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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Guardian reporter

French journalist arrested in Ethiopia accused of ‘conspiracy to create chaos’

A man with a bear and a moustache wearing a cap looks directly at the camera with a small smile.
Antoine Galindo, a reporter for the Africa Intelligence news website has been detained since Thursday. Photograph: Indigo Publications

Ethiopian authorities have detained a visiting French journalist for being part of a “conspiracy to create chaos” in the east African country.

Antoine Galindo, a reporter for the Paris-based Africa Intelligence (AI) news website, was arrested by plainclothes security officers at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel on Thursday, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

At the time, Galindo was interviewing Bate Urgessa, a spokesperson for the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a legally registered opposition party. Bate was also detained, the rights group said.

Galindo was in Ethiopia to report on the annual summit of the African Union and other news, according to AI. It said he had a visa allowing him to work in the country and the authorities were aware of his assignment.

AI described Galindo’s arrest as “unjustified” and called for his immediate release. “These spurious accusations are not based on any tangible evidence that might justify this extended deprivation of liberty,” it said.

On Saturday, a judge in Addis Ababa denied Galindo’s application for bail and extended his detention until 1 March, after police requested more time to search through his phone, according to CPJ, citing Galindo’s lawyer.

Galindo is accused of conspiring with two rebel groups, but police are yet to provide any substantive evidence for this claim, the lawyer told CPJ.

“The baseless and unjustified detention of Antoine Galindo for carrying out his legitimate journalistic duties is outrageous and Ethiopian authorities must release him immediately without condition,” said Angela Quintal, the head of CPJ’s Africa programme.

“Antoine Galindo’s arrest is yet another example of the dismal press freedom record in Ethiopia, where at least another eight journalists are behind bars for their work and who must also be released urgently,” she said.

Ethiopia is the second-biggest jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa after Eritrea, according to the CPJ.

When the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, came to power in 2018 he promised an end to repression and released thousands of political prisoners from jail. However, his government cracked down on dissent during the 2020-2022 war in the northern Tigray region and expelled foreign journalists or denied them visas.

Several foreign journalists were expelled during the Tigray war, but the country rarely detains foreign journalists for extended periods. The last case was in 2011 when two Swedish journalists were arrested after entering Ethiopia illegally to report on a rebel group. The pair were accused of terrorism offences but released as part of a mass pardon the following year.

Ethiopia is now grappling with rebellions in Oromia and Amhara, its two biggest regions, where government forces have been accused of abuses. A state of emergency has been in place since August in Amhara, suspending civil liberties there.

Ethiopia’s government has yet to comment on Galindo’s arrest.

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