On March 1, 2021, a woman walks in front of a damaged house in Wukro, north of Mekele, capital of the Tigray region, which was shelled as federal-aligned forces entered the city. Ethiopia expelled New York Times reporter Simon Marks on May 20 in connection with his reporting on Tigray. (AFP/ Eduardo Soteras)

CPJ condemns Ethiopia’s expulsion of New York Times reporter Simon Marks

Nairobi, May 21, 2021—In response to Ethiopia’s expulsion yesterday of New York Times reporter Simon Marks following allegations of “fake news” about the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“Ethiopia’s decision to expel Simon Marks, without warning or explanation, exposes the government’s disturbing efforts to control the narrative on the Tigray conflict and its intolerance for critical reporting,” said CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, Muthoki Mumo. “Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration should immediately rescind the expulsion of Simon Marks; restore his press credentials; and ensure that local and international reporters can work freely in Ethiopia ahead of next month’s elections.”

Officials in Addis Ababa yesterday summoned Marks, an Irish citizen who has reported in Ethiopia since 2019 for the Times and other publications, and drove him to the airport, where they detained him for eight hours before putting him on a plane at about 12:30 a.m. local time, The New York Times reported. The officials provided no explanation for his expulsion and in a thread on Twitter, Marks said he was prevented from going home to collect his belongings and to say goodbye to his child.

Marks’ reporting credentials were initially withdrawn on March 4, shortly after a reporting trip to Tigray during which he covered alleged atrocities including widespread sexual violence, but the journalist’s residence permit was valid until October, according to a May 13 report by The New York Times. Officials at Ethiopia’s Broadcasting Authority, a statutory regulator that has since been renamed the Ethiopia Mass Media Authority, accused Marks of “fake news” and “unbalanced” reporting about Tigray and said that his coverage had “caused huge diplomatic pressure,” according to the same report.

Michael Slackman, The New York Times’s assistant managing editor for international, said in the paper’s report yesterday: “It is alarming that the government of Ethiopia treated the journalist, Simon Marks, like a criminal, expelling him from the country without even letting him go home to get a change of clothing or his passport.”