This week PM Abiy Ahmed opened access to Tigray for seven major media houses.
These were Reuters, AFP, New York Times, BBC, al-Jazeera, France 24 and the Financial Times. So far so good.
But since then three things have happened which indicate just how limited this initiative really is. Reform goes hand in hand with repression.
- Steps were taken to remove the evidence of atrocities. 6,000 internally displaced people were threatened with being transferred from Axum – the scene of the massacre in which hundreds died – and a prison center in Shire. Rape victims were also moved from Mekelle.
- The Ethiopian government began issuing threats to the media. “The disinformation campaign being pursued to mislead the international media community about the situation in Tigray is intolerable and appropriate measures would be taken against the orchestrators…Tigray Regional Head of Prosperity party Ato Habtay Gebreegziabher told Ethiopian Press Agency, earlier today following what he described as; “ruthless individuals and groups are trying to supply wrong information to media crew that has set feet in Tigray.”…The interim administration in coordination with the Federal government shall continue to take appropriate measures against these heinous elements in defense of the protection of the interests of the general public, he added.
- This threat has been followed by repression. Two translators for foreign journalists in Tigray, Fitsum Birhane (a translator for AFP) and Alula Akalu (A translator for Financial Times), were beaten and arrested on Saturday by Ethiopian soldiers in Mekelle. Two friends of Alula were also beaten in front of their family members and have been taken to an unknown destination. A long-time contributor to Aiga Forum, Teamrat Yemane, has also been arrested in Mekelle.