BY TESFANEWS *
Authorities in Addis Ababa barred a number of reporters from flying to Tigray, a region that defies the Federal government to hold an election on September 9 for regional parliament and other positions.
The federal government – and major opposition parties – agreed in March to postpone national and regional elections due in August until the COVID-19 pandemic was under control.
The House of Federation, which rules over constitutional disputes, unanimously declared that the polls for regional parliament and other positions in Tigray are “unconstitutional and are, therefore, void”.
The TPLF, which runs the northern province and has often bitterly denounced PM Abiy government, has said the vote will go ahead anyway. The two sides set on a collision course since.
Several of those barred from flying to Tigray said the action by the government appeared intended to prevent coverage of the election.
Those barred from the flight also had their phones and laptops confiscated, one of the passengers told Reuters.
Hager Teklebirhan, a journalist with Ethiopia media Awlo was among the journalists who stopped from going to Mekelle.
“We were heading to Tigray to cover the elections, but security officers stopped us at the gate, took our IDs and we were prevented from boarding,” he told Reuters.
At least three other journalists received a phone call from Ethiopian authorities over the weekend warning them not to travel to Mekelle, they said.
William Davison, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, was also stopped from flying, he said.
At Bole Airport this morning in Addis Ababa, three local reporters, myself, and other members of the public boarding a flight to Mekele were prevented from traveling by National Intelligence and Security Service. Phones and laptops confiscated, social media accounts scrutinized.
— Simon Marks (@MarksSimon) September 7, 2020
PM Abiy Ahmed's solidiers forcefully removed 12 journalists of western media from plane, which was heading to Mekelle, Tigray, today.
The list includes Bloomberg and Newyork Times.
So much for a reformist PM.#Ethiopia
— Daniel Berhane (@daniel_berhane) September 7, 2020
The so-called Foreign Correspondents Association in Ethiopia (FCA) condemns the government for its attempt to prevent two of its members and other local Ethiopian journalists from reporting the election in Tigray.
#Ethiopia Foreign Correspondents’ Association condemns government harassing, blocking journalists from covering #TigraiElection2020 and doing their job #PressFreedom @CPJAfrica pic.twitter.com/MVJD0Qi4oa
— giulia paravicini (@giuliaparavicin) September 7, 2020
* Reuters contributed for the above story