Eugene Hugo, Washington correspondent of the Johannesburg Star, has been called home by his newspaper following public attacks on him for his reporting of a controversy involving South African official in Washington.
Congressional sources said the journalist's recall appeared to be connected with his reporting of two recent incidents involving eavesdropping by South African agents on closed hearings of an ad hoc House committee monitoring developments in South Africa.
Rep. Thomas J. Downey (D.-N.Y.) a coordinator of the panel, praised Hugo's reporting as "very accurate, unbiased and competent" and said it would be "a blow to press freedom in South Africa" if his recall stems from his recent dispatshes.
Hugo denied charges, published in pro-government newspapers in South Africa, that he had "conspired" with the U.S. government to embarrass his country. He declined to comment further on the case, saying he has been so instructed by his paper.
The eavesdropping incidents involved the attendance by a South African information departmant officer at a closed congressional briefing by State Department officials Jan. 18! and attendance by an employe of paid South African lobbyist at a closed banned journalist who recently escaped from South Africa.
The ad hoc committee discovered the leaks in both cases and protested to South Africa Ambassador Donald Sole.Hugo filed detailed reports on the developments to the Johannesburg Star and other Argus newspapers there.
A pro-government newspaper in South Africa last week quoted a senior government official there as saving Hugo was not fit to carry a South African passport and indicated that consideration was being given to withdrawing his passport. Another newspaper close to the government published two attacks on Hugo.
Hugo was informed last week that he was being called home for another assignment before the termination of a normal reporting tour in Washington.
He has been assigned here for 13 months.