CPJ condemns expulsion of leading foreign journalist

New York, January 23, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged at the Ethiopian government’s weekend expulsion of The Associated Press correspondent in the country. Anthony Mitchell, who reported news on Friday of renewed clashes between police and protesters in the capital, Addis Ababa, left on Sunday after government officials gave him 24 hours to depart.

“Anthony Mitchell is a respected and experienced reporter, and he should not be expelled for doing his job,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “The Ethiopian government, which has imprisoned 16 journalists since November, is demonstrating yet again that it is bent on silencing independent reporting.”

The state-owned Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) said Saturday that the government had decided to expel Mitchell for “tarnishing the image of the nation repeatedly, contravening journalism ethics” and “disseminating information far from the truth about Ethiopia.” It did not provide any details.

AP Managing Editor Mike Silverman said in a statement that Mitchell is an “aggressive and fair journalist” who worked in Ethiopia for more than five years. Mitchell, a British citizen, also worked for the U.N. news agency IRIN. His departure is seen as a serious blow to the foreign press corps in Ethiopia.

The government has imprisoned dozens of opposition leaders, civil society activists, and journalists in the wake of clashes between opposition protesters and security forces in November. Fourteen detained journalists are among a group charged with treason and genocide, which carry a possible death penalty. Two more local journalists have been jailed after convictions on so-called press offenses.

The November clashes followed similar protests in June against election results that the opposition says were rigged. Last Friday, police again opened fire on stone-throwing protesters as annual religious processions were turned into political protests for a second straight day, Mitchell reported for the AP. At least two people were killed and 40 injured in two days of clashes, according to Agence France-Presse.