Reuters photographer arrested in Ethiopia

A freelance photographer who has worked for the Reuters news agency for more than a decade was arrested by police in Ethiopia last week, his family confirmed in a statement to the news outlet.

Armed officers took Kumerra Gemechu, 38, into custody and seized several electronic devices, including his computer, phone and around a dozen flash storage drives, his family said.

No reason was given for the arrest, and police did not offer a comment when contacted by Reuters and other news outlets last week. A judge later determined Kumerra could remain in police custody for two weeks without charge while officials continue their investigation against the photographer.

“Kumerra is part of a Reuters team that reports from Ethiopia in a fair, independent and unbiased way,” Stephen Adler, the chief editor at Reuters, said in a general statement. “Kumerra’s work demonstrates his professionalism and impartiality, and we are aware of no basis for his detention.”

Kumerra has worked for Reuters in Africa as a freelance photographer for around 10 years, the news agency said. His arrest came two weeks after police assaulted another Reuters photographer, Tiksa Negeri, during an incident earlier in the month. Reuters has not previously reported on the assault involving Tiksa until Kumerra was arrested.

Reuters said it was unable to confirm if Kumerra’s arrest was connected to his journalism. He had been covering civil unrest in Ethiopia between government and rebel forces in the weeks leading up to his detention.

In November 2020, Ethiopian media regulators accused Reuters of showing bias against the government in its reporting on the conflict, charging the news outlet with producing stories that were “false” and “unbalanced,” according to a Facebook post. Reuters denied those claims and said it stood by the work of its reporters there.