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Ethiopia releases French journalist after week of imprisonment

Africa
 Antoine Galindo was detained in a hotel in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. [Indigo Publications]

French journalist Antoine Galindo, who was detained for a week in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, was released Thursday ahead of his scheduled second appearance in court Friday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.

Angela Quintal, head of CPJ’s Africa program, told VOA that Galindo, a reporter for Paris-based news site Africa Intelligence, left for France immediately after his release.

“Unfortunately, the local politician whom he was interviewing when he was arrested remained in jail and appeared in court today,” Quintal said.

Galindo was arrested on February 22 while interviewing Bate Urgessa, a political officer for the opposition party, the Oromo Liberation Front, and they were both charged with “conspiracy to create chaos.”

Two days later, Galindo was brought before a judge who granted a one-week investigation period for police “to search the journalist’s mobile phone and apprehend other ‘suspects’ who were ‘complicit.’ ”

Sources who attended Friday’s hearing and asked to remain anonymous because of fear for their safety told VOA that police told the court that Galindo was released on bail and asked for an additional five days of investigation.

However, Quintal said, “If he was released on bail, he would not have been allowed out of the country,” adding that French diplomatic efforts may have helped gain Galindo’s early release.

CPJ Africa program coordinator Muthoki Mumo said in a statement, “His unjust detention was a stark reminder of the danger of practicing journalism in today’s Ethiopia.”

“Ethiopian authorities must now release all journalists - eight others, at least - who have suffered months of imprisonment under very difficult conditions,” Mumo said, adding that the government should also allow international journalists to report without fear of retaliation.

Stressing that Galindo’s arrest showed there was no press freedom in Ethiopia under the current government, Quintal sought to use the momentum of his release to draw international attention and advocate for the release of all Ethiopian journalists in prison.

Quintal said, “You can’t have one standard for a foreign journalist and another for a local. The vast majority of journalists in jail in Africa are actually local journalists.”

According to CPJ, Ethiopia is the second-worst jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa with at least eight journalists behind bars. Four of them were arrested since the declaration of a state of emergency in August 2023, Quintal said, and they were never formally charged.

Galindo, 36, traveled to Addis Ababa to cover an African Union summit and other political news, according to his employer. The publication added he had a journalist visa and the proper accreditation from the government’s Media Authority.

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