Ethiopia’s human rights watchdog on Tuesday urged authorities to “bring credible charges or release” four media workers arrested in the country’s conflict-hit northern Tigray region.
Daniel Bekele, head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), said in a Twitter post he was “concerned” about the arrests, the first of which occurred Saturday.
“While misinformation & disinformation are recurring challenges in the crisis, arresting journalists is disproportionate response. Bring credible charges or release,” the post said.
The EHRC is a government-affiliated but independent body.
The arrested media workers include Fitsum Berhane and Alula Akalu, who were working as translators for journalists from Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the Financial Times.
Both outlets had obtained permission from the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority and the Ministry of Peace to work in Tigray, where media access has been tightly restricted since hostilities began five months ago.
Ethiopian officials have not said why they were arrested or what they are being investigated for.
AFP’s global news director Phil Chetwynd called Monday for Fitsum’s immediate release.
“We have not been informed of any specific charges against Fitsum Berhane. His collaboration with a media outlet should not be a motive for his arrest,” he said.
The other arrested media workers are BBC journalist Girmay Gebru and Temrat Yemane, a local journalist.
Soldiers carried out all the arrests, according to the men’s relatives and witnesses.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations in early November against leaders of Tigray’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), saying they came in response to attacks orchestrated by the party on federal army camps.
He said hostilities were “completed” in late November when federal forces entered Mekele, the regional capital, but TPLF leaders remain on the run and fighting has continued.
Reports of atrocities against civilians continue to mount, including by soldiers from neighbouring Eritrea which has teamed up with Abiy against the TPLF.
Both Addis Ababa and Asmara officially deny Eritrean troops are active in the region, despite widespread reports of their presence.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa on Tuesday called for the immediate release of journalists detained in Tigray.
“Targeting journalists and their associates… gravely undermines the government’s promise to open up to the press,” the groups said in a statement.
Police plot to attack Lagos and accuse IPOB, says Yoruba Group
Apapo Oodua Koya (AOKOYA), a Yoruba group at the forefront of agitations for self-determination in southwestern Nigeria, said Nigerian police is plotting to attack Lagos and accuse the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – a secessionist group in the eastern part of the country.
The group made this known while refuting the claim by Hakeem Odumosu, the Lagos State Police Commissioner who alleged that IPOB and secessionist group from the southwest were plotting to attack soft targets in the State.
“This is clearly another grand plot to set the Yoruba against Igbo. We do not believe the police claim,” said AOKOYA in a statement on Tuesday.
“This is a game of wits. We urge Igbo and Yoruba to be aware. When Fulani terrorists were attacking Yoruba, kidnapping the people, the police did not mention any name.
“Now that IPOB is fighting for self-determination, the Fulani leadership is looking for a way to divide the emerging Igbo and Yoruba solidarity. This evil plot will fail.
“We call on the Federal Government to send soldiers to flush our Fulani terrorists in Yewa, Igana in Oyo and armed Fulani cells across the South West forests. IPOB is not Yoruba problem. IPOB is not kidnapping Yoruba people.
“IPOB is not occupying Yoruba forests. IPOB is not kidnapping, raping and killing Yoruba women and students. IPOB is not killing our farmers. The police should focus on Fulani terrorists in the South West instead of blackmailing IPOB.
“We warn the Fulani Federal Government; do not bomb Lagos and then put the blame on IPOB in order to cause disaffection between Yoruba and Igbo.
“This is an old trick used by (Adolf) Hitler to set people against each other. It is one of the instruments Fulani have employed to keep themselves in power. The game is up.”
Allegations that IPOB is plotting to attack Lagos is a lie — Kanu
The rights activist and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, refuted the claim that the group was plotting to attack Lagos state in southwestern Nigeria.
Lagos State Police Commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, said on Monday that the state police command was investigating the separatist group, Oodua Republic, alongside a threat from IPOB to carry out an attack against soft targets in the state.
“The public is hereby notified that the allegations that IPOB is plotting to attack Lagos is a Lie,” Kanu responded via a tweet on Monday.
The IPOB leader added that “Lagos State CP, Hakeem Odumosu who made the allegation is a former CSO to Tinubu & their intention is to fuel division between Yorubas & Biafrans. It won’t work. This is not 1967!”
In recent weeks, accusations from police and some government officials alleging that separatist groups in the country are responsible for attacks on formations and officers of government security agencies met disagreement from many persons including security experts, who called the claims false.
IPOB not responsible for attacks in eastern Nigeria — Lawmaker
Nigerian Senate minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, has exonerated the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of the ongoing attacks on government forces and facilities in Nigeria’s eastern region.
The lawmaker said the attackers are “fifth columnists” brought in from other places to destabilize the region inhabited by majority Igbo Christians.
He told THE NATION that members of the separatist group are not terrorists, adding that the Nigerian government’s claims that they are behind the attacks are wrong.
“Anybody, who is seeing all these problems in southeast as coming from the IPOB, anyone trying to pin the insecurity situation in southeast to IPOB or MASSOB is making a mistake. We do not think so,” said Abaribe.
“Those of us from the southeast here know that this is nothing but fifth columnists imported into Igboland to destabilise Igboland. This is because Igboland is the safest place that we had in this country.
“All they want to do is to cause a confusion and make this place ungovernable so that they can go out and say there is terrorism here.
“We are not terrorists. The ethos of the Igbo man is very simple: live and let live. We build; we don’t destroy. We never kill because we take life very precious.
“So, anyone telling you all these, it’s people who come from elsewhere trying to destabilize Igboland. But, it will never happen”.
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