An Ethiopian reporter cited in a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks has fled his country, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.
Argaw Ashine told the US-based media watchdog he was interrogated three times by the authorities this month.
They wanted him to reveal the identity of his government source referred to in a 2009 cable about Press harassment. WikiLeaks says Argaw was not cited as a US embassy informant and “no journalistic source is named”.
But the CPJ said it was the first instance in which a citation in a WikiLeaks cables had caused direct repercussions for a journalist.
“The threat we sought to avert through redactions of initial WikiLeaks cables has now become real,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement.
“A citation in one of these cables can easily provide repressive governments with the perfect opportunity to persecute or punish journalists and activists,” he said.
“While, it is outrageous for a journalist to feel the need to leave their country for a period, neither is it good for the CPJ to distort the facts for marketing purposes,” WikiLeaks said in a statement.
It is not clear where Argaw, who works for Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper and is chairman of the Ethiopian Environment Journalists Association, is now staying.
He told the CPJ he fled over the weekend after he was summoned for intensive questioning by officials from the Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO) with regard to the US cable of October 26 2009.
The interrogation was related to attempts to silence the private Amharic language Addis Neger newspaper, which has since closed and its editors had fled the country.
“A contact within GCAO told the Addis Ababa-based Daily Nation reporter Argaw Ashene (Ashine) that the GCAO had drawn up a list of the six top Addis Neger officials . . .who they plan to target in order to silence the newspaper’s analysis,” the cable says.