French journalist covering African Union summit detained in Ethiopia

Antoine Galindo had travelled to Ethiopia to cover the African Union summit earlier this month for the specialist publication Africa Intelligence.Following his arrest on Thursday, he was brought before a judge on Saturday, who ordered his detention extended until March 1, Africa Intelligence said, condemning the “unjustified arrest”.”

These spurious accusations are not based on any tangible evidence that might justify this extended deprivation of liberty,” it said, pointing out that Galindo had informed the Ethiopian authorities of his assignment and had a visa authorising him to work there as a journalist. 

The 36-year-old journalist, who heads the publication’s East Africa section, had lived in Ethiopia between 2013 and 2017 and was “known to the Ethiopia Media Authority”, which oversees media accreditations in the co

untry.According to a source close to the case who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, Galindo was arrested on Thursday afternoon at a hotel in Addis Ababa while meeting an official from the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) party.

He has since been held at a police station in Ethiopia’s capital, the publication said, calling for his immediate release. Ethiopian authorities did not respond to AFP requests for comment.

An OLF spokesman told AFP that a party official was arrested in Addis Ababa on Thursday but could not confirm if Galindo had met the official.Africa’s second most populous country has been wracked by conflict in the Amhara and Oromia regions.Federal forces in Oromia have been battling the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebel group since 2018, after it split from the OLF when the latter renounced armed struggle.

Meanwhile Amhara has been under a state of emergency since last August after fighting erupted between federal authorities and a regional ‘self-defence’ militia named Fano. The decree, which was extended earlier this month, allows the authorities to declare curfews and for suspects to be searched and held without a warrant.

The fighting in Amhara reignited concerns about Ethiopia’s stability, just a few months after a peace deal ended a brutal two-year conflict in the northernmost region of Tigray between Tigrayan rebel authorities and forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.’Surge in abuses’ Abiy was hailed as a reformer when he came to power in 2018 after decades of authoritarian rule, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his rapprochement with neighbouring Eritrea.But his reputation has taken a hit in recent years, with UN investigators accusing his government of crimes against humanity in Tigray — claims rejected by the authorities.

According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, as of January 1 this year, 15 journalists were in prison in Ethiopia.”The surge in abuses against journalists seen since the start of the war in Tigray in November 2020 is not abating. Several journalists have been killed under unclear circumstances,” the NGO said.

“Hostility towards foreign media was seen again in early 2023, when the authorities suspended around 15 foreign TV channels for allegedly operating without a licence,” it added.In 2023, Ethiopia ranked 130th in the world in terms of press freedom, down 16 places compared to 2022, according to the NGO.

Ethiopia has expelled several foreign journalists since the end of 2020.Prior to Galindo’s detention, Ethiopian authorities had not arrested a foreign journalist in more than three years.In July 2020, a Kenyan journalist was detained for more than a month in Addis Ababa, despite an Ethiopian court ordering his release on bail.

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