Ethiopian police arrest Reuters cameraman

Ethiopian police arrest Reuters cameraman

Reuters cameraman Kumerra Gemechu has been detained for at least 14 days by Ethiopian police.

Reuters cameraman Kumerra Gemechu was arrested Thursday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and will be detained for at least two weeks, his family said. He has not been charged.

The reason for Thursday’s arrest was not given to the family, and police did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Kumerra, who is 38, has worked for Reuters as a freelance cameraman for ten years.

According to the family, in a brief court hearing on Friday, at which no lawyer was present, the judge ordered that Kumerra be detained for an additional 14 days to give police time to investigate.

In a statement on Monday, Reuters strongly condemned Kumerra’s detention. The arrest followed the beating of Reuters photographer Tiksa Negeri by two Ethiopian federal police officers on December 16.

“Kumerra is part of the Reuters team that reports from Ethiopia fairly, independently and impartially. Kumerra’s work demonstrates his professionalism and impartiality and we see no reason to detain him,” said editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler.

“Journalists should be allowed to report the news in the public interest without fear of harassment or harm wherever they go. We will not rest until Kumerra is released,” Adler said.

About 10 armed federal police officers arrived at Kumerra’s home in Addis Ababa on Thursday night and took him away in handcuffs in front of his wife and three children, said his wife Javi Desalegn. She added that his eldest daughter, who is 10, was clinging to him screaming as they took him away.
According to family members, police also confiscated Kumerra’s phone, computer, flash drives and documents.

Kumerra’s arrest followed government pressure on journalists from some international news outlets covering the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray, where government forces have been fighting the former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).