The Ethiopian government deported British journalist William Davison after refusing to renew his accreditation. Davison had not hesitated to cover sensitive stories such as government corruption and the re-introduction of a state of emergency.
This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 14 March 2018.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Ethiopian government’s deportation of British journalist William Davison in the space of just a few hours last week, after refusing to renew his accreditation. Davison had been based in Addis Ababa for seven years, reporting initially for Bloomberg and then for The Guardian.
The immigration services contacted Davison on 5 March 2018, detained him at his home the next morning and then forced him to board an international flight on the evening of the same day, telling him he would otherwise have to spend the night in a police cell.
Prior to his deportation, Davison spent several months trying to renew his accreditation but, after much to-ing and fro-ing between the Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO), the foreign ministry and the department in charge of immigration, his application was finally rejected.
“We have nothing against this journalist but he has to complete all the stages in the procedure for obtaining his accreditation,” a GCAO representative told RSF.
Davison, who also headed the Ethiopian Foreign Correspondents Association, had not hesitated to cover sensitive stories such as government corruption and the re-introduction of a state of emergency on 16 February.
“The deportation of a foreign correspondent who had been based in the country for many years is incomprehensible and unacceptable,” RSF said. “Increasing the bureaucratic constraints on journalists in order to obstruct their work and expelling those who know the country best will not help Ethiopia to emerge from its political crisis. The government needs to understand that journalists are not subversives. They are essential observers whose job is simply to inform the public.”
The release of two journalists on 14 February, after seven years in prison, seemed to have signalled an improvement in the oppressive climate. But the declaration of another state of emergency two days later, six months after the previous one was lifted, has allowed the authorities to clamp down on freedom of movement and communication.
The state of emergency law increases the complications for journalists, who need to keep getting assignment letters stamped by the GCAO, in addition to having their press cards with them, in order not to be stopped by the security services while travelling outside the capital.
Press freedom violations are common in Ethiopia, which is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.