Ethiopia Expels U.S. Journalist for Probing Civilian Deaths

June 19, 2010

June 19 (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia expelled an American journalist working for the U.S.-owned Voice of America radio service after detaining her for reporting claims by a rebel group that government forces killed 71 civilians.

Heather Murdock said today that she was detained by Ethiopian security June 12 while investigating reports by the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front of killings last week near the eastern Ethiopian town of Babile, Murdock said in an e-mail today. She was released two days later and expelled from the country on June 17.

Bereket Simon, Ethiopia’s communication affairs minister, confirmed the expulsion, saying in a phone interview Murdock “was searching for ONLF people.”

Murdock said from Cairo she “didn’t know talking to people was a crime in Ethiopia.”

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry accused VOA of attempting to undermine the country’s May 23 elections and of “rooting for violence,” according to an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Ethiopia, where virtually all domestic radio broadcasters are controlled by the government or Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling party, has jammed VOA broadcasts to Ethiopia since March. Last year, it jailed an Ethiopian reporter for VOA for two weeks on tax charges before releasing him.