After several semi-official warnings in preceding months, Simon Marks was notified on his return from reporting in the war-torn northern Tigray region in March that the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA) had suspended his accreditation for “lacking impartiality” and for disseminating “fake news.”
A letter giving the reasons for this decision referred in particular to two articles about the Tigrayan conflict and Ethiopia’s border dispute with Sudan that were published early this year by Bloomberg.
Marks, who is an Irish citizen, spent several weeks trying to convince the EBA to reinstate his credentials but was finally told on 7 May that he would not be allowed to resume working until October. He told RSF that this will prevent him from covering the parliamentary elections, which have just been postponed. RSF tried to contact EBA director-general Mohammed Edris but he did not respond.
“This suspension testifies yet again to a desire by the Ethiopian authorities to silence reporters and block access to information,” RSF said. “In a region such as Tigray, from where it has become almost impossible to get any information, preventing a journalist from working shows a very clear mistrust of the media. It reflects badly on the EBA, which is supposedly tasked with diversifying the media landscape. We urge the authorities to rescind this disproportionate decision and allow journalists to work freely throughout the country.”
Journalism and access to news and information are increasingly endangered in Ethiopia, especially in Tigray, where the federal government has been at war with the local authorities since November.
During the first few weeks of the war, the EBA announced that it had suspended the Reuters correspondent’s accreditation because of “misleading” coverage, and that it had sent warning letters to the BBC and Deutsche Welle. A journalist who asked not to be identified told RSF it was deplorable that he and his colleagues were being threatened with losing their accreditation.
After rising in RSF's World Press Freedom Index for three years, Ethiopia has fallen two places in the 2021 Index and is now ranked 101st out of 180 countries.