Reporters Without Borders today condemned the expulsion of British journalist Anthony Mitchell, a correspondent for the Associated Press news agency, who was forced to leave Addis Ababa on 22 January after being accused of “tarnishing the image of the nation.”
Mitchell provided useful, high-quality coverage in a country where reporting is often partisan, the organisation said, urging the Ethiopian government to reverse its decision and let him return and resume working in Addis Ababa.
“Already mired in political crisis, Ethiopia should not now shut itself off from the eyes of the world,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If this were to happen, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government could no longer be able to claim that it is trying to ensure the country’s stability.”
In a statement published by the governmental Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) on 21 January, the information ministry gave Mitchell 24 hours to leave the country, claiming that he had repeatedly ignored warnings about “misconduct” and had “disseminated information far from the truth about Ethiopia.” The details of the alleged misconduct are not known.
Mitchell left Addis Ababa for the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. The AP said it was seeking an explanation from the information ministry, but so far without success. AP managing editor Mike Silverman called Mitchell an “aggressive and fair journalist” who has worked in Ethiopia for more than five years.
Reporters Without Borders meanwhile reiterated its appeal to the United Nations to send a legal observation mission to Ethiopia to assess the validity of the charges against 15 independent journalists who have been held since November and who are alleged by the authorities to have fomented an uprising.
They were arrested in the aftermath of deadly clashes between police and protesters earlier in November, along with leaders of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), human rights activists and civil society representatives accused by Prime Minister Meles of launching the uprising.