Ethiopian news site suspended

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Ethiopia’s media regulator suspended the news website of The Addis Standard and accused it of advancing the agenda of a terrorist group.

The publisher of the popular English language website said it was disturbed by the decision and would appeal it, but did not comment on the regulator’s accusation.

The Addis Standard website – which regularly criticises government – was still visible in Ethiopia on Thursday, but its most recent stories were a day old.

“The temporary suspension followed complaints and alarming trends in EMA’s (The Ethiopia Media Authority’s) monitoring findings,” the regulator said.

“We learned the media is a platform to advance the terrorist group’s agenda,” the regulator said, in a likely reference to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) government has been fighting since November.

Government designated TPLF as a terrorist organization in May.

After coming to power in 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed oversaw wide-ranging reforms, including lifting bans on more than 250 media outlets and releasing dozens of journalists. His 2019 Nobel Peace Prize citation included praise for “discontinuing media censorship”.

International media watchdogs say government cracked down on the media since conflict erupted in November with the TPLF, the former ruling party in Tigray which dominated national politics in Ethiopia for nearly three decades until Abiy came to power.

The government denies press freedoms are deteriorating.

The Addis Standard’s publisher, JAKENN Publishing, said on Twitter it was “deeply disturbed” by the regulator’s decision to suspend its media licence.

The company would appeal the ruling, its founder, Tsedale Lemma, told Reuters. “We plan to mount a legal defence because we think this is not right,” she said.

The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said police arrested 21 journalists from Awlo Media and Ethio Forum, independent YouTube channels critical of government.

The Commission said federal police told it three journalists had since been released.