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Ethiopia urged to free reporters detained under wartime emergency laws

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Ethiopian authorities must immediately free all detained journalists and stop using wartime emergency laws to lock up reporters for doing their jobs, a press freedom watchdog said Thursday.

The call from the Committee to Protect Journalists came as police in the conflict-torn Horn of Africa nation arrested a freelance video journalist working for The Associated Press and two other local reporters.

Journalists working in Ethiopia face restrictions under a nationwide state of emergency declared last month by the government, which has been locked in a 13-month conflict with Tigrayan rebels.

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The CPJ said at least 14 journalists had been arrested since Ethiopia issued the decree.

“Ethiopia’s state of emergency law gives security personnel extremely broad powers of arrest and suspends due process, effectively bans critical journalism, and sends an intimidating message to the press,” CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumo said in a statement.

“The Ethiopian government should release all journalists detained for their work and stop using the state of emergency as a pretext to infringe on freedom of expression.”

The CPJ named Ethiopia as a major jailer of journalists in its annual scorecard of press freedom issued last week.

The state-affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Wednesday it was “gravely concerned” about four detained journalists in detention, whose whereabouts are unknown even to their families.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, has called for the immediate release of Amir Aman Kiyaro, who it said was arrested in the capital Addis Ababa on November 28 after returning from a reporting trip.

Kiyaro was accused of breaching state of emergency laws, promoting terrorism and spreading propaganda, actions police said could be punishable by prison terms of seven to 15 years.

The AP described the charges as “baseless.”

At the end of November, Ethiopia announced new state of emergency rules banning the sharing of non-official information about military movements and battlefield outcomes, an order that was seen as an attempt to further restrict media reporting on the war.

The government also barred residents from “using various types of media platforms to support directly or indirectly the terrorist group,” referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and warned of unspecified consequences for anyone who ignored the decree.

Much of the conflict-affected zone in northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted.

On Thursday, Reporters Without Borders said there were currently 488 media professionals imprisoned around the world – the highest number since the NGO began counting more than 25 years ago.

Read more:

Freelance journalist accredited to AP detained in Ethiopia

US Secretary of State ‘gravely concerned’ about military escalation in Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s government warns US against spreading false information on war

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Russian and UK defense ministers to meet over Ukraine

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Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has accepted an invitation to meet his British counterpart Ben Wallace to discuss the crisis on the Russia-Ukraine border, a senior UK defense source said Saturday.

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“The Defense Secretary is glad that Russia has accepted the invitation to talk with his counterpart,” the source said.

“Given the last defense bilateral between our two countries took place in London in 2013, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has offered to meet in Moscow instead,” added the source.

“The Secretary of State has been clear that he will explore all avenues to achieve stability and a resolution to the Ukraine crisis.”

Tens of thousands of Russian troops are massed on Ukraine’s border, along with an arsenal of tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery and missiles.

Russia has denied it plans to invade but the White House believes an attack could now come “at any point.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned on Friday that Moscow risks becoming embroiled in a “terrible quagmire” if it invades.

In a speech in Australia, the UK’s top diplomat issued a blunt and personal warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he is on the brink of making a major strategic blunder.

He “has not learned the lessons of history,” Truss told Sydney’s Lowy Institute.

“The Ukrainians will fight this, it could be a quagmire” she said.

Britain is among a handful of Western nations rushing weapons such as anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

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At least six killed in blast in western Afghan city of Herat

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A blast ripped through a minivan in the western Afghan city of Herat on Saturday, killing at least six people, according to officials.

Herat commander Mawlawi Ansari told Reuters that nine people had been injured. The cause of the blast was not clear.

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A health official in Herat, who asked not to be named, said an explosion hit a small van used for public transport just after 1800 local time and that three of the injured were in serious condition.

Since the Taliban took over in August, a series of blasts and attacks, some claimed by Islamic State, have taken place across Afghanistan.

The attacks have heightened the new administration’s security challenges as the country spirals into an economic crisis.

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Arab League delays annual summit as COVID-19 bites again

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The Arab League has announced it is delaying its annual summit scheduled for March 22 in Algiers because of COVID-19 after two years of cancellations due to the pandemic.

“Every year, the summit is held in March, but this year, there has been a delay,” the pan-Arab organization’s assistant secretary general, Hossam Zaki, said in televised remarks Friday, a week after returning to Cairo from a visit to Algiers.

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The last Arab League summit was held in Tunis in March 2019. The past two years’ gatherings have been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Zaki added that Algeria “preferred the option” of delaying the summit, noting that the critical mass of Arab leaders and high-ranking officials needed for the summit could not be guaranteed due to the public health situation.

Arab foreign ministers are expected to announce a new date for the summit during their scheduled meeting on March 9, Zaki said.

Zaki said that there were “no political reasons” behind the delay, but the time could be used to “improve political climates” in the region.

The summit is important for Algeria, which has been seeking to expand its political sphere of influence, against the backdrop of heightened tensions with Morocco.

No agenda has been announced for this year’s summit, but the Arab world remains plagued with multiple conflicts and crises.

These extend from the war in Yemen, which has killed nearly 400,000 people since 2015, to the 2021 coup in Sudan that resulted in its suspension from the African Union, as well as protracted crises in Libya, Lebanon and beyond.

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