A Voice of America correspondent was arrested with his translator in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while covering an anti-government protest on Friday. VOA reports Peter Heinlein and interpreterSimegineh Yekoye were covering tensions between the Ethiopian government and minority Muslims which had resulted in demonstrations.
* In a statement, VOA said “the safety and welfare of our reporters is our utmost concern and we are working to gather more information about Mr. Heinlein’s status.” The news organization and theState Department are trying to get more information and encourage Ethiopian authorities to allow Heinlein to continue his reporting.
* Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement recognizing Ethiopia’s National Day, saying the U.S. “is committed to helping Ethiopia achieve a more peaceful and prosperous future for all its people, and we look forward to continuing to work together toward common goals in Africa and around the world. As you gather with family and friends to celebrate your national day, know that the United States stands with you.”
* No mention was made by the State Department on the arrest.
* The State Department also issued reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 on Thursday, and the Ethiopia page noted the most significant problem in Ethiopia was its treatment of oppositions political figures, activists, journalists, and bloggers. More than 100 people have been arrested. A long list of “other human rights problems includes torture, beatings, abuse, and forced child labor.
* Rights groups want the Obama administration to review their relationship with the country, which, along with democracies Tanzania, Ghana, and Benin were asked to discuss hunger in Africa ahead of the G8 summit, the AP reports. Ethiopia is a close American ally.
* Human Rights Watch issued a report May 18 noting Zenawi used food aid as a weapon against political opponents. Senior Researcher in the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch Ben Rawlence wrote for the Huffington Post that “the more repressive Ethiopia gets, the more aid it receives from Western governments. Why does a country with a human rights record rivaling those of repressive Sudan, Uzbekistan, or Zimbabwe enjoy such solid support in the U.S. and Europe?”
Shawn Humphrey is a former contributor to The Flint Journal and an amateur Africanist, focusing his personal studies on human rights and political issues on the continent.