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Ethiopian bloggers pay tribute to jet crash reporter

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Disaster, Freedom of Speech, Media & Journalism, Travel

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 [1] on the crash and Global Voices's roundup [2] 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 [3].

“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! [4]

“Associated Press correspondent Anthony Mitchell was a true friend of Ethiopia,” wrote Addis Voice in Tribute to a true journalist [5]. “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 [6], a “local hero” according to The Other Side in Plane crash in Cameroon [7], “a brilliant journalist” according to Global Voices’ own Ethan Zuckerman in Reactions to the crash of KQ 507 [8] and “a respected and prominent journalist” according to Just Thinking in Anthony Mitchell [9].

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! [10]

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 [11] 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 [12] 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 [13] 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.