AP Freelance Journalist Detained in Ethiopia After Interviewing Terrorist Group

A freelance video journalist with the Associated Press was detained by police in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa after returning home from a reporting trip, the news organization announced Wednesday. Though Amir Aman Kiyaro has not been charged with anything, state media reported that he was accused of "serving the purposes" of a government-designated terrorist group by interviewing it.

The African country has been locked in a civil war for a year as rivals from the northern Tigray region and the Oromo Liberation Army push toward the capital and against Ethiopian forces, The New York Times reported. The Tigray forces and OLA were designated as terrorist groups by the government earlier this year.

Ethiopian authorities were able to detain Kiyaro under the newly enacted state of emergency that includes powers of detention. Police have also detained local journalists Thomas Engida and Addisu Muluneh, the state media report said.

Federal police inspector Tesfaye Olani said that the journalists breached the state of emergency law and anti-terrorism legislation. The alleged offenses could result in 15 years of imprisonment, he told state media.

AP Executive Editor Julie Pace called for Kiyaro's freedom in a statement and denied the accusations.

"The Associated Press is extremely concerned that AP freelancer Amir Aman Kiyaro has been detained by the Ethiopian government, accused of promoting terrorism. These are baseless allegations. Kiyaro is an independent journalist who has done important work in Ethiopia on all sides of the conflict. We call on the Ethiopian government to release Kiyaro immediately," she said.

AP Journalist Detained
Amir Aman Kiyaro, a freelance video journalist accredited to the Associated Press in Ethiopia, has been detained by police in the capital, Addis Ababa, the news organization said on Wednesday, December 15. Above, Kiyaro poses for a photograph at his wedding on Sunday, October 17, in Ethiopia. Handout via AP

Pace said the AP until now had chosen to keep the case out of the public eye while the news organization worked on potential diplomatic channels.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war that erupted in November 2020. The Tigray forces say they are pressuring the government to lift a deadly blockade on their region but also want Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to step aside. Mediation efforts by the United States and African Union for a cease-fire have made little progress.

Kiyaro has covered both sides of the war this year for the AP, including groundbreaking reporting on the alleged mass killings by Tigray forces in the community of Chenna Teklehaymanot after fighters in recent months moved into Ethiopia's Amhara region.

In late November, the country's state of emergency command sought to restrict media reporting on the war, forbidding the sharing of non-official information on "military-related movements, battlefront results and situations." Foreign media have been barred from Tigray for much of the war, with communications links severed.

The government-created Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Wednesday said it was monitoring the situation of four other local journalists detained in recent weeks. Last month, it said it was alarmed by the conditions of the detentions of perhaps thousands of people who have been swept up under the state of emergency. It urged authorities to immediately release people detained without "evidence establishing reasonable grounds for suspicion."

Spokesmen for the commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Kiyaro.

"Ethiopia has again become one of the worst jailers of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa," the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement last week, describing the media environment as "hostile" three years after the prime minister took office and his government freed journalists as part of sweeping political reforms that have since been eroded.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Addis Ababa
A freelance video journalist with the Associated Press was detained by police in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa after returning home from a reporting trip, the news organization announced Wednesday, December 15. Above, an Addis Ababa Light Rail Tram passes through Ethiopia’s largest business district Merakto on Friday, November 11, 2016. Mulugeta Ayene/AP Images for C40