Saturday, May 12, 2012

IPI World Press Freedom Heroes Condemn Imprisonment of Ethiopian Journalist Eskinder Nega

By: Naomi Hunt, Press Freedom Adviser for Africa & the Middle East
VIENNA, Apr. 23, 2012 – Twenty international journalists who have been recognised as World Press Freedom Heroes by the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) have condemned the Ethiopian government’s decision to jail Eskinder Nega and other journalists on terrorism charges, and called for their immediate release.
Eskinder Nega, an online writer and critic of the current Ethiopian government, was arrested in September 2011 and is accused of supporting terrorism, for which he could face the death penalty if convicted. He was jailed shortly after having criticized the government’s use of anti-terrorism laws to jail other journalists and opposition figures. This is hardly Eskinder’s first brush with the authorites – he and his wife, also a journalist, were jailed for 17 months on treason charges in the aftermath of the disputed 2005 elections. Their son was born in prison. Since then, Eskinder has been banned from journalism but has continued to speak out and write.
Ethiopia, which is set to host the World Economic Forum on Africa in May 2012, jailed Eskinder and four other journalists on anti-terrorism charges over the past year. Woubshet Taye, deputy editor of the now-defunct Awramba Times, and Reyot Alemu of Feteh newspaper were convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison this January. In December, Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johann Persson were sentenced to 11 years in prison for aiding terrorists. They had been arrested last year in the company of rebels in the Ogaden region.
Last month, IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie called on United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to speak out against Ethiopia’s use of anti-terror laws to jail journalists, which IPI said “makes a mockery of the universal right to ‘hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’”
IPI noted that this practice also undermines “the fight against real terrorists, who use violence – and not words – to achieve their ends”. ..
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