Four media workers freed after being held in Ethiopia: AFP translator

Addis Ababa, March 3 (AFP/APP): Four media workers recently arrested in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region were freed Wednesday, said a translator working for AFP who was part of the group held.

“They let us out today. They didn’t say anything about why they let us go. But they said they have decided to free us,” said the translator, Fitsum Berhane. Fitsum and Alula Akalu, a translator working for The Financial Times, were arrested Saturday after three days of reporting on the conflict in Tigray.

The other two detainees were BBC journalist Girmay Gebru and Temrat Yemane, a local journalist. Officials have not given any reason for the arrests and did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday about the decision to free the men.

Both AFP and the Financial Times 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 in November.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has said the military campaign is targeting leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s longtime ruling party. But while Abiy said in late November that military operations were “completed” after federal troops entered the regional capital Mekele, top TPLF officials remain on the run and fighting has continued.

Meanwhile global concern is mounting amid reports of atrocities against civilians and fears of a spiralling humanitarian catastrophe. The United States voiced concern Tuesday over the arrests of the four media workers, saying the move was inconsistent with the government’s commitment to allow international press to operate in Tigray.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said authorities should “bring credible charges or release” them. Fitsum told AFP Wednesday that soldiers entered his home and accused him of supporting the TPLF. “They were saying a lot of things about how I am a member of the TPLF and have been helping the party since the war started and giving them information,” he said. “But I denied all because I don’t know what they are talking about.”

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