WASHINGTON — Journalist Tesfalem Waldyes, the founder and editor-in-chief of Ethiopia Insider, an Ethiopian news and analysis website, is in police custody, according to media reports.
Tesfalem’s colleagues and friends said his whereabouts hadn’t been known since Saturday, but federal police confirmed his detention to the BBC, saying there is nothing to be concerned about.
Police didn’t give additional details. Shortly after the detention, Befeqadu Hailu, the executive director of the Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy, said Tesfalem went missing after covering the Irreecha festival in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Irreecha is a cultural event celebrated by Ethiopia’s ethnic Oromo community.
Befeqadu also said via Twitter that Tesfalem’s plan for Sunday was to report on the festival, which also took place at a second location, Bishoftu.
The annual event is traditionally held in Bishoftu, a town located in the Oromia region, about 40 kilometers south of Addis Ababa.
After covering the event in Addis Ababa, Tesfalem posted a video on Ethiopia Insider’s Facebook page that showed attendees expressing their criticism of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration.
Attendees also demanded the release of political prisoners, chanting, “Jawar, Jawar!”
Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo activist and opposition leader, has been imprisoned, charged with terrorism and other crimes alongside other prominent Oromo politicians.
In 2014, Tesfalem was among three journalists and six bloggers, who became known as the “Zone 9 Bloggers” and were arrested for inciting violence among other charges, including terrorism. He spent more than one year in prison and was later released. Zone 9 Bloggers were recipients of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award in 2015.
The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists says at least seven journalists are imprisoned in the country.
Separately, Prime Minister Abiy was sworn in for a second term on Monday.
Source: Voice of America