By: Joe Strupp
Three New York Times staffers were freed Monday by Ethiopian military officials after being held for five days, the paper reported. A Times story revealed that the journalists were taken May 16 in the Ogaden region and interrogated at gunpoint before being released without any charges.
“We are greatly relieved that our journalists have finally been released and that their ordeal is over,” Executive Editor Bill Keller said in a story, adding, “Now we are looking for explanations: Why were journalists on a legitimate newsgathering assignment arrested, imprisoned for five days, manhandled and threatened? Why were they denied a chance to communicate with the American embassy in Ethiopia, or with civilian officials of the Ethiopian government? Why were we unable to get accurate information about their whereabouts and condition?”
The three were identified as Jeffrey Gettleman, 35, Times Nairobi bureau chief; Vanessa Vick, 43, a Times photographer; and Courtenay Morris, 34, a videographer. The Times reported that they were reporting on the conflict in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia when they were detained by soldiers in the town of Degeh Bur.
The paper added that they were moved to three different jails before being released from a prison in Addis Ababa. The Times reported that the three journalists, who have now left Ethiopia, were never told why they were detained, and said that Ethiopian military officials refused to notify the American embassy of their arrest.
During questioning, the Times reports, Vick was kicked in the back and all three were repeatedly threatened. It added that Ethiopian soldiers confiscated all of the journalists’ equipment, including computers, cameras, mobile phones and notebooks; none of the equipment has been returned.