The Economist stands by deported journalist, questions Ethiopia's press freedom laws

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Abiy Ahmed.
Abiy Ahmed.
Michael Tewelde, AFP
  • The Economist has reminded Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of his promise for a free press in the country.
  • Tom Gardner, the publication's correspondent in Addis Ababa, had his press credentials withdrawn and was deported shortly after.
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists says Gardner's expulsion and the onslaught on local media showed the government was not interested in press freedom.

The Economist has challenged Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, to live up to his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech that "we are creating an Ethiopia that is second to none in its guarantee of freedoms of expression".

READ | Tigray govt demands independent investigation after major-general dies in detention

This was in response to the publication's correspondent in Addis Ababa, Tom Gardner, having his press credentials withdrawn and subsequent deportation within 48 hours.

In withdrawing Gardner's press accreditation, the country's Media Licence Registration and Accreditation Director Fantahun Asres claimed that the journalist had ignored verbal and written calls about his "mistaken approach" to reporting.

The body said The Economist was free to replace Gardner. However, The Economist said in a statement on Monday that it stood by its top journalist.

The publication said:

The Economist rejects this characterisation of Mr Gardner and deplores his expulsion from Ethiopia. Mr Gardner is an outstanding reporter who adheres to the highest standards of journalistic ethics.

"His reporting from Ethiopia, including on the conflict in the northern region of Tigray, has been professional, unbiased and often courageous," the publication added.

The publication also highlighted Ethiopia's recent attacks on press freedom.

"Over the past year, the government has expelled a reporter for the New York Times and arrested or detained at least nine Ethiopian journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international NGO," the publication said.

Ethiopia's Constitution of 1995 guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the press and the capacity of the press to "entertain diverse opinions".

With a clear climb down from the supreme laws of the country by the government, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumo, said Gardner's expulsion and the onslaught on the local press were clear examples that the government was not interested in press freedom.

"When international journalists are expelled while local members of the press face the threat of arrest, the message is clear: Ethiopian authorities will not tolerate critical journalism or dissenting opinions," he said.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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