Ethiopian journalist held over controversial Blue Nile dam

Camera lens. Ethiopia is regularly cited as one of the world's top jailers of journalists. PHOTO FILE |NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Ethiopia has been accused of "criminalising independent journalism" following the arrest and detention last Friday of a reporter covering a controversial hydroelectric power project.

Mr Muluken Tesfahun, a reporter with the private weekly Ethio-Mehedar, is said to have been detained as he sought to interview people evicted from their homes in the region where the Ethiopian government intends to build a massive dam on the Blue Nile.

The renaissance dam is being built in the Benishangul-gumuz area near the Sudan border at a cost of $4.7 billion in order to boost the country's power exports.

It is feared that the dam will affect the arid lands of Egypt and Sudan that rely on the Blue Nile.

According to reports, Mr Muluken is being held in a prison in the town of Asosa, the capital of that region.

According to Mr Getachew Worku, the weekly’s editor in chief, the journalist was yet to be charged formally or presented in court contrary to the country’s constitution which guarantees that a  person be brought before a court within 48 hours of arrest.


Media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the arbitrary arrest and continued detention.

It said the arrest was part of efforts to suppress news critical of Ethiopian government officials.

"By arresting journalist Muluken Tesfahun for gathering information from the victims of forced relocation, Ethiopia is once again criminalising independent journalism," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita in a statement.

"Ethiopia should make good on its obligation as a member of the UN Human Rights Council to uphold citizens' rights by releasing Muluken immediately."

Mr Muluken had been assigned to report on the return of thousands of ethnic Amhar, Orma and Agew families who had forcibly been evicted from their land in March.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn later in April blamed the evictions on lower level officials and invited the displaced to return.

According to CPJ, Ethiopia is among the continent’s worst jailer of journalists with eight currently behind bars.

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