News: Journalists rearrested in Tigray; army claims they were preparing to broadcast “false propaganda”

Fitsume Berhane (left), Tamirat Yemane (right) Picture: Facebook

By Medihane Ekuabamichael @Medihane 

Addis Abeba, April 17, 2021 – Journalists Fitsum Berhane and Tamirat Yemane were arrested in Mekelle by members of the Federal Defense Forces, the army said.

In a statement released on the ENDF Facebook page on April 16, the army said that Fitsum Berhane is a journalist working for “Tigray Media House” and identified Tamirat Yemane as ‘Editor-in-Chief of Aiga Forum and representative in Ethiopia.’ The statement claimed they were arrested while live broadcasting what it described as “false propaganda” from their studio in a private house in Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray regional state.

The statement quoted Dereje Debisa, Commander of the 3rd battalion of ENDF who said, “Items such as clothes, electronics gadgets and equipment used to stream “propaganda” and related documents and “medical drugs prepared to be sent to the ‘junta’ ” were seized during the army’s search at their house. However, the statement did not disclose the volume of the seized items but instead emphasized the purpose of the individuals.

The statement further said, “Officials within the Tigray Interim Administration leadership structure alleged to be working with anti-peace forces were also detained in relation to the journalists’ arrests.” Addis Standard’s repeated attempt to reach officials of Tigray Interim Administration for further clarification on the arrests could not be successful as of the publishing of this news.

Previously, Fitsum Berhane was arrested while working as fixer for AFP news agency; he was detained by Ethiopian soldiers on February 26, from his home in the regional capital, Mekelle, according to his family and friends.

Similarily, Tamirat Yemane was also arrested by members of the ENDF. The arrests came a day after an official of Ethiopia’s ruling party warned that the govt ” will take measures against those misleading international media.”

According to CPJ, between February 27 and March 1, soldiers arrested Fitsum Berhane, working with an Agence France-Presse news crew as a translator alongside Alula Akalu, working with the Financial Times, as well as BBC reporter, Girmay Gebru and Tamirat Yemane who was working as a local reporter and fixer.

All four were released without charges on March 03. Fitsum told AFP since that he was released after being threatened by a soldier who said he could kill him and fabricate a story that the journalist had broken Mekelle’s dusk-to-dawn curfew. Authorities had not returned a laptop and phone confiscated from Fitsum at the time the AFP report was published. AS

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