Journalists Say They Were Barred from Traveling to Cover Ethiopian Regional Election

Simon Marks, a freelance journalist who often reports for VOA, was stripped of his passport and cellphone at Ethiopia’s Bole International airport Monday while traveling to cover elections in the Tigray region. Marks is one of at least four journalists who were barred from boarding the flight in Addis Ababa. “I made it through security, but when I got to the gate there were two plainclothed security officials flanked by people in uniform belonging to the National Intelligence Security Service of Ethiopia. They were asking me who I was, why I was traveling there,” Marks told VOA via WhatsApp.  At Bole Airport this morning in Addis Ababa, three local reporters, myself, and other members of the public boarding a flight to Mekele were prevented from traveling by National Intelligence and Security Service. Phones and laptops confiscated, social media accounts scrutinized.— Simon Marks (@MarksSimon) Simon Marks (Courtesy picture)Marks said security officials kept his passport, press card, residency card, and cellphone and gave no indication how he might retrieve them.  “There was nothing else to do but leave the airport,” Marks said. In a statement released shortly after the incident, Ethiopia’s Foreign Correspondents’ Association condemned the actions. “We urge Ethiopia’s federal authorities not to undermine the significant steps taken to increase media freedom over the past two years by attempting to police what journalists can or cannot report,” the statement read. #ETHIOPIA FOREIGN CORREPONDENTS’ ASSOCIATION CONDEMNS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BLOCKING,HARASSMENT OF JOURNALISTS SEEKING TO REPORT— Dawit Endeshaw (@dendeshaw) September 7, 2020Reuters reported that a total of twelve people, including the four journalists, were barred from boarding the flight to Mekele Monday. An estimated three million people may vote in the September 9 Tigray region polls, which the federal government has deemed unconstitutional and has vowed not to recognize.  The federal government has not announced a date for national elections to be held. 

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