Ethiopia frees workers with foreign media detained in Tigray, official says

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Four Ethiopians working with foreign journalists in the northern Tigray region have been released without charges, an official and media outlets said on Wednesday.

A reporter for the BBC's Tigrinya language service, Girmay Gebru, two translators with Agence France-Presse and the Financial Times, and a journalist working with the New York Times were detained in recent days, their outlets said.

"All journalists and translators have been released without charges," Abebe Gebrehiwot Yihdego, deputy head of Tigray's interim administration, told Reuters.

The BBC confirmed Girmay's release in a tweet, while AFP and the New York Times also confirmed in emails to Reuters that those working with them had been freed.

"We are pleased that the local journalist we had worked with was released and that no charges were filed," said the New York Times' communications vice-president Danielle Rhoades Ha.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has overseen sweeping reforms since taking office in 2018, including the unbanning of more than 250 media outlets and release of dozens of journalists.

However, rights groups say press freedom has suffered during outbreaks of violence including in Tigray, where thousands have died in fighting since last year between federal troops and the former local ruling party.

Watchdogs reported the arrests of at least 13 journalists in Ethiopia last year, including Reuters cameraman Kumerra Gemechu who was held without charge for 12 days.

Abiy's government declared victory over the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after its forces withdrew from major cities and towns at the end of November.

However, low-level fighting has continued in parts.

(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Nick Tattersall)

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