French journalist detained in Ethiopia

A 36-year-old French journalist was arrested in Ethopia while covering the African Union Summit on suspicion of conspiring "to create chaos" in the country. Picture: Committee to Protect Journalists

A 36-year-old French journalist was arrested in Ethopia while covering the African Union Summit on suspicion of conspiring "to create chaos" in the country. Picture: Committee to Protect Journalists

Published Feb 26, 2024


A French journalist has been arrested and detained in Ethiopia since February 22 on suspicion of conspiring to create chaos in the country, his employer announced on Monday.

Antoine Galindo had travelled to Ethiopia to cover the African Union summit earlier this month for the specialist publication Africa Intelligence.

Following his arrest on Thursday, he was brought before a judge on Saturday, who ordered his detention be extended until March 1, Africa Intelligence said, condemning the "unjustified arrest".

"These spurious accusations are not based on any tangible evidence that might justify this extended deprivation of liberty," it said, pointing out that Galindo had informed the Ethiopian authorities of his assignment and had a visa authorising him to work there as a journalist.

The 36-year-old journalist, who heads the publication's East Africa section, lived in Ethiopia between 2013 and 2017 and was "known to the Ethiopia Media Authority", which oversees media accreditations in the country.

According to a source close to the case who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, Galindo was arrested on Thursday afternoon at a hotel in Addis Ababa while meeting an official from the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) party.

He has since been held at a police station in Ethiopia's capital, the publication said, calling for his immediate release.

Ethiopian authorities did not respond to AFP requests for comment.

An OLF spokesman told AFP that a party official was arrested in Addis Ababa on Thursday but could not confirm if Galindo had met the official.

'Atrocious environment for press'

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday that it was "outraged that a journalist on a legitimate reporting trip is targeted in this way."

Galindo's "unjust arrest highlights the atrocious environment for the press in general in Ethiopia," the CPJ's Africa branch said on its website.

According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, as of January 1 this year, 15 journalists were in prison in Ethiopia.

In 2023, Ethiopia ranked 130th in the world in terms of press freedom, down 16 places compared to 2022, according to the NGO.

The government imposed a state of emergency in Ethiopia's second most populous region Amhara in August after fighting erupted between federal authorities and a regional "self-defence" militia named Fano.

The decree, which was extended earlier this month, allows the authorities to declare curfews and for suspects to be searched and held without a warrant.

Federal forces in Oromia -- Ethiopia's most populous region -- have been battling the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebel group since 2018, after it split from the OLF when the latter renounced armed struggle.

'Surge in abuses'

The fighting in Amhara reignited concerns about Ethiopia's stability, just a few months after a peace deal ended a brutal two-year conflict in the northernmost region of Tigray between Tigrayan rebel authorities and forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Abiy was hailed as a reformer when he came to power in 2018 after decades of authoritarian rule, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his rapprochement with neighbouring Eritrea.

But his reputation has taken a hit in recent years, with UN investigators accusing his government of crimes against humanity in Tigray - claims rejected by the authorities.

Ethiopia has expelled several foreign journalists since the end of 2020.

"The surge in abuses against journalists seen since the start of the war in Tigray in November 2020 is not abating. Several journalists have been killed under unclear circumstances," Reporters Without Borders said.

"Hostility towards foreign media was seen again in early 2023, when the authorities suspended around 15 foreign TV channels for allegedly operating without a licence," it added.

Prior to Galindo's detention, Ethiopian authorities had not arrested a foreign journalist in more than three years.

In July 2020, a Kenyan journalist was detained for more than a month in Addis Ababa, despite an Ethiopian court ordering his release on bail.