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Sunday, January 22, 2006

AP Journalist Leaves Ethiopia Under Order

AP via Yahoo! News -- An Associated Press correspondent left Ethiopia Sunday under an expulsion order after attempts to appeal the decision went unanswered.

Anthony Mitchell had been ordered Saturday to leave the country within 24 hours by Solomon Abebe, the press spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs. Fantahun Asres, an accreditation official with the Ministry of Information, told Mitchell, who is a British citizen, that the government believed his reporting was hostile to the Ethiopian government.

The AP and Western diplomats attempted to contact the minister of information with no success Saturday or Sunday. The ministry's offices were closed Saturday and Sunday, but the minister usually is reachable on his cell phone.

Seyoum Mesfin, Ethiopia's foreign minister, did not show up for an appointment with an AP reporter on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Khartoum, Sudan, on Sunday.

Mitchell's expulsion was widely reported by Ethiopian state radio and television and was a front-page story in the government-run newspaper.

"Mitchell complied with the government's order to leave the country today, but we hope he will be allowed to return to Addis Ababa soon so that he can be with his family and return to his duties," said Mike Silverman, AP's managing editor. "The AP stands behind Mitchell, who is an aggressive and fair journalist and has worked in Ethiopia for the AP for more than five years."

Mitchell arrived in Nairobi late Sunday.

The Ethiopian government in recent weeks has cracked down on other journalists reporting on the country. Independent journalists and editors were among 129 people arrested in November and December and charged with treason, genocide and other offenses.

Five Ethiopian radio journalists for Voice of America living in Washington also were charged in absentia in the same case.

The country has been wracked by civil and political violence since general elections in May. Opposition leaders claimed before their arrest that the balloting was rigged, and observers from the European Union found serious problems with the voting.

More than 88 people have since died in sporadic clashes with security forces during opposition protests or religious observances.

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Anthony Mitchell recently reported on Ethiopia's version of Pop Idol.
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