On Sunday, February 28, 2021, I sent an op-ed submission to the editor of The New York Times in response to the article Ethiopia's War Leads to Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray Region, U.S. Report says, along with the following note urging The Times to acknowledge my submission:
I should like to start by stating that I do not expect The New York Times to publish my response to your inaccurate and biased report on alleged "ethnic cleansing" in Tigray region of Ethiopia. Over the past months, I have made repeated efforts with the Times to respond to various similarly inaccurate and biased reports against Ethiopia, to no avail.
I am submitting the op-ed piece below with the sanguine view, and in the interest of fundamental fairness, that you will publish it. Attached on official letterhead and below, please find my proposed op-ed piece.
My op-ed was ignored.
In your February 26, 2021 article, you claim, "Ethiopian officials and allied militia fighters are leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, the war-torn region in northern Ethiopia." You base this claim on an "internal United States government report obtained by The New York Times."
First, the Ethiopian Government categorically and completely rejects your unsubstantiated and inflammatory claim of "ethnic cleansing" in Tigray. The Ethiopian Government unconditionally condemns any violation of human rights, including "ethnic cleansing" anywhere in the world.
Second, it is curious that the New York Times should be privileged to access an "internal U.S. Government report" when the subject matter of the report, the Government of Ethiopia, is kept in the dark about the existence of such a report. The Ethiopian Government has no knowledge of such a report and is therefore unable to respond to your characterization of the allegations.
Third, a core journalistic principle of The New York Times declares, "Our fundamental purpose is to protect the impartiality and neutrality of The Times and the integrity of its report." We understand this to mean the Times will, as a matter of principle, get both sides of the story before sharing them with their readership. Indeed, doing so is simply an act of journalistic fairness.
It is regrettable that you failed to exercise minimum due diligence required under your own journalistic standards and contact the Ethiopian Government in Addis Ababa or its Embassy in the United States for comment before publishing the story.
Consistent with your own principles of impartiality and neutrality, it is important for those who are depicted in an unfavorable light in your report to have the opportunity to respond and not only present their side of the story but also to help ensure fair coverage and your readers are provided the most complete and accurate view of the subject matter reported.
Fourth, the fact that you have access to the alleged report and failed to make it public creates the inescapable impression that the report was either leaked to you in bad faith and with ulterior motives or the report itself lacks substantial evidential basis to support its purported conclusion of "ethnic cleansing."
As I indicated above, such an allegation of grave human rights violations is customarily shared with the government in question first, and not shared covertly with a news media outlet. A diplomacy-by-media leak is counterproductive because it shrouds the truth in a fog of insinuations, hints and allegations.
Fifth, your story lacks any semblance of balance and context. The indisputable fact of the matter is that the leadership of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) launched an insurrectionary, massive and deadly attack on the Ethiopian National Defense forces on November 4, 2020.
The Ethiopian Government, just like any other sovereign government in the world, took reasonable action to suppress the attack, restore constitutional supremacy and maintain law and order.
Your report completely ignores 1) the fact the TPLF committed the most heinous and treasonous crimes against a national defense force in the military history by killing, maiming, torturing and abusing Ethiopian federal troops stationed in Tigray region; 2) the massive atrocities committed by the TPLF in Mai Karda, documented by Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International; 3) the destruction caused by the TPLF to valuable infrastructure including electric power and communication services, and 4) TPLF's release of untold numbers of convicted criminals who are reportedly committing atrocities today.
I also note with considerable dismay the fact that The New York Times has chosen to amplify the erroneous narratives of the diaspora supporters of the TPLF who traffic falsehoods and disinformation in its publications over the last several months.
Let me set the record straight. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has made provision of humanitarian relief to Tigray region his highest priority. Many international relief agencies are today operating in Tigray region, and the World Food Program has agreed to "scale up operations" to deliver aid. Relief aid has been distributed to over
3.1 million people, with the Ethiopian Government providing more than 70 percent of that aid. The Government has issued an urgent call to its international partners to strengthen existing delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need. The Provisional Administration of Tigray has restored civil administration and life in vast parts of the region has returned to normal.
Regarding allegations of human rights violations in Tigray region, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has tasked an investigative team consisting of representatives from the Federal Attorney General's office and the Federal Police Commission to investigate the claims of human rights abuses in Axum and other places, including Mai Karda. Indeed, 36 suspects in the November 9, 2020 Mai Karda atrocities are awaiting trial at court. The Ethiopian Government will prosecute any persons suspected of human rights violations to the fullest extent of the law.
Regarding the baseless and inflammatory allegation of "ethnic cleansing" in Tigray, we respectfully request that you share us the "internal report by the U.S. Government" allegedly in your possession. Our view is that if such a report actually exists and is based on credible and substantial evidence, the proper U.S. authorities would have shared it with us before sharing it with members of the media. We believe our request is fair even after the fact of your reporting.
I trust this request will not present a challenge to The New York Times. After all, your core journalistic principle professes: "Our fundamental purpose is to protect the impartiality and neutrality of The Times and the integrity of its report."
Fitsum Arega, Ambassador of Ethiopia to the USA