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22.01.2021 Ethiopia

Journalist shot dead in Ethiopia's Tigray region, relative says

By AFP
Tigray.  By Aude GENET (AFP)
LISTEN JAN 22, 2021
Tigray. By Aude GENET (AFP)

A journalist was shot and killed this week in the capital of Ethiopia's conflict-hit Tigray region, a relative and a colleague told AFP Thursday, highlighting security woes despite government claims of a return to normalcy.

The body of Dawit Kebede Araya, who worked for Tigray TV, was discovered Wednesday morning in his car along with a friend, private businessman Bereket Berhe, said the relative, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The car was parked just 100 metres (yards) from Dawit's house, the relative said.

"We heard gunshots at around 8pm on Tuesday, but because of the dusk-to-dawn curfew we didn't dare go out to see what happened," the relative said.

"We took the body first to [Ayder Referral Hospital] and after that we took Dawit's body to his house, before burying him and Bereket in the afternoon."

The colleague, who also spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons, said security forces briefly detained Dawit over the weekend, although the reason for this was unclear.

Both the relative and the colleague said they believed security forces were responsible for the killing.

The head of Tigray's caretaker administration, Mulu Nega, did not respond to a request for comment.

Tigray TV is a regional state media outlet currently operated by the caretaker administration.

Dawit worked for Tigray TV before Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered military operations in Tigray in early November, although it was unclear whether he was still employed by the network at the time of his death.

Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has said the military operations in Tigray target leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the former regional ruling party, and that they were prompted by TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps.

Thousands have died in the fighting, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, and tens of thousands of refugees have streamed across the border into Sudan.

Abiy declared victory in Tigray after federal forces entered Mekele in late November, but TPLF leaders remain on the run and have vowed to fight on.

Although Abiy's government says life is returning to normal in Mekele and throughout Tigray, Mekele residents have accused soldiers patrolling the streets of violently enforcing a dusk curfew.

Abiy was praised for fostering a more open media landscape after he took office in 2018.

But the Committee to Protect Journalists last month identified Ethiopia as a top jailor of reporters, saying at least seven media workers were behind bars in the Horn of Africa nation.

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