Reuters cameraman Kumerra Gemechu was released from detention Wednesday without being charged. The 38-year-old journalist was arrested by Ethiopian authorities late last month and was detained for 12 days.
According to his lawyer Melkamu Ogo, Kumerra was questioned by authorities over allegations of his involvement in disseminating false information, conspiring against the government, disrupting public peace and communicating with rebel groups. Ogo said police had no evidence to back up the accusations.
“We are delighted that Kumerra has been released and reunited with his family. His release affirms he has done nothing wrong,” Reuters said in a statement.
Reuters said that all of the reports made by the publication in Ethiopia were “fair, independent and unbiased.” Ethiopian police had no right to arrest Kumerra and all journalists needed to be free to report news “without fear of harassment or harm,” Reuters said.
The Ethiopian prosecutor’s office didn’t provide any details regarding Kumerra’s detention and release. His family said arresting officers barged into their house before new year’s eve. Kumerra’s property was confiscated – including his camera, hard drives, smartphone and computer.
“We are so relieved that Kumerra has been released and would like to thank everyone who has supported us during this difficult time,” Kumerra’s family said.
Ethiopia’s treatment of the international news media has improved after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018. Since then, the Nobel Peace Prize winner had enacted sweeping changes that included the unbanning of more than 250 news media outlets. He also released dozens of detained journalists after he took power.
Free speech groups said that news media freedom in the country had eroded after the government launched its brutal campaign to take down rebel groups in the northern Tigray region.
Media watchdogs said that at least a dozen journalists were arrested and detained last year – seven of whom were apprehended after the conflict broke out in Tigray in November. At least eight of the 12 that were reportedly arrested last year have been released, the groups said.
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