Addis Abeba – Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Ethiopian authorities must immediately release journalist Bekalu Alamrew, founder and chief editor of Alpha Media, a YouTube-based news channel, and ensure the protection of press freedom in the country.
According to the CPJ Bekalu was arrested by three uniformed police officers and two other people in civilian clothes on Sunday, 06 August, at his home in Addis Abeba.
The Committee said in a statement on Friday that police searched Bekalu’s house and confiscated his laptop, CDs and USB flash drives a day after his arrest and that he didn’t appear before court of law within 48 hours of his detention.
“Prior to his arrest Bekalu extensively covered the ongoing violent confrontation in Amhara state between government forces and Fano, an armed militia operating within the state,” the statement added.
“Bekalu Alamrew and all fellow journalists currently detained for their reporting and commentary must be unconditionally released and allowed to work freely without legal harassment and censorship,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator.
Bekalu has been arrested several times previously. He was first arrested in November 2020, when he was the editor in chief of Awlo Media, accused of disseminating false information and defaming the Ethiopian government. He was released on 10,000 birr bail after 16 days in prison.
He was one of the 12 journalists from two online media platforms: Awlo Media and Ethio Forum, who was detained in June 2021. The 12 journalists were all released after several months in detention. However, Awlo Media has since shut down after police failed to return its confiscated equipment. Bekalu then went on to establish Alpha Media.
He was also arrested again in May 2022 amidst a crackdown on a dozen journalists and media personalities in Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region and Addis Abeba. He has now been arrested for the fourth time in the wake of a state of emergency that has been declared in Amhara region following escalation of hostilities between gov’t forces and the non-state Fano militia. AS