Naturally we protest against Ethiopia's arbitrary expulsion of Post correspondent David Ottaway who, with the two other Western correspondents resident in Addis Ababa, has now been forced dents resident in Addis Ababa, has now been forced that, for an indefinite period, there will be no reliable reports available on Ethiopia's continuing turmoil. The three are accused, in essence, of paying too little attention to official government statements and too much to "hearsay, rumors and fabricated propaganda material of counterrevolutionary elements." Translation: They followed the standard professional practice of consulting unofficial sources as well as official ones. In Evelyn Waugh's classic novel "Scoop," set in the Ethiopia of another day, the publisher told his correspondent exactly what was wanted: "A few sharp victories, some conspicuous acts of personal bravery on the Patriot side, and a colourful entry into the capital." In today's Ethiopia, that comes closer to defining the sort of storybook non-coverage that the government wants -- and that Mr. Ottaway and his colleagues were not prepared to provide.
Ethiopia's attitude is, to be sure, far from novel. The government lacks control of the country and evidently feels compelled to take measures that it wishes to hide from the world, not to mention its Ethiopian adversaries. At an accelerating pace, it has been shifting its dependency from Washington to Moscow. Once that shift had progressed to the point where the cost of Western reaction would be tolerable, the officers made their move. The exclusion of the journalists represents not a comment on the quality of their reporting but a comment on the military government's tightening relations with the Kremlin. The Soviet-bloc correspondents in Addis Ababa, needless to say, remain.
There is a special edge to the government's action. It lies in the extent to which it leans on Third World concepts of news management, concepts that, thanks to UNESCO, among others, have gained increasing currency and a certain legitimacy in recent years. It is asserted that Western notions of freedom of information disguise new post-colonial forms of political manipulation and cultural imperialism. One way for a Third World country so minded to react might be to produce alternative news reports about itself to compete with Western reports. Such alternative reports, however, almost always turn out to be unreliable and propagandistic distortions, on the Soviet model. It is easier to kick out or keep out journalists who cannot be counted on to see things the government's way. This is what Ethiopia now has done.