THE DEPARTMENT OF Foreign Affairs has raised concerns over the expulsion of an Irish journalist from Ethiopia, who was covering the ongoing war in Tigray.
In a statement on Twitter this evening, the Department said that the expulsion of Simon Marks, an Irish New York Times journalist was “of serious concern”.
“His expulsion shows a worrying shrinking space for media freedom. Press freedom is fundamental for democracy and must be respected,” said the Department.
Marks was currently covering the conflict in Tigray, and was expelled from Ethiopia on 20 May.
His expulsion shows a worrying shrinking space for media freedom.
Press freedom is fundamental for democracy and must be respected.
— Irish Foreign Ministry (@dfatirl) May 26, 2021
Marks was summoned by government officials in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and was detained for 8 hours in the airport, before being placed on a plane at 12:30am local time, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
It comes as a general election is scheduled to take place next month, with current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed facing reelection.
In a Twitter thread, Marks said that immigration officers prevented him from going home to collect his belongings, alongside refusing to allow him to kiss goodbye his two-year-old son.
Not only did Immigration officers prevent me from going home to collect my belongings but also from kissing goodbye to my beautiful 2-year-old son and two dogs, despite my polite requests. At least I could give my partner a kiss at the airport. 3/5
— Simon Marks (@MarksSimon) May 20, 2021
Marks had his reporting credentials withdrawn in early March after he returned from a reporting trip, covering the war in Tigray and alleged atrocities carried out by the Ethiopian military.
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The CPJ has condemned Marks’ expulsion, saying that it exposes the Ethiopian government’s efforts to control the narrative of the war in Tigray.
“Ethiopia’s decision to expel Simon Marks, without warning or explanation, exposes the government’s disturbing efforts to control the narrative on the Tigray conflict and its intolerance for critical reporting,” said Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative.
“Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration should immediately rescind the expulsion of Simon Marks; restore his press credentials, and ensure that local and international reporters can work freely in Ethiopia ahead of next month’s elections.”
Michael Slackman, assistant managing editor of the New York Times’s International desk said that the expulsion of Marks was alarming and that he was treated like a criminal.
“It is alarming that the government of Ethiopia treated the journalist, Simon Marks, like a criminal, expelling him from the country without even letting him go home to get a change of clothing or his passport.