File photo: Independent Media

JOHANNESBURG - The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged Ethiopian authorities to free journalist Mesganaw Getachew who was arrested after he filmed outside a court in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.

"Authorities in Ethiopia should unconditionally release journalist Mesganaw Getachew, who was arrested on August 9 after recording an interview outside a court in Addis Ababa" the CPJ said on Wednesday.

Mesganaw, who reports for the privately owned Ethiopis weekly, was arrested shortly after he interviewed a lawyer, Henok Aklilu, outside the Arada First Instance court in Addis Ababa.

Federal Police Spokesperson Jeylan Abdi said Mesganaw was using an eyeglass camera to film without permission in the court’s compound, rousing the suspicion of the police officers who arrested him.

The jailed journalist, who appeared in court on 10 August, is facing allegations of contravening Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Police requested that the accused be held for another 28 days while they investigate further.

CPJ said federal police told the organisation that Mesganaw was arrested for illegally filming within the court compound, while the federal attorney general’s office said Mesganaw was suspected of being part of an attempted coup in the Amhara regional state. 

Both the police and the attorney general’s office said the arrest had nothing to do with journalism.

“The arrest of journalist Mesganaw Getachew, right after he reported on a court case, and the use of an anti-terror law that is a relic of past repression send a message that Ethiopia is reverting to old tools to silence dissent and criticism,” said CPJ Sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo. 

"We call on authorities to release Mesganaw, stop using the Anti-Terror Proclamation against journalists, and ensure that reforms to the law protect freedom of expression and access to information.”

CPJ said Mesganaw was the latest media worker to be detained in connection to the alleged attempted coup and to face allegations of contravening the Anti-Terror Proclamation.

The committee said last month it documented the arrest and detention of two media workers with the privately owned Amharic language Satellite Radio and Television (ASRAT) media, Berihun Adane and Getachew Ambachew.  

Another journalist and Balderas movement member, Elias Gebru, is also facing terrorism charges. 

African News Agency (ANA)