Peter Heinlein: Voice of America reporter detained by Ethiopian police

Voice of America reporter Peter Heinlein and his translator were detained last night while trying to cover a protest by Muslims, and have since been released.

Heinlein and translator Simegineh Yekoye were arrested Friday as they left a mosque on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, reported Voice of America. He told VOA editors after his release on Saturday that he was questioned at length about the purpose of his reporting.

"We were interrogated by a police officer who told us that we had engaged in illegal reporting. They say that this is a problem area that we had gone into, and that reporters had no business going in there. We had a lengthy interrogation and gave a long statement in which he grilled us quite extensively about reporting, and about why, how we had gone to this mosque and what our motives were," Heinlein said to VOA.

Heinlein and Yekoye were released after one night in the Ethiopian prison and do not face any charges, according to CNN.

"I am free from jail," he said in a phone interview with CNN. "I got out of jail."

When asked about his condition, he said: "The short answer is, yeah, I'm okay."

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The two were released after a US embassy official visited them in the prison where they were being detained, reported Reuters. Shimeles Kemal, a spokesman for Ethiopia's government, said Heinlein was arrested because he failed to identify himself to police and officials.

VOA and the Committee to Protect Journalists made a statement Saturday condemning the "restriction imposed by the Ethiopian government on foreign journalists," according to UPI.

Media watchdogs have accused Addis Ababa of using national security as an excuse to be heavy handed when it comes to the press, which the government denies, reported Reuters. Critics have referred to a 2009 law under which anyone convicted of publishing information that could push readers to commit acts of terrorism could be jailed for up to 20 years. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 10 journalists have already been charged under the law.