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May 15, 2007

anthonymitchell.wordpress.com

We've set up a website to collect all the tributes to Anthony Mitchell that are flooding on to the internet. You can see it at anthonymitchell.wordpress.com. If you want to read through all of the entries, just keep clicking the 'Next Page' link at the bottom of each page.

Anthony's family have also asked people who knew him to send in memories and stories which could eventually be included in a memorial book.

If anyone wants to send in anything, for the website or just for the family, they can use the email address friendsofanthonymitchell@yahoo.co.uk.

Posted by aheavens at 6:34 AM

May 14, 2007

Ethiopian bloggers pay tribute to Anthony

[Originally published on GlobalVoices]

Ethiopian bloggers have flooded the Internet with tributes to Associated Press reporter Anthony Mitchell who was one of 114 people killed when Kenyan Airways flight KQ507 crashed in southern Cameroon early Saturday May 5. (See the BBC story on the crash and Global Voices’s roundup of the reaction of Kenyan bloggers to the accident.)

Anthony worked as a journalist in Ethiopia for five years and led the reporting of violence that broke out after the country’s controversial national elections in May 2005.

He was thrown out of the country in January 2006 after the Ethiopian Government accused him of engaging in “hostile” reporting. But he remained something of a hero to many Ethiopians, including many of the country’s highly politicised bloggers.

For me, he was the best foreign journalist to be stationed in Ethiopia for the last decade. Apart from his journalistic philosophy, he would also be remembered as incredibly courageous correspondent. I don’t think AP reports about Ethiopia would have been the same, had he not been directly and indirectly responsible for those stories - In Ethiopia as a reporter and in Kenya, as an editor,

wrote Seminawork in Anthony Mitchell, courageous journalist.

“The Death of Anthony Mitchell,AP's Ethiopia reporter…is really a big loss to Ethiopia and Africa in General,” wrote 4kilo in May God bless his soul!

“Associated Press correspondent Anthony Mitchell was a true friend of Ethiopia,” wrote Addis Voice in Tribute to a true journalist. “During the height of the post-election repressions, Anthony Mitchell wrote nothing but the truth, the whole truth.”

“Anthony Mitchell was a true friend of Ethiopia and Ethiopians,” according to Carpe Diem Ethiopia in Anthony Mitchell: Keeping the Tormentors Honest, a “local hero” according to The Other Side in Plane crash in Cameroon, “a brilliant journalist” according to Global Voices’ own Ethan Zuckerman in Reactions to the crash of KQ 507 and “a respected and prominent journalist” according to Just Thinking in Anthony Mitchell.

There is no one - with an eye on Ethiopia - who does not know Anthony! His deeper understanding of the politics in Ethiopia and consequently his reportings of the things that were going on in the country led to his expulsion from Ethiopia in 2006. But based in Nairobi, Anthony continued to keep an eye on Ethiopia and he kept all of us - Ethiopians - and the whole world informed of our country!

wrote FilwehaPundit in We Missed a Great Man!

Anthony Mitchell was also widely admired by his fellow reporters, especially his colleagues in Associated Press’ Nairobi office where he worked after his expulsion.

Les Neuhaus, the reporter who replaced him in Ethiopia, left a comment at the end of Seminawork’s above-mentioned entry, stating:

Anthony Mitchell made me a better reporter…If it is true that he is gone, it is a severe blow to journalism in Africa, and the world at large. He perfected his craft in Ethiopia and Ethiopians should be proud of his contribution to news reporting from that troubled country. It is a blow to me as I read this heavy, heavy news.

Beirut-based journalist-blogger Christopher Allbritton met Anthony on a press trip in Djibouti just a few weeks before the crash. In AP's Anthony Mitchell on plane that crashed on his blog Back to Iraq, he wrote:

I met Anthony, who is 39, in March in Djibouti, when we both were onboard the FGS Bremen, a German frigate, for a story on maritime security operations in the area. Anthony was full of funny, self-deprecating stories about himself and Africa, stories that contained no small amount of hard-won wisdom, too. He talked about the clans of Somalia, the US military's actions in the Horn of Africa and constantly took the piss out of our military escort in the most good-natured way possible.

The writers behind the Pulitzer Center’s Ethiopia Blog got to know Anthony in Nairobi, where he moved after being expelled. In Anthony Mitchell they wrote:

When we were in Ethiopia, more than a year after Anthony left, people were still talking about his reporting. Those with ties to the government were critical, of course; everyone else said he had done more to publicize Meles' abuses than any other journalist in his years there. Testimony to the quality of his work comes from Ethiopia's many bloggers, who are mourning his death.

I worked along side Anthony for almost two years in Ethiopia and described my feelings about his death in Anthony Mitchell on my blog Meskel Square. The entry concluded:

It is difficult to think of a note to end on. Anthony would have found any attempt at sentimentality or grand-sounding sentiment ridiculous. The best I can say it that he was a very good man and a very good journalist. And to state the obvious - that everyone who knew him in Addis Ababa is absolutely devastated today.

Posted by aheavens at 5:52 PM

May 9, 2007

Anthony Mitchell

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My friend Anthony Mitchell was one of 114 people who died when Kenya Airways flight KQ507 crashed in southern Cameroon early on Saturday May 5.

I'm writing this so late in the day because we were away out of mobile contact when it happened and only heard the news on the road. Now that we're back, it is hard to find anything coherent to say.

Ethiopia's bloggers have already been piling in the tributes. Seminawork was right to say that Anthony was the best foreign correspondent that Ethiopia has had for years, certainly since we first arrived in the country.

Les Neuhaus, who replaced Anthony as AP's correspondent here after Anthony was thrown out by the government, wrote "Anthony Mitchell made me a better reporter" in a comment after Seminawork's post. I can say the same.

The Ethiopian Foreign Correspondents Association last night finalised a letter to his family which said "Anthony led our press corps with integrity, fearlessness and a raucous spirit".

Here is the full statement from his family that sums him up perfectly:

From Catherine Fitzgibbon, Anthony's wife, his sister Jackie Jotischky and parents John and Jackie Mitchell:

'We are all devastated, Anthony was a fantastic father, husband and son. He was the life and soul of every party with a wonderful dry wit and a great sense of humour. He lived life to the full and died doing the job he loved.

'He was a brilliant, intrepid journalist, who was committed to Africa. He developed a real passion for Ethiopia, where he worked for several years, before his persistent exposures of the government's abuse of human rights resulted in him being expelled by the government and we moved to Kenya. But where ever he has worked in the world he has made new friends and earned respect for acts of personal kindness and his professional integrity.

'Anthony also had a very gentle, caring side; he was devoted to his family and our two gorgeous children Tom, three, and Rose, one.'

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There are so many images and memories that are crowding in at the moment.

Perhaps the most vivid is taking shelter from torrential rain in a guard's hut outside Addis City Hall on the morning of June 8 2005, the worst day of the first burst of post-election violence. We took turns wearing a big laminated 'press' badge from the Great Ethiopian Run to venture outside to see what was going on. A group of around 50 street boys charged up the road chanting, smiling, waving stones. A truck load of heavily-armed red-beret-wearing special forces sped past the other way into the Mercato. There was a long burst of heavy gunfire in the distance. About 20 minutes later, the soldiers sped back again in their truck, their job done.

It was the first time I had covered anything so big or so violent. But Anthony knew exactly what he was doing, getting close enough to report on what was happening without risking our own necks. He showed huge concern for the reporters around him and knew when to back off when it looked like our presence, with visible cameras and notebooks, was creating its own reaction from the crowd.

Later that morning, he got everyone to pile into a car and head to the Black Lion hospital to try to talk to survivors. On the way, he made a phone call to get the first estimate of the death-count – then less than 20. We all got in past the guards and spent about an hour watching the doctors doing their best to save the wounded in the wards and seeing the bodies pile up in the morgue.

His coverage of the rest of the election unrest followed a similar pattern. Official spokespeople were offering up their official, rather modest estimates of the numbers of dead and injured. Anthony spent hours touring hospitals, interviewing doctors and visiting morgues to get as close as possible to an accurate casualty list, confirmed by eye-witnesses.

It is arguable that without the credible figures and eye-witness accounts that Anthony collected, the overall coverage of the violence would have been much more muted. The international condemnation would have been much quieter – a knee-jerk reaction to one more bout of unrest in one more distant African country. There would have been significantly less pressure on international donors to change the terms of their support to the government of Ethiopia. There would have been significantly less pressure on the Ethiopian government to launch an independent inquiry into the violence. It was no surprise when that inquiry finally issued its report in October last year, it was Anthony who got the scoop on the findings, a whole day ahead of everyone else, even though he had to do his reporting from faraway Nairobi.

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There are loads of other stories about his generous and kind and raucous sides, as well as his integrity as a journalist.

I remember sitting up late on the roof of the Africa Hotel in Axum with my wife Amber, Anthony, AP photographer Boris Heger and AFP reporter Lea-Lisa Westerhoff, as we waited for Italy to return its obelisk. Then there were the loud, drink-fueled arguments during the Friday night sessions at Addis Ababa's Old Milk House.

There was the last major story I covered with him before he was thrown out of Ethiopia - the drought that hit the Somali region late 2005, early 2006. It is often difficult to get foreign news editors interested in stories about yet another Ethiopian humanitarian disaster. Even local papers rarely put them anywhere near the front page. But Anthony managed to cut through all that cynicism and compassion fatigue with a story about two twins – one of them suffering from severe acute malnutrition – in the therapeutic feeding centre in Gode hospital.

As I said at the time, it was ironic that one day he was busy highlighting the plight of starving children in Ethiopia, the next he was being kicked out of the country for writing stories that were "hostile" to Ethiopia.

According to the Ethiopian News Agency, he was guilty of "tarnishing the image of the nation", "repeatedly contravening journalism ethics", "disseminating information far from the truth about Ethiopia" and, once again for luck, "[disseminating] information bent on tarnishing the image of the country". The truth was that he was simply too good at asking questions of people in authority. In the end they got so tired of his impertinent, targeted questions that they used the first possible opportunity to get rid of him, giving him 24 hours to leave the country – thereby accidentally giving him the greatest tribute a journalist could hope for.

The evening before he left, I phoned him to see if he wanted me to get people together for one last drink. He said no – that he would prefer to spend the time with his family. I didn't see him again although Amber had dinner with them in Nairobi a few months back and we planned to visit them quite soon.

It is difficult to think of a note to end on. Anthony would have found any attempt at sentimentality or grand-sounding sentiment ridiculous. The best I can say it that he was a very good man and a very good journalist. And to state the obvious - that everyone who knew him in Addis Ababa is absolutely devastated today.

Posted by aheavens at 6:15 AM

May 3, 2007

China responds: Not protesting, reprimanding, but bullets!

GlobalVoices has got a great round-up of Chinese bloggers' reactions to the killing of nine of their nationals by the ONLF in Ethiopia's Somali region. (See Reuters' story on the attack.)

Mostly it is a mixture of grief, anger and worries about the safety of China's commercial expansion into Africa.

Here is how Tiexue BBS responded:

Shall we change our way in respond to those beasts who killed our fellow Chinese?! Not protesting, reprimanding, but bullets!

Posted by aheavens at 10:13 AM

Not all there

I don't want to be paranoid but ... only half of this home page seems to be loading at the moment. The first three entries come up, then the page freezes without anything appearing in the right hand column. When I apply a bit of proxy-server magic, the whole page loads no problem. Are my outlaw days back again or is it just another ETC glitch?

Posted by aheavens at 6:33 AM

Racist South Africans and angry Ethiopians

I was speaking to a journalist friend a couple of days ago who had just shut down his pan-African blog. The main reason he stopped writing was because of low reader interaction - he wasn't getting any comments.

Passionate posts about Lords Resistance Army atrocities, Nigerian politics, the rise of the mobile phone, the curse of oil etc. etc. all went up without any response.

There were only two topics guaranteed to get the comments flowing. The problem was the comments were so hostile and mean-spirited that they were worse than having no comments at all.

The topics were racism among white South Africans and anything at all about Ethiopia.

Posted by aheavens at 5:52 AM

May 1, 2007

OpenNet says Ethiopian blogs really blocked

Here's an article I just did for Reuters.

Ethiopia blocks opposition Web sites - watchdog

An Internet watchdog on Tuesday accused Ethiopia of blocking scores of anti-government Web sites and millions of Weblogs in one of sub-Saharan Africa's biggest cases of cyber-censorship.

Web monitor, the OpenNet Initiative, said the Horn of Africa country was stopping citizens from viewing opposition-linked Web sites, and blogs hosted by Blogger, an online journal community owned by Internet search engine Google Inc.

Longer version beneath the fold:

Ethiopia blocks opposition Web sites - watchdog

An Internet watchdog on Tuesday accused Ethiopia of blocking scores of anti-government Web sites and millions of Weblogs in one of sub-Saharan Africa's biggest cases of cyber-censorship.

Web monitor, the OpenNet Initiative, said the Horn of Africa country was stopping citizens from viewing opposition-linked Web sites, and blogs hosted by Blogger, an online journal community owned by Internet search engine Google Inc.

Ethiopia dismissed the report as "a baseless allegation".

"We may have technical problems from time to time," Information Ministry spokesman Zemedkun Tekle. "But we have not done anything like that and we have no intention of doing anything like that."

The OpenNet Initiative -- a partnership between Harvard Law School, and universities of Toronto and Cambridge and Oxford -- said it had gathered proof of interference.

"We have run diagnostic tests using volunteers in Ethiopia which indicate that they are blocking IP addresses," OpenNet research director Robert Faris said, referring to the unique numeric addresses of Web sites.

"The evidence is overwhelming that that is what they are doing. ... Most of the sites that we found blocked were related to freedom of expression, human rights and political opposition," he said by telephone from the United States.

The allegations could be embarrassing for the Ethiopian government, which is a major ally of the United States in Africa and has been criticised for a post-election crackdown on opposition that killed nearly 200 people in 2005.

"I think it's a decision that makes the Ethiopian government look extremely hostile to free speech and to open political discourse," said Ethan Zuckerman, research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society in the United States.

The Ethiopian blockages are part of a growing global trend, Faris said.

"As recently as five years ago, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia were the only countries that were filtering the Internet. Now we have found two dozen," he added.

The full list of countries will be published in a book later in the year titled 'Access Denied: the Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering' published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Part of an initial report on the findings, that will be presented at a conference in Cambridge later this month, has been seen by Reuters.

OpenNet found some filtering of pornographic and political Web sites in Islamic north African countries including Tunisia.

Some pornographic and anti-Islamic sites were also blocked in Sudan, although the Web sites of many human rights groups critical of the situation in Darfur remained visible.

But it found no evidence to back up reports of online censorship in Eritrea and Zimbabwe. Ethiopia was the only widespread campaign identified in sub-Saharan Africa, the OpenNet report said.

"We are very interested in Ethiopia because it is a very recent entry into this field. Its internet penetration is very low but it is still going to the trouble of blocking the internet. That shows the lengths that the regime is willing to go to," said Faris.

Ethiopia has one of the world's lowest Internet access rates -- only two out of every thousand Ethiopians were logging on in 2003, according to the United Nations Development Programme's latest Human Development Report.

But it also has one of Africa's healthiest blogging scenes, fuelled by a handful of anonymous writers in the capital Addis Ababa and the large communities of politically active Ethiopians in the United States and Europe.

Bloggers like Nazret.com (http://nazret.com/blog) published the first eyewitness accounts of political unrest that followed controversial national elections in 2005. Resident bloggers including Seminawork ( http://seminawork.blogspot.com) have provided daily updates of the ongoing trial of opposition politicians. Ethiopundit (http://ethiopundit.blogspot.com ) and Carpe Diem Ethiopia (http://carpediemethiopia.blogspot.com), are among a long list of diaspora bloggers well known for their scathing political commentary.

Ethiopian bloggers have started displaying 'Blocked in Ethiopia' badges on their websites and swapping technical tips on how to get round the filters. Other sites currently inaccessible in Ethiopia include the home page for the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy ( http://www.kinijit.org) and 39 out of the 61 Ethiopian weblogs tracked by GlobalVoices, a website that reports on weblogs outside the West part-funded by Reuters.

OpenNet said many of the sites were caught in a blanket blockage of blogs hosted by Google's Blogger service, home to many millions of blogs across the world, most of them nothing to do with politics.

OpenNet said it found evidence of the blockage by recruiting volunteers who ran programs on their computers inside Ethiopia scanning the network run by the state monopoly provider Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation. The results were then emailed back to OpenNet for analysis.

The scans followed the individual units or "packets" of digital data that get sent out whenever an internet user types a web address into a browser's address box. "We found that the packets were dropped at the same place...Any packet associated with a particular IP address was dropped. You get a 'time out' message when you try to access the site. Your request never leaves the country...It is the simplest and bluntest way of blocking," said Mr Faris.

Posted by aheavens at 4:03 PM

Jailed Ethiopians

How many Ethiopians would you say were currently languishing away in British prisons? Gerry Sutcliffe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the UK's Home Office has the answer.

Posted by aheavens at 12:21 PM