Nairobi, August 9, 2013—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the arrest and week-long detention without charge of two journalists working for Radio Bilal, a station that has provided extensive coverage of ongoing anti-government protests staged by Ethiopian Muslims.
On August 2, security officials in the capital, Addis Ababa, arrested Darsema Sori outside his home and detained Khalid Mohammed as he headed to work, Radio Bilal Chairman Mohammed Hassen told CPJ. The journalists were taken to court the next day and remanded into custody while police continued their investigations, local journalists said. The next court hearing is expected to take place on August 14, Mohammed Hassen said.
Darsema, senior editor for the station, worked on two current affairs programs, “Life in Ethiopia” and “Let us Discuss.” Khalid is the station’s news editor.
Radio Bilal, an online radio station with offices in Washington, Johannesburg, and Addis Ababa, has provided extensive coverage of the affairs of Ethiopia’s Muslim community, including an ongoing series of peaceful mass demonstrations against alleged government interference in religious affairs, according to CPJ research. Ethiopian authorities have sought to silence the protests by arresting protesters, community leaders, and independent reporters, and shutting down news outlets, according to international news reports and CPJ research.
Repeated calls to government spokesman Shemelis Kemal were left unanswered.
“The arrests of Darsema Sori and Khalid Mohammed appear to follow a pattern of Ethiopian authorities cracking down on independent journalists and news outlets involved in disseminating news about the Muslim protests taking place in the country,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “Trying to silence independent views and accounts of this national issue will not solve the ongoing dispute and instead will further the sense that the government has something to hide.”
Darsema was also a columnist for the now-defunct Ye Muslimach Guday (Muslim Affairs) magazine, local journalists told CPJ. Ye Muslimach Guday journalists, Chief Editor Yusuf Getachew has been imprisoned since February 2013, and Managing Editor Solomon Kebede since July 2012, both on vague anti-state and terrorism charges in retaliation for articles critical of government policy on religious affairs, according to CPJ research. The paper has not published since July last year and two of its editors, Senior Editor Akemel Negash and Copy Editor Isaac Eshetu, have fled into hiding, local journalists said.
For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Ethiopia page.