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

By Esha Sarai
September 07, 2020

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.

Marks, along with three journalists who work for Ethiopia’s Awlo news site, were traveling to Mekele to cover elections in Tigray that the federal government has deemed illegal.

National elections, scheduled to take place last month, were postponed in March due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. But in defiance of the order, the Tigray region announced that it would be holding elections for its regional parliament this week.

Marks said the security officers at the airport made it clear that the controversial elections were the reason they were stopping him.

“They… were also looking at social media posts and previous articles I had written,” he said.

Simon Marks
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.

Reuters 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.


  1. Boycott EAL the not reformed .
    List of crimes Against Humanity which went in EAL for three decades are endless. As long as we spend our money for the savage evil Tewolde ceo of eal , we are responsible for the atrocities that keep taking places in bole EAL.

    Federalism or no federalism or Zenawism or ethnic federalism or letting Ethiopians know the constitution or not letting Ethiopian people know the constitution is all politics , confusion.

    So we heard that the title self determination is written on article 39 so we heard , whatever else is on the other articles we not heard.

    Whatever is the title of all the other articles I got no clue. Who does ?

    Youtubers should read the constitution out loud from begining to the end.
    There are so many books published on the market, the constitution is not on the market . 99.9% of Ethiopians want to read or know the constitution but do not have access to it. So 99.9 % of Ethiopians just go by what we hear about the constitution from the Motor mouths know it all elites as always . 99% of Ethiopins don’t know how many articles are in there , 39? 40? 100? Who knows ? Then the one percent go on saying “constitution got improved – constitution shouldn’t be improved -bla election bla not election bla bla bla ….”

    The 99.9% wouldn’t even know how bla bla bla yet

    Any capitalist money maker printing press really should have knowledge to publish the constitution make it accesuble to really try to come up with ideas about how to let the 99.9 percent people of Ethiopians get access to this “constitution” because 99.9% was not and is still not granted access to read the constitution.
    Aba Gadda is planned to be on tv before it is written . Anything is on our faces Abs Gadda , fiction books , make belief preaching it is all on a tip of a our fingers but the constitution the so called federalism document is not anywhere.

    The constitution is papers which the EPRDFites the one percent and very few other lucky ones read it so far, the 99.,9% go on hearing about the constitution from whoever read it. We the 99.9% don’t have to be a politician or don’t have to be called upon for our opinion about the costtitution and get nagged about it , all we nagging back is make this constitution accessible to all .

    So Mr. Or Mss. Philanthropist spend your money on letting people read the constitution first . Federalism or not , we Ethiopians should have access to the current constitution which the so called Memes Zenaei was so busy writing drafting for years and not leading the country abandoning his leadership post or abandoning his family members because it took him years and years of concentration ADHD trying to come up with these constitution which apparently was so important to be drafted for the leader to go awol per Azeb Mesfin and other EPRDFites such as Abiy who are wanna be o e percents wanna be the cream of the crop . Can somebody from within EPRDF please please reform yourself enough to allow them s Constitution to be published and put it on the market or even give it as free handout. Ala moudon can afford to do that but he only gives money to the Saudi prince/king now. I or another Ethiopian shouldn’t be forced to join a political party just to get access to read the “constitution” who some prefer to call it federalism , Zenawism , Gidibism , damian , electcrtiyinism , abayism , electicitism ….. whatever it is called , Let’s read it first first hand , make it accessible to all.

    The Guardian › world › dec › e…

  2. These so-called journalists think that they don’t have to follow the laws and rules of the country in which they operate. They are implicitly working with dark forces, foreign and internal, to break up the country. Hence they must be brought before the court of law for this treasonous crime. Unless such actions are taken on them, they will be emboldened and will do it openly with much vigor.

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