VOA Correspondent in Ethiopia Released From Custody, Charges Dropped

Posted May 26th, 2012 at 5:45 am (UTC-5)
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A Voice of America correspondent in Ethiopia has been released from custody and charges dropped after being detained in the capital, Addis Ababa, while trying to cover a demonstration Friday.

A VOA spokeswoman said Saturday correspondent Peter Heinlein is fine, and is heading to his residence.

Witnesses to the arrest told VOA Friday that Heinlein and his translator Simegineh Yekoye were detained while trying to interview protesters during a Muslim demonstration following Friday prayers. Yekoye's status on Saturday has not been confirmed.

Another Western reporter said there was a heavy police presence at the demonstration and that he also was stopped by police and told to leave the area.

Tom Rhodes, East Africa spokesman for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said he understood that Heinlein was accused of acting “unprofessionally and illegally.” Rhodes said a government spokesman accused Heinlein, who is married to a Danish diplomat, of improperly using a diplomatic vehicle and refusing to show media accreditation.

Rhodes added that the accusations seemed at odds with Heinlein's reputation as a highly professional journalist who has worked for VOA since 1988.