Anthony Mitchell, The Associated Press correspondent from Britain, was on the board of the plane crashed over the weekend in Cameroon. He was to investigate the criminal trade in endangered species for food.
Mitchell, 39, had just spent a week in the Central African Republic, where he visited markets that sold elephant meat and chimps and gorillas to international smugglers. His stories were to be published before an international conference on the topic next month.
"We are all devastated," said Catherine Fitzgibbon, his wife, in a statement on behalf of Mitchell's family. "Anthony was a fantastic father, husband and son. He was the life and soul of every party with a wonderful dry wit and a great sense of humor. He lived life to the full and died doing the job he loved."
Mitchell made global headlines last month with his in-depth investigation into the illegal detention and transfer of terror suspects from Kenya to Somalia and eventually into Ethiopian prisons. His work forced U.S. and Ethiopian officials to acknowledge a program that until then had led to the secret detention of dozens of people, including women and children.
Human rights groups praised the story, which won an internal AP award for breaking news, but it was stridently criticized by the Ethiopian government as coming from an "ivory tower" where the war on terror was not understood. It was not the first time Mitchell's stories angered Ethiopian authorities.
During the May 2005 election, Mitchell repeatedly uncovered government efforts to influence the vote's outcome and obtained secret European Union reports that detailed allegations of rigging.
In January 2006, the Ethiopian government expelled him for what it called hostile reporting. The expulsion was roundly condemned by press freedom groups around the world. He became a staff reporter for AP in the Nairobi bureau the following August.
On Sunday, contributors to Ethiopian political Web sites posted tributes to Mitchell, praising him as a dedicated journalist who courageously reported the truth.
"Anthony was an extraordinarily talented and dedicated journalist," said AP President and CEO Tom Curley. "His loss will be deeply felt at AP and to anyone who cares about Africa and its future."
"He was one of our top reporters in Africa," said John Daniszewski, the AP international editor in New York. "We will never forget the sacrifice he made and the courage he showed in Ethiopia and on his other assignments."
Mitchell was born in Chertsey, England and moved to Africa in 2001 with Fitzgibbon to work and live in Ethiopia where she was an aid worker. He soon became one of the most widely respected journalists in the country.
He first contributed to the Associated Press in 2001 and as a freelancer in Ethiopia also contributed to The Times of London, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent. He became AP's Ethiopia correspondent in 2003.
Before moving to Ethiopia, he worked for the Daily Express from 1996-2001, covering international affairs, particularly the conflicts in Kosovo and Sierra Leone. Mitchell covered London courts and national news events for the National News Agency in London from 1995-1996. His first journalism job began in 1993, as a reporter for The Richmond and Twickenham Times.
Mitchell graduated from York University in 1993, where he studied philosophy and politics.
"Wherever he has worked in the world he has made new friends and earned respect for acts of personal kindness and his professional integrity," Fitzgibbon said. "Anthony also had a very gentle, caring side; he was devoted to his family and our two gorgeous children."
He is survived by Fitzgibbon, son Tom, 3, daughter Rose, 1, parents John and Jackie Mitchell and his sister Jo Jotischky.
One of the women made a remark to the other because of loud music. The verbal conflict escalated into a fight