News / Africa

Ethiopia Releases VOA Correspondent, Drops Charges

VOA's Peter Heinlein investigates wreckage from the "Black Hawk Down" incident near Mogadishu, Somalia, Aug. 13, 2011. (VOA Photo/G. Joselow)
VOA's Peter Heinlein investigates wreckage from the "Black Hawk Down" incident near Mogadishu, Somalia, Aug. 13, 2011. (VOA Photo/G. Joselow)
VOA News
A VOA correspondent and his translator are safe at home with their families Saturday after being detained overnight by Ethiopian police on a charge of "illegal reporting."

Veteran correspondent Peter Heinlein and translator Simegineh Yekoye were arrested Friday as they were leaving a mosque on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Heinlein told VOA editors Saturday he was questioned at length about the purposes of his reporting.

"We were interrogated by a police officer who told us that we had engaged in illegal reporting. They say that this is a problem area that we had gone into, and that reporters had no business going in there," said Heinlein. "We had a lengthy interrogation and gave a long statement in which he grilled us quite extensively about reporting, and about why, how we had gone to this mosque and what our motives were."

Heinlein said he and Simegineh were released and all charges were dropped after an official from the U.S. Embassy's consular section appeared at the prison Saturday morning. He said computer and recording equipment that were confiscated upon his arrest were returned and that he and Simegineh are in good health.

Voice of America issued a statement from its headquarters in Washington saying it is relieved by Heinlein's release.

It said Heinlein is "a professional and highly respected journalist whose only aim is to provide accurate and balanced coverage of events in Ethiopia.  We are concerned about a pattern of harassment of journalists like Mr. Heinlein, and urge the government to allow them to perform their duties without fear of interference.”

Tom Rhodes, East Africa spokesman for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told VOA Saturday that his organization is frustrated at what seems to be a shrinking tolerance of foreign journalists by the Ethiopian government.  

"You know, at CPJ we’re incredibly relieved that they have released Peter Heinlein today and that it hasn’t become a long, trumped-up process," Rhodes said. "But we’re also very upset that he was arrested in the first place, because it appears to be that, at least in the earlier reporting we’ve done, that they simply couldn’t find a genuine reason for his arrest."

Heinlein said the arrest appeared to be connected to his reporting on a dispute between Ethiopia's Muslim minority and the government over the leadership of the nation's Muslim community.

He said he and Simegineh appeared to have inadvertently crossed police lines aimed at keeping reporters away from a meeting after Friday prayers at the mosque where the dispute was being discussed.

He said police stopped his car as he and the translator were leaving the mosque, and later took the two of them to a local police station. From there, they were transferred to the city's main police station for questioning.

He said Simegineh had been permitted to return home overnight because there was not a suitable place to keep her in the prison and ordered to return Saturday morning.

Heinlein, an east Africa correspondent based in Addis Ababa, has worked for VOA since 1988.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Anonymous2 from: United States
May 25, 2012 6:46 PM
Lets hope for and expect a speedy release of the journalist.

Some of the stories on the Muslim protests that have appeared in recent days seem to be doing a rather poor job of coverage. A Saudi financed Muslim sect protesting is not fairly described as "Muslims" protesting. It doesn't reflect the turbulence in Ethiopian society as foreign parties try to promote their religious views within Ethiopia.

by: Ras Mitat from: USA
May 25, 2012 6:39 PM
So why was the other Western reporter not detained? Could it be because he wasn't using his wife's diplomatic vehicle to bypass police line, like Peter Heinlein?

by: Anonymous
May 25, 2012 4:41 PM
when was Ethiopia jounalist-friendly country?.Why is it that some people have immunity and monopolistic authority to perpetrate crime and arrest jounalists. Are the world truly 'United Nation'? It is absolutely false.Zenawi can do whatever he likes; he blockaded Ogaden, commited war crimes in anuka, and still continues arresting jounalists. it is a SHAME to UN.
Comments page of 2

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs