, ADDIS ABABA, May 26 – A Voice of America (VOA) reporter detained while covering a protest in the Ethiopian capital will be released from jail Saturday, a government spokesperson said.
“We decided to secure his release,” Shimeles Kemal told AFP, adding that he is expected to be released “soon.”
VOA said reporter Peter Heinlein was arrested Friday while trying to interview members of Ethiopia’s Muslim minority, who have been protesting alleged government interference in their affairs.
Shimeles said Heinlein was detained because he failed to produce his identity card when approached by police.
“He refused to explain his identity or to explain that he was a journalist, then they took him to the police station,” said Shimeles.
Shimeles had initially said Heinlein could face deportation for failing to “abide by the rules of the land,” but later told AFP the reporter will be permitted to stay in the country.
“I thought he might be deported, but this is not the case,” he said.
Several journalists have been detained and charged in Ethiopia in recent months, including two Swedish journalists sentenced to 11 years in prison in December under the country’s anti-terrorism law.
The press watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists says Ethiopia’s media is one of the most restricted in the world.