“Exercising my freedom of speech is one of the reasons why I love life”, says Tewodros Tsegaye, originally from Ethiopia, now running a US-based media called Reyot Media. On his most recent talk show, Tewodros disclosed he is among a dozen or so journalists and media personalities in the West who are on a list to be ‘neutralized’ by Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Prosperity Party. Tewodros revealed that this list includes Ermias Legesse, another prominent Ethiopian media personality in the US and his colleagues at Ethio 360.

‘The murder plan against Tewodros Tsegaye et al’

According to Mr Tsegaye, three weeks ago he received a ‘credible tip’ about a plot to murder him. The murder plot includes studying his ‘vulnerable points’ to eventually murder him by physically assaulting him or by poisoning his food at restaurants. What restaurants the planners have in mind is not clear though Ethiopians in the East Coast of the US where both Tewodros Tsegaye and Ermias Legesse live frequent Ethiopian restaurants in the area. Tewodros stated the plan to target journalists deemed as anti-Ethiopian regime’s ruling Prosperity Party was being covertly organized by ruling party in co-operation with operatives of Eritrea’s ruling party People’s Front for Democracy and Justice inside the US. After discovering this serious threat to his life, Mr Tsegaye wasted no time and notified the Montgomery police department and gave a detailed report to the FBI.

A media household name

Long before moving to the United States, Tewodros Tsegaye was a household name in the air waves of Ethiopia, famous for his eloquent argument, sharp criticism and quick-witted responses to what he considers unjust. Tewodros says his media stands for promoting “accountability in the courts of conscience, law and history.” He passionately describes his role as “making it difficult for the oppressor to continue to oppress and for the oppressed to accept oppression as inevitably normal”. His fans included public figures and known personalities in the country who are now allies of Abiy Ahmed.

Media as an enemy of the State

Mr Tsegaye brings to light the evident contempt Abiy Ahmed holds against the media by recalling his speech made three years ago on a parliamentary Q and A session. Speaking directly to Ethiopian journalists in the West and broadcasted on state media, Abiy Ahmed said “Because I have no way of controlling you there; I can only say that may God, the God of truth, condemn you”. Mr Tsegaye wonders what would have happened to him if he currently lived in Ethiopia within Abiy Ahmed’s reach.
Recently Committee to Protect journalists, a New York based group that internationally promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists, concluded that “Ethiopia now ranks with Eritrea as sub-Saharan Africa’s “worst jailer of journalists”.

Violence against journalists in Ethiopia in the past included the killing of journalist Dawit Kebede Araya in Mekelle on January 19, 2021, the capital of Tigray, and the abduction and physical assault on Ethio Forum’s Abebe Bayu in Addis Ababa.

For some Abiy Ahmed’s resentment towards the free press is based on the ideas of dealing with enemies of people of power borrowed from The stirrup and the Throne (in Amharic እርካብና መንበር), a book he allegedly wrote under the pen name DRAZ when he was a minister. Page 38 of the book contains a paragraph that goes like “pestering the enemy like a dog is not a permanent solution, only temporarily useful. But an enemy that is not annihilated to the extent it won’t rise again will undoubtedly come back to attack again in due course. So, when the time is ripe, don’t forget to hide behind the enemy like a tiger, and jump on it and sterilize its dream before the sun sets. Or it is necessary to set a hidden trap.”

From ‘anti-media media campaign’ to murder

A presentation at the African Leadership Excellence Academy, formerly known as Meles Zenawi Leadership Academy, by the Prime Minister’s Social Affairs Advisor, Daniel Kibret, recommended establishing ‘parallel medias’ that counteract medias such as Ethio 360, and protect and defend “the political system from extreme media campaigns” by financing, recruiting and training media personalities. Sources informed UMD Media that one example of such personalities is self-proclaimed activist Seyoum Teshome.

”Follow what Seyoum Teshome says on daily basis in his anti US, Europe, Tigray, independent media, etc on one hand; and his pro Russia, China and Eritrea rant on the other, and you will easily know what the Ethiopian government is up to”, says a media expert UMD spoke to on condition of anonymity.

Last year, in one of his daily shows, Seyoum Teshome said, “Since each and every Tigrayan youth has been raised with Tigray People’s Liberation Front mentality etched in their brain, if you want to win, you have to target and annihilate all the youth in Tigray”.

Seyoum Teshome’s social media accounts were eventually taken down by Facebook and Twitter reportedly for violation of the social media companies’ rules on hate speech and inciting violence. Both Reyot Media’s Tewodros Tsegaye and Ethio 360 media’s Ermias Legesse have been a target of Seyoum Teshome’s incessant verbal harassment and threats in the past.

UMD Media previously reported, based on credible sources, that Seyoum Teshome has secured government funding in the past through Daniel Kibert. The latter received backlash and international media coverage last year his public speech where he said “They should be erased and disappeared from historical records. A person who wants to study them should find nothing about them. Maybe he can find out about them by digging in the ground” referring to Tigrayans. Reyot Media has been at the forefront of reporting on and exposing such hate speeches by governmental officials and pro-government media.


Asked by UMD Media on the weight of the threat on his life as well as its implication on his media work, Tewodros Tsegaye defiantly said, ”Of course I want to live and I have people in my life whom I want to live for and who want me to live.” He reiterated ‘I have no plan to quit or reduce on what I have been doing. If anything, this threat drives me more to fight for what is just and what is right. I,for sure, will continue to expose the regime’s crimes”

Ermias Legesse recalls that it has been at least three years since different forms of campaigns were waged against his media involvement. He said the campaigns included “planting divisions within our media, blackmailing, harassment, dragging me to court with bogus accusations with the goal of weakening me economically”.

For Mr Legesse, the worst of all targeted attacks to silence him was the ‘murder attempt’ on his life and his colleagues in 2019 in Maryland where he said he and his colleagues were announcing the establishment of their current media. Mr. Legesse is now working on a book that will include a section on the details of what unfolded before and on that fateful day. Since then, he had to move his place of residence more than once including now after the most recent threat.

Regarding the impact of the threat on his media work, “Should I be careful and take precautionary measures like I am doing right now? Yes! Am I going to call it quits? No way!”, said Ermias Legesse.

UMD Media

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