At least nine media workers in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region have been arrested by local authorities, their employers said Monday, as rights activists warned of a sweep of unlawful detentions.
Two outlets — the Nisir International Broadcasting Corporation and Ashara, both covering Ethiopian affairs on their YouTube channels — said their studios in Amhara were raided in recent days and staff taken away, some to undisclosed locations.
Nisir said four of its employees, including journalists and back-office staff, were arrested and equipment seized from their workplace in Bahir Dar on Thursday and Friday by security forces and local police.
The network, which broadcasts on a YouTube channel, said two of its staff were believed to be detained in a prison at Bahir Dar, while another two were being held 185 kilometres (115 miles) from the regional capital.
The whereabouts of two other Nisir journalists remained unknown, it added.
“We urge the government to immediately release our journalists and return our studio equipment,” the broadcaster said.
The other outlet, Ashara, said five of its staff were detained in a raid on their studio in Bahir Dar on Thursday and were being held in a detention centre outside the city.
Authorities in Amhara, the second-most populous region in Ethiopia, said over 4,000 people suspected of crimes had been arrested in an ongoing enforcement operation.
“The government will continue in a reinvigorated manner this peacekeeping work/activity,” said Desalegn Tassew, head of Amhara’s Peace and Security Bureau, in a statement published on state media.
On Sunday the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the state-affiliated independent rights body, expressed concern about a spate of arrests that had netted “journalists and social activists”.
The commission said while some detainees had been granted visitations or charged, “many other detainees have been unlawfully detained, have not been brought before court and have not been visited by family”.
“Especially in the Amhara region, many detainees have been arrested in detention centres far from their home areas and arbitrarily detained, making it difficult for family members to know their whereabouts.”
TV host Solomon Shumye, who has a show on YouTube, was also detained in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Friday and accused of inciting violence, his sister Tigist Shumye said.
Amhara authorities backed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his federal forces in a war with the neighbouring Tigray region that began in November 2020. But divisions have since emerged over Abiy’s handling of the conflict.