Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma, who is detained in neighbouring country, Ethiopia, now says that his health is deteriorating by the day having tested positive for Covid-19 a few days ago.
Yassin Juma, whose real name is Collins Juma Osemo, has been in detention for over 47 days and efforts by Kenyan authorities to secure his release have not been successful despite an Ethiopian court directing police to free him on bail.
Juma was arrested by the Ethiopian military while covering protests that erupted in Ethiopia’s Oromia region following the death of musician Hachalu Hundessa.
Reports indicate that Juma was arrested because of his close relationship with the controversial musician, one of few people who have openly criticised Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
He is facing charges including incitement and involvement in violence.
The former NTV journalist has penned an emotional letter, detailing his struggles behind bars in a foreign land.
In the letter, Juma noted that it has been a week since he was diagnosed with Covid-19. However, Ethiopian authorities have neglected him as he has not received any medical care so far, adding that his life is in danger.
“I am currently being held at block (W) 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, ” he wrote.
“My health is failing with each passing day, and I am not sure if I will make it. It is 50-50 with coronavirus but the conditions in detention make my survival chances less.”
Juma cried out to the Kenyan embassy in Ethiopia to secure his release as his detention is “illegal”.
“The Kenyan government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has failed to secure my freedom even after two courts (Lower and High Court) released me last Monday, ” he wrote.
Juma details that he was rearrested and assaulted shortly after being freed on bail at Arada Police Station.
“I was beaten and forced into a minibus together with three others who had been freed too. We were taken around Addis and later dropped at Arada Police and informed we had been re-arrested, this time not by the Federal Police, but by Addis Ababa Police, ” said Juma.
The journalist says that the police do not have a case against him as they don’t have evidence linking him to any wrongdoing.
“It is a game they play to have us incarcerated for long after the law courts freed us. The investigators’ trick is to keep on asking the judge to be given more time. But holding me for 47 days without charging me is against my human rights. Denying me a chance to communicate with my family in the last 47 days is also against my human rights, ” he says.
“My family depends on me. I do not know how they can manage to feed or pay rent. I have seven children and one grandson living with my ex-wife. They all depend on me.”
He now calls on Ethiopian authorities to charge him or release him unconditionally.
“They have failed to bring evidence in court to charge me, ” he added.
He says that it’s wrong for the government to link him to the country’s politics as he is just a journalist doing his work.
“I came to Addis Ababa on June 6, 2020, for a series of shoots as a Producer for Sky News, the UK-based media organisation. The series was a special report on Ethiopia, but mainly cultural. My company, the Horn24 Media, was later assigned by the Oromo Development Association and Oromos in North America Association to produce a documentary for government-affiliated TV station OBN, ” the letter reads.
“…The documentary was about a project funded by Ethiopians in the diaspora that introduces e-learning to at least ten secondary schools in the Oromo Region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received our delegation before and after completion of establishment of servers in the ten schools as a pilot project. I was still in the process of interviewing, travelling and editing at the time of my arrest.
“…I am a respected journalist, and in my decade and a half in this profession, I have won awards for my exemplary work, including (features) ‘Inside Rebel Territory’ (for NTV in 2009) and ‘Dreams and Nightmares (NTV in 2011, on human trafficking), both shot in Ethiopia.
.”..Kindly pass my greetings to my children and grandson. It has been 47 days.”