US journalist held in Ethiopia

2012-05-26 13:12

Washington - A Voice of America (VOA) correspondent and his translator were arrested Friday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa while covering an anti-government protest, the US government-funded broadcaster said.

VOA said on its website that Peter Heinlein and interpreter Simegineh Yekoye were held when trying to interview protesters from the Muslim minority who have been demonstrating against alleged government interference in their affairs.

In a formal statement, VOA said it is "working to gather more information" about his status.

"The safety and welfare of our reporters is our utmost concern," it said.

"We have been in contact with State Department officials and will release details as soon as they are available," VOA said.

"We urge Ethiopian authorities to allow Mr Heinlein to carry out his journalistic responsibilities without interference," it added.


A State Department official said on condition of anonymity that "we've communicated our interest to the Ethiopian authorities," the official said, but declining to give more information for privacy reasons.

Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director for Human Rights Watch, said Heinlein and his colleague were taken to Maekelawi, the federal investigation centre in Addis Ababa, which is where she said "high-profile" or political detainees are often held.

She cited media and other sources.

Lefkow said such detentions are part of a crackdown on the media that Human Rights Watch has witnessed over the years where independent journalists have been driven from the country or jailed on terrorism charges.

Foreign journalists have also been held in the past and deported.


Two Swedish journalists were jailed recently, however, for 11 years under anti-terrorism laws for trying to enter the country's conflict-torn east.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) quoted an Ethiopian government spokesperson as saying that Heinlein was detained because he was "allegedly using a diplomatic car and refused to show his press identification."

"Peter Heinlein is a veteran reporter with many years' experience in the profession," said CPJ East Africa consultant Tom Rhodes. "We call for the immediate release of Heinlein and Simegineh Yekoye."

"Heinlein has been based in Addis for some years now, and it's very hard to imagine him behaving unethically or unprofessionally," said HRW's Lefkow.

"The obvious conclusion is that the government is simply trying to crack down on coverage of these protests.

"The government should immediately release both Peter and his translator and stop trying to clamp down on the reporting on these protests," Lefkow added.

Tense relationship

Despite the fact that Ethiopia and the United States are allies, she said, VOA and the Ethiopian government have had a tense relationship, with Addis Ababa jamming its broadcasts and detaining VOA's Ethiopian journalists.

"This is the conundrum of Ethiopia when you look at the US government position," said Lefkow.

In a speech in Accra in 2009, US President Barack Obama said "Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions," but he invited Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to the G8 summit earlier this month.

Read more on:    ethiopia  |  east africa  |  security

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


11 things men don’t know about their clothes

There’s actually a logical explanation for that little button under your collar.

Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!
This is how the Top Gear presenters spend their £55 million!
Thirty and still single? There’s hope!
SA’s Playboy Playmate of the year in action!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange

Good Morning, Mr Mandela tells the extraordinary story of how a young woman had her life, beliefs, prejudices and everything she once believed in utterly transformed by the greatest man of her time. Now R221. Pre-order now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


It may be hard to stay cool, calm and collected. Your emotions can get quite heated in the moment. You may benefit from finding more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.