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News: Ethiopian Media Authority urges judicial bodies to refrain from obstructing investigative journalism

A picture showing the police carrying a team of journalists from FBC on a pickup has widely circulated on social media.

Addis Abeba: Ethiopian Media Authority said judicial bodies should refrain from acts of obstructing investigative journalism, and rather assist journalists in doing their jobs.

In a rare statement EMA issued on Monday, it said that there was increasing tendency of terminating investigative journalism works on orders from judicial bodies.

The statement came in a backdrop of reports of alleged detention by members of Addis Abeba city police of a group of journalists from the ruling party affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC) who were on investigative duty in the Kolfe Keraniyo sub-city in Addis Abeba. A picture showing the police carrying a team of journalists from FBC on a pickup has widely circulated on social media. FBC has not commented on the circumstances surrounding the harassment by the police of its journalists.

But the City’s Police later issued a statement refuting the arrest of the journalists but said they were made to stop filming as a result of a court order which suspended any kind of investigative reporting on a real estate company whose case is being seen by a court of law. Police said it reached on agreement with the journalists while making them stop filming in its effort to enforce a court order.

The Media Authority’s statement did not mention any particular incident whereby journalists were prevented from carrying out investigative reporting but it said, “tension on media houses engaged in investigative journalism should stop”.

“Judicial bodies in particular should not obstruct investigative journalism, they rather should assist and play a role in it,” the statement reads.

“Obstructing investigative journalism in any way, violates citizens’ rights, undermines efforts of building democracy, and hampers accountability by cooperating with wrong doers” it added.

The authority called on judicial bodies to work hand in glove with media institutions to enable journalists conduct proper investigative journalism by ensuring and protecting their rights to access information, investigate and broadcast their findings without any interruptions.

Ethiopia has been accused of backtracking on press freedom gains by clamping down on journalists following the outbreak of the war in Tigray region. The 2022 Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders placed Ethiopia at 114th out of 180 countries surveyed. “The surge in abuses against journalists seen since the start of the war in Tigray in November 2020 is not abating,” RSF said.

On 20 December, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Ethiopian police to unconditionally release online journalist Meskerem Abera and cease harassing members of the press. AS

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