Ethiopian Mass Media Authority(EMA) issued a letter of warning to Tom Gardner, Ethiopia, and the Horn of Africa correspondent for the Economist.
The warning was issued after the authority reportedly discovered that the correspondent falsely claimed in a tweet from his personal social media account on March 19, 2022, that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed spoke via phone with the TPLF leader, Debretsion Gebremichael. In light of this, the authority warned Tom Gardner to exercise caution in his reports, especially in issues of national interest.
“The Authority is issuing you a warning as this specific action fails to demonstrate vigilance and professionalism in your capacity as a correspondent for The Economist. Furthermore, you are advised to exercise caution in all of your reports and assertions about issues of national interest,” reads EMA’s letter issued to Tom Gardner.
Moreover, the authority affirmed that the correspondent's claim was not properly sourced or supported by the appropriate authorities.
In response to the circulating rumor of the conversation, Ethiopian Government Communication Services Minister Dr. Legesse Tullu in an interview with Deutsche Welle (DW), denied the event had occurred, stating that the news circulating that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and TPLF President Debretsion Gebremichael had spoken over the phone is false.
"Such false information is being shared, particularly in the Amhara region, to incite the people and create instability within the community," he added.
Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesperson, also denied that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Dr. Debretsion spoke on the phone. "Regardless of who these multiple sources Thomas Gardner cited are, they must have plucked their information out of thin air," he said.
Tom Gardner is a correspondent to The Economist based in Addis Ababa who covers issues in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. He covers politics, economics, business, and culture in East Africa and the Horn of Africa, reporting from all over the continent. He also worked for ForeignPolicy, The Guardian, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and other publications.