Reuters Journalist, Kumerra Gemechu Finally Regain Freedom 12 Days Detained Without Charge
Ethiopian police on Tuesday released Reuters cameraman Kumerra Gemechu after detaining him for 12 days without charge.
The police told his lawyer, Melkamu Ogo, that their lines of investigation included charges of disseminating false information, communicating with government-fighting groups, and disturbing the peace and security of the public. Ogo, however, said that he had seen no proof.
“We are delighted that Kumerra has been released and reunited with his family. His release today affirms he has done nothing wrong,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler revealed in a statement.
“Kumerra is a journalist who has consistently demonstrated his professionalism and commitment to accuracy, as part of a Reuters team that reports from Ethiopia in a fair, independent, and unbiased way. Journalists like Kumerra must be allowed to report the news in the public interest without fear of harassment or harm, wherever they are.”
The Ethiopian police and prosecutor’s office did not respond to Reuters’ questions about the reasons for the arrest and subsequent release of Kumerra.
According to Reuters, for a decade, Kumerra, 38, has been working for the media outlet (Reuters).
His family said they were preparing a special meal and looking forward to bringing him home for Christmas, which will be celebrated on Thursday by many Ethiopian Christians.
“We are so relieved that Kumerra has been released and would like to thank everyone who has supported us during this difficult time,” the family explained in a statement.
“Kumerra is a dedicated and professional journalist who has done nothing wrong. He simply wants to report on Ethiopia in an independent way. His family missed him every day he was detained, and we are delighted that Kumerra will be home for Christmas.”
Since taking office in 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, has overseen sweeping reforms, including the unbanning of more than 250 media outlets and the release of dozens of journalists.
However, rights groups claim that press freedom has eroded as the government faced outbreaks of deadly violence in the northern region of Tigray, including fighting between the military and rebellious leaders.
The arrests of at least 12 other journalists in Ethiopia last year were reported by media watchdog groups, seven of them in November, when the Tigray conflict broke out.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, only one journalist was indicted for social media posts about COVID-19 that were denounced as false by the health ministry.
The two groups said that eight have since been released and the rest remain in custody.
Calls and messages seeking comment were not returned by police and government officials. The government has previously said that the nation faces threats to security and is committed to the maintenance of law and order.