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Ethiopia: Media barred from covering Tigray election

Last week, the Ethiopian Broadcast Authority, contacted a number of foreign journalists warning them against covering the elections’.

Ethiopia Media barred from covering Tigray election www.africanstand.com
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed delivers a speech at the House of Peoples’ Representatives of Ethiopia on the current political and economic issues of the country on February 3, 2020, in Addis Ababa.

(African Stand) — Ethiopian authorities forcibly removed journalists from a plane headed to Makele, Tigray region on Monday, ostensibly to prevent the coverage of a controversial election that security officials have termed as illegal.

Reporters aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa say security agents confiscated their identification documents and equipment and removed other passengers from the flight on Monday morning.

According to the Ethiopian Foreign Correspondents Association, a lobby for foreign journalists in Addis Ababa, members of the Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service took away passengers’ IDs and prevented them from flying.

“Authorities confiscated or attempted to confiscate phones, laptops, and identification cards from all passengers. Very limited information was provided as to how to retrieve these items. Members of the public were also barred from boarding the flight,” the Association said in a statement issued last evening.

Simon Marks, a correspondent for the New York Times and Politico, said his social media accounts were also scrutinised.

“At Bole Airport this morning in Addis Ababa, three local reporters, myself, and other members of the public boarding a flight to Mekele were prevented from traveling by National Intelligence and Security Service. Phones and laptops confiscated, social media accounts scrutinised,” he said on Twitter.

“My passport, press card, and Ethiopian resident’s ID were also confiscated and no information provided on how to retrieve any of it.”

Last week, the Ethiopian Broadcast Authority, the country’s regulator for the media, contacted a number of foreign journalists warning them against covering the elections, “at the request of the Office of the prime minister.”

Their press accreditations could be withdrawn, they were told.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a US-based non-profit watchdog for press freedom, said the harassment of journalists on Monday added to Ethiopia’s continual detention of a group of eight others who have been in jail for two months without charge.

“CPJ is concerned at this latest sign that Ethiopia has not broken with old patterns of repression.”

Tigray, one of the ten autonomous regions that are based on ethnic groups, has planned to hold its local elections this Wednesday despite the federal government, headed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, postponing the national polls to March next year due to Covid-19.

The elections had earlier been planned for August 2020.

‘Declaration of war’

While the Ethiopian federal parliament indicated that the elections in Tigray would be illegal, the Tigray government said any attempt to prevent the polls would be a “declaration of war.”

The polls have been so controversial that some pundits have described them as incendiary for the country.

The region, once a formidable member of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, has since fallen out with PM Abiy after he merged the member parties of EPRDF into a single movement known as the Prosperity Party.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which runs the region, refused to collapse and join the Prosperity Party.

Esther Kamara

Written by Esther Kamara

Esther Kamara is a reporter at African Stand, covering the West African region with stories on politics and how it intersects with business, innovation, startups, and culture. She graduated from Kwame Nkrumah University with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology.

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