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Kenya says sick journalist freed from Ethiopian jail

August 20, 2020

Kenya’s foreign ministry said Thursday it had managed to secure the release of a journalist from the country who had been held in Ethiopia without charge for over a month, and had fallen ill with COVID-19.

Yassin Juma, whose real name is Collins Juma Osemo, was arrested in early July shortly after the killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group, kicked off days of violence that left more than 200 people dead.

His arrest caused an outcry, with Kenya sending letters of protest to Addis Ababa, after he remained in detention for two weeks after he was ordered released on bail.

“Kenya Embassy in Ethiopia has managed to assist Collins Juma Osemo alias Yassin Juma, Kenyan journalist arrested in Ethiopia, to move to (a) government… isolation facility” from the police station where he was being held, the ministry wrote on Twitter.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Juma was detained for allegedly failing to identify himself as a journalist during a police raid on the home of prominent opposition figure Jawar Mohammed, who was also detained.

Juma has said he was in Ethiopia working on a documentary and as a producer for Britain’s Sky News.

On August 12 Kenya’s foreign ministry sent a letter to Addis Ababa urging his release, describing his detention as “highly regrettable”.

More than 9,000 people have been rounded up in connection with the violence that followed Hachalu’s death, including a host of high-profile opposition politicians and journalists.

Juma is one of at least two detainees who have tested positive for COVID-19 while in custody, Human Rights Watch said in a statement Saturday.

In a letter published Tuesday by Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper, Juma described being held “with 68 other COVID-19 positive inmates with no access to medication in overcrowded cells, no running water and no diet to assist us with our condition”.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.