safety,” said the father of two.
Local news portal Addis Standard observes that he is the latest in a string of unannounced departures from the broadcaster. “I have colleagues who sought refuge abroad as they feel unsafe in their own country. I made the decision after a thorough discussion with myself,” he added.
EBC’s deputy chief executive Abdel Jelil Hamid according to the BBC couldn’t deny allegations about interference by government officials. “I can’t say that there is no government officials meddling, having a negative impact on journalists, but it is not that serious,” he said.
He stressed that the broadcaster was not to blame. “Unless they have their own personal agenda, the institution couldn’t be the reason for their decision,” he added.