Tamerat Negera, the founder and Managing Editor of an online media Terara Network, went into Exile abroad, Addis Zeybe learned from his family. He left Ethiopia on November 21, 2022 night with his wife, Selam Belay, General Manager of the media.
According to Tamerat’s close confidants, his exile could have been prompted by the fact that the government made no moves to charge him or not while his case was left hanging open after his release. This is supposed to make him anxious about the possibility of rearresting and feel diffident about pursuing his journalistic career in Ethiopia.
Tamerat was arrested on Dec 10, 2021, and released on Apr 6 after 118 days of detention in the Gelan district of the Oromia Regional State.
Tamrat is not new to forced exile. When the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Front(EPRDF), the ruling party at the time, initiated a new wave of media crackdown prior to Election 2010, Addis Neger, the defunct newspaper that gained wide acceptance for its critical and in-depth content, he and his friends have founded was targeted. As a result, he has left no option other than to start his long journey of exile in the United States in 2009 to avoid the imminent threat of imprisonment.
Tamerat Negera returned to Ethiopia in 2018 after staying nine years in the US as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power following the Prime Minister’s decriminalization of exiled opposition and journalists and his promise to open up media space.
PM Abiy’s promise to improve media freedom and discontinue media censorship was attributed as an achievement by the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee when he was granted the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
On his return to Ethiopia, Tamerat co-established his independent media called Terara Media Network and started imparting his critical views against ethnic federalism and staunch censures on the dangers of ethnic politics. Such of his views, coupled with casual reprimands of the incumbent leaders of the Oromia Regional State, is believed to get him into trouble with authorities.
Tamrat was arrested in Dec 2021 from his house, and his whereabouts were unknown for seven days. His family was later informed he was detained at Gelan Police station.
Upon his arrest, his personal computer, telephone, media production equipment, and other properties of Terara Media Network were also confiscated by the police.
He stayed for 118 days in prison, during which time several court proceedings were convened in his case. However, no formal charges were pressed against him when he was released.
Through the course of his trial, the Oromia Police presented a document on Feb 24 to the court, which filed the violation the police alleged Tamerat committed through Terara Media Network’s YouTube channel.
Among the violations the police cited in the document were “promoting the disintegration of Oromo unity,”; “spreading information that advanced the benefit of TPLF during the year-long war,”; and broadcasting “disinformation about the progress of the war,” and “defaming the prime minister by saying, “He is intentionally working in a manner that defames and descends the country to a lower standard.”
Various activists and human rights organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), raised concerns about Tamerat’s arrest and called for his release during his arrest. On the other hand, some political commentators believed his arrest was rather ethnically/ politically motivated.
“A lot can be said about Tamerat, his activism, and his analysis, and some of his opinions are admittedly controversial and even problematic. But his intention and goal have always been a strong Ethiopian state, a state that is no longer grappling with ethnic rivalry,” wrote Hewan Alemayehu, a freelance writer, in one of her pieces she defended Tamerat’s venture.