The estimable Andrew Heavens – independent journalist and author of the excellent Meskel Square blog (required reading for anyone paying attention the East Africa) – has discovered that the Addis Tribune newspaper are big fans of his blogging. Such big fans that they lifted his recent interview with Ethiopian Minister of Information Bereket Simon wholesale from his blog and ran it on pages 14 and 15 of their June 24th edition. Making the newspaper a family affair, the article on page 13 was written by Heavens’s wife, lifted from the BBC web site.
(Just imagine how much of Heavens’s content we’d see in Ethiopian newspapers if he released his posts under a Creative Commons license… :-)
Heavens seems good humored about the incident, pointing out that there’s a generally lax attitude towards copyright in Ethiopian newspapers, and that one can generally tell the best papers as they’re the ones that lift the least content. He’s also cognisant of being too critical of Ethiopian journalists in the same week that editors of four Amharic newspapers have been arrested and held on defamation charges for writing about the role of the Ethiopian air force in election-related violence. (You may remember that, earlier this month, the Information ministry revoked the press credentials of five reporters working for Voice of America and Deutsche Welle, and that Heavens has been concerned about maintaining his ability to report from Addis.)
The Ethiopia/Belarus story is a fascinating one. Eight Ethiopian SU-27 fighter pilots have requested political asylum at the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. (This follows the defection of two helicopter pilots to Djibouti a week earlier.) Belarus – often described as the “last European dictatorship” – has strong military and trade ties with Ethiopia, which explains why the eight pilots were able to request asylum – they were in Minsk on a training course. It’s unclear whether the pilots in question are fleeing possible charges from post-election violence or defecting for other reasons. (This is a very difficult story to follow in the Western press – if anyone’s got good leads on the story, please let me know.)