Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ethiopia: 4 Journalists Win Free Speech Prize | Human Rights Watch

Hellman/Hammett Award Honors Jailed, Exiled Reporters
DECEMBER 20, 2012
(New York) - Four Ethiopian journalists have received the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award for 2012 in recognition of their efforts to promote free expression in Ethiopia, one of the world’s most restricted media environments.
Eskinder Nega Fenta, an independent journalist and blogger; Reeyot Alemu Gobebo of the disbanded weekly newspaper Feteh; Woubshet Taye Abebe of the now-closed weekly newspaper Awramba Times;and Mesfin Negash of Addis Neger Online were among a diverse group of 41 writers and journalists from 19 countries to receive the award in 2012. Eskinder, Reeyot, and Woubshet are imprisoned in Ethiopia; Mesfin fled in 2009. All four journalists were convicted in 2012 under Ethiopia’s draconian anti-terrorism law.
“The four jailed and exiled journalists exemplify the courage and dire situation of independent journalism in Ethiopia today,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Their ordeals illustrate the price of speaking freely in a country where free speech is no longer tolerated.”
The Hellman/Hammett grants, administered by Human Rights Watch, are awarded annually to writers and journalists around the world who have been targets of political persecution and human rights abuses. The prize is named after two American writers who were harassed during the 1950s anti-communism investigations. Lillian Hellman suffered professionally and had trouble finding work while Dashiell Hammett spent time in prison. A distinguished selection committee awards the grants to honor and support journalists whose work, activities, and lives are suppressed by repressive government action.
The journalistic work and liberty of the four Ethiopian award-winners has been suppressed by the Ethiopian government in its efforts to restrict free speech and peaceful dissent, clamp down on independent media, and limit access to and use of the internet. They represent a much larger group of journalists in Ethiopia forced to self-censor, face prosecution, or flee the country, Human Rights Watch said.
Eleven Ethiopian and foreign journalists have been charged and sentenced under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law in 2012. Critical blogs and internet pages are regularly blocked. The Ethiopian parliament passed a new  telecommunications law in 2012, further controlling internet usage, just weeks after the biggest state printer, Birhanena Selam,issued a new contract for its publishers stipulating that it could censor the content of any publication it deems to violate the law. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the third-largest number of journalists forced to flee their countries since 1992 has been from Ethiopia, after Somalia and Iran.
Like many other journalists in Ethiopia, the four award-winners have suffered greatly, both personally and professionally, in following their profession and exercising their right to free speech, Human Rights Watch said.
On July 13, after nine months in detention, Eskinder Nega, a veteran Ethiopian journalist and the foremost critic from the media of the ruling Ethiopian government, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, as well as participation in a terrorist organization and treason. His case is under appeal. He has been jailed numerous times. Eskinder and his wife, the fellow journalist and newspaper publisher Serkalem Fasil,were arrested, detained for more than two years, and charged with treason following the contested 2005 elections. They were acquitted of all charges in April 2007. Since his release, Eskinder has faced ongoing harassment, surveillance, and intimidation. The authorities denied him a publishing license. In February 2011 he was once again briefly detained. Despite the ongoing harassment, he refused to leave Ethiopia and continued to write and speak out until he was again imprisoned.
Woubshet Tayewas the deputy editor of the Awramba Times prior to his arrest on June 19, 2011. He was convicted, along with Reeyot Alemu, on three counts of terrorism in January 2012. Woubshet alleged in court that he had been tortured during his pretrial detention, but the complaint was never investigated by the court. His arrest was not the first threat he faced as a result of his work. In 2010, prior to the general elections, an official from the government's media licensing office accused him of “intentionally inciting and misguiding the public.” Woubshet was also briefly detained following the 2005 elections.
Reeyot Alemu was an English teacher and a columnist with one of the last remaining independent papers, Feteh. Reeyot was arrested on June 21, 2011, and convicted on January 19, 2012, on three counts of terrorism. In August, an appeals court reduced her sentence from 14 to 5 years, maintaining one of the terrorism charges against her.
Mesfin Negash works for Addis Neger Onlinewebsitewhich he established along with other colleagues after fleeing the country in 2009. Mesfin was convicted in absentia in the same trial as Eskinderunder the anti-terrorism law’s article on support for terrorism, which contains a vague prohibition on “moral support.”Mesfin was one of the editors of the now-defunct popular analyticalAddis Neger newspaper, but was forced to close the paper and go into exile in November 2009, with most of the paper’s senior staff, after the authorities threatened him. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Reporter jailed in Ethiopia among women journalists honored -

Alemu13Reeyot Alemu missed an important dinner engagement in Beverly Hills.  But she had a good excuse.
The 31-year-old journalist is jailed in the notoriously brutal, rodent-infested Kaliti prison in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. She’s two years into a five-year sentence for daring to write about poverty, opposition politics and gender equality.
The dinner she missed Monday was the annual awards ceremony, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, for the International Women’s Media Foundation, which celebrates courageous women journalists.
This year’s honorees included Alemu, whose detention will be reviewed next week by Ethiopia’s highest court, organizers said. There’s only modest reason to be hopeful, although the attention of the award could put pressure on the regime.
Even from prison, Alemu declined to be silent.
“Shooting the people who march through the streets demanding freedom and democracy; jailing the opposition party leaders and journalists… preventing freedom of speech, association and the press; corruption and domination of one tribe are some of the bad doings of our government,” she wrote in accepting one of three courage awards.
"I know that I would pay the price for my courage and I was ready to accept that price,” she wrote.
Another honoree, Khadija Ismayilova of Azerbaijan, was jolted into serious journalism by the death of investigative reporter Elmar Huseynov.
“He was shot — five bullets in the mouth,” Ismayilova said. “Shot dead in front of his door.”
Another colleague survived having his legs run over by a car and then being left for dead, simply for asking how a charity controlled by the president’s wife was funded. She decided that a pervasive silence of self-censorship about corruption had to be broken.

Ismayilova, 36, works for Radio Free Europe, which, as a foreign-based operation, may offer some protection from outright brutality. It didn’t stop powerful forces from installing hidden video equipment in her bedroom.
Blackmailers threatened to post intimate footage of her and her boyfriend unless she backed off.
“I was surprised with my reaction,” she said. “I discovered that anger is bigger than fear.”
She continued her work, and the video was posted online — instantly making her a target for harm in the socially conservative Muslim country.
She kept working, and soon aired a story about how the president’s family benefited financially from an expensive vanity project — building the world’s tallest flagpole. Within six months, another regional autocrat built a pole two meters higher.
“I’m not chasing them,” she said of President Ilham Aliyev and his family, who’ve become the focus of her repeated reports on corruption. “Just whatever you did, their names pop out.”
She added: “I had like bodyguards for a couple of months, but I don’t need it. It doesn’t prevent anything. They are much more powerful than I am and they can do whatever they want. They can kill me if they want.
“So it doesn’t make sense to think about it. I do what I want to do…I will do my work.”
The third honoree, Asmaa al-Ghoul, a journalist/blogger from Gaza, gained widespread attention in 2007 when she published a critical letter to her uncle, a military leader of Hamas, the faction which controls Gaza. It was titled “Dear Uncle, Is This the Homeland We Want?”
The letter criticized him for forcing Islamic views on the population and using the family home to interrogate and beat members of the rival political group Fatah.
She’s been arrested and beaten twice by Hamas — once when she was writing about the Arab spring, and again about her desire for an independent Palestine under a united government.
In an interview, al-Ghoul said that Gaza suffers from three overlapping occupations: by Israeli forces who send helicopters overhead and drop bombs, and also by the oppression of the two main, rival Palestinian factions.
At Monday’s dinner, a lifetime achievement award went to Zubeida Mustafa of Pakistan, who is 70 and nearly blind, but continues to write. She was saluted as a woman who opened the doors of the newsroom to other women in her country.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Somalia journalists protest "libelous Guardian article" -

Dozens of Somali journalists on Thursday held protests against an article in the British paper the Guardian in which the writer alleged Somali reporters to be corrupt and that many of them are killed for their involvement in graft.

The Guardian piece authored by London-based journalist Jamal Osman was entitled "Somali Journalists are dying of corruption as much as conflict" claimed that the majority of journalists killed in Somalia are murdered as a result of their involvement in corruption, a claim vehemently refuted by the country's journalist Union.

"We think saying that Somali journalists are involved in corruption and that they are killed because of it is something we cannot comprehend. Somali journalists are killed by those who want to silence them and Jamal and by extension the Guardian are justifying the killing of Somali journalists," Mohamed Ibrahim, leader of National Union of Somali Journalists said during the protests in Mogadishu.

Somali journalists carried banners and placards that condemned the content of the piece run by the British newspaper and authored by a London-based journalist Jamal Osman, who often reports from Al-Shabaab held areas for the Guardian Newspaper and Channel 4, a British TV station.

Some of the banners and placards that protesting journalists carried read: "Jamal Osman justifies killing of Somali journalists," "Shame on you, Guardian" and "Somali journalists are protesting against libelous article by so-called journalist Jamal Osman."

The protest was held at a restaurant in Mogadishu where the latest deadly attack against Somali journalists took place last month in which three journalists were killed when twin suicide attackers targeted the Village Restaurant, an up-market Cafe frequented by reporters.

The Guardian article came at a time when Somali journalists suffered the deadliest year with the brutal killing of 15 of them at the hands of the group of Al-Shabaab, according to the Somali journalists union.

"This is a libelous and cruel piece by a man with an agenda to divert attention from the real murders of Somali journalist and accuse them of contributing to their own death. This is cruel, unprofessional and unjustified," said Mohamed Nuhurkey, a local freelance journalist at the protest.

The Somali Journalist Union announced that the Union as well as its members and the wider journalist community were severing their relations with the Guardian and Channel 4 and demanded an apology from the Guardian and called for an investigation into "the libelous piece." 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Swedish journalists tell of time in Ethiopia jail - BBC News -


Swedish reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson (R) arrive at Arlanda airport in Stockholm September 14, 2012.Martin Schibbye (L) and Johan Persson arrived back in Sweden in September after more than 400 days in an Ethiopian jail

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Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye have been speaking to the BBC about their time in prison in Ethiopia.
They were recently freed after serving more than 400 days of an 11-year sentence.
The pair were found guilty of entering the country illegally and supporting a rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).
Their lengthy jail terms put the treatment of journalists in Ethiopia under the international spotlight.
Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were captured along with ONLF rebels in June 2011.
They maintained that they were only doing their jobs, and human rights group Amnesty International said the journalists had been prosecuted for doing "legitimate work".
But Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon previously defended the decision to jail the pair, saying the journalists were caught "red handed" co-operating with "terrorist organisations".
Former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi reportedly pardoned the journalists before his death in August, leading to their release.
'Rats, fleas and sick people'
Johan Persson told the BBC World Service programme Newsday that conditions in the prison in which hey were held were poor.
"It was 200% overcrowded. It was very hot. There was a lack of water. It was dusty. There were rats, fleas and many people were sick with HIV or tuberculosis," he said.
But he said the conditions were not as significant as the other inmates: "What's interesting is who they put in there: journalists and the political opposition."
Although the pair admit that they entered Ethiopia illegally, they argue that their trial was unfair.
"The trial was a joke," said Mr Persson. "Meles Zenawi was saying on national television, three or four weeks before the trial started, that we were guilty."

Start Quote

As long as governments make laws to protect themselves against journalists, our job is to break those laws. I would do the same again today”
Johan Persson
They also believe the charge of moral support for terrorism, of which they were found guilty, has been misused against other journalists in Ethiopia.
"For the last few years Ethiopia has been using its anti-terror legislation to crack down on the media and to crack down on journalism," Mr Schibbye told Newsday.
The freelance reporters had been in the Ogaden, an ethnic Somali region in eastern Ethiopia, for four days before they were arrested.
"The Ethiopian army spotted us. Then they followed in our footsteps for three to four days. Then they ambushed us.
"We were attacked by about 150 Ethiopian army soldiers who opened fire on us. We got hit quite quickly. I got hit in the shoulder and Johan got hit in the arm. Somebody shouted, 'media, media, international press,' and we were arrested," said Martin Schibbye.
'No regrets'
After their arrest they said they were ordered at gunpoint to take part in a film supposedly documenting their relationship with the Ogaden National Liberation Front.
"Two civilians, who we'd never seen before, were dressed up as rebels. The soldiers gave them guns and stood them in front of us, and they testified against us and said that we came with them from Somalia," says Mr Schibbye.
The journalists allege that senior Ethiopian civilian officials were in charge of the filming.
"This was not being done by some crazy militia: the director was the vice president in the region, and in the evening the regional president called us and said, 'We are not satisfied by your performances in the film,'" said Mr Schibbye. Eventually the film was used against them in court.
Ethiopia's eastern Ogaden region has been the focus of an insurgency by local ethnic Somalis.
"We were walking through villages where there had been people living till recently, but now they had fled, forced out by the conflict. There was heavy fighting and that was one of the reasons why we were detected and followed and ambushed by the Ethiopian army," Mr Persson said.
Despite spending more than a year n prison, they say they have no regrets their time in Ethiopia.
For Martin Schibbye, the work of foreign correspondent is one that requires taking risks and refusing to accept there are areas closed to journalists.
His colleague agrees: "As long as governments make laws to protect themselves against journalists, our job is to break those laws. I would do the same again today."

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Assange, Extradition and the Ecuadorian Embassy

Assange, Extradition and the Ecuadorian Embassy

Assange Speaks to UN
Michael Ratner (US attorney for Julian Assange): Assange called for release of Bradley Manning and attacked President Obama's call for free speech while suppressing whistle blowers
  September 30, 2012
Pressure Put on Manning to Implicate Assange
Michael Ratner: As Wikileaks Founder Nears 100 Days in Ecuadorian Embassy Sweden's refusal to interview Assange in London suggests they are working with US towards extradition
  September 13, 12
United States vs. Manning & Assange
Michael Ratner: Army is trying to pressure Manning into implicating Julian Assange so that he too can be charged and extradited to US
  February 29, 2012
Ecuador Defies UK/US Pressure, Gives Assange Asylum
Baher Azmy (CCR): International humanitarian law trumps extradition treaties
  August 17, 12
Will Ecuador Give Assange Asylum?
Ray McGovern: Washington Post threatens Ecuador if Wikileaks founder given asylum
  June 22, 12

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ethiopia: jailed journalists, opposition leader property confiscated [501818946] | The Africa

The Ethiopian Federal High Court has ordered the property of a jailed Ethiopian journalist and opposition party leader to be confiscated.
The decision to confiscate Eskinder Nega's property, according to the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice, comes after a request made by federal prosecutors.
However, the courts ordered that a villa house registered under Nega's name and another residential house, inherited from his parents, as well as an automobile registered under his wife's name, not to be sold or transferred to a third party.
Nega is currently serving 18 years imprisonment on terrorism charges.
In May 2012, Eskinder was awarded the prestigious Pen American's Freedom to write annual prize for his work.
The courts also ordered that opposition leader, Andulem Arage's car, which was believed to be his, but registered under his wife's name, not be sold or transferred to a third body.
Arage is serving life imprisonment under the same terrorism charges.
The federal court also ordered the property of another journalist, Abebe Gelaw's property, a stand and a residential villa in Addis Ababa not to be sold or transferred to a third body.
Gelaw, a United States resident, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in absentia. His residential house is said to be registered under his wife's name.
In July 2012, Ethiopian courts sentenced 20 journalists and opposition politicians between eight years to life imprisonment.

Read the original article on : Ethiopia: jailed journalists, opposition leader property confiscated [501818946] | The Africa 
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Monday, September 24, 2012

Swedish Television reportedly blocked by Ethiopia government

ADDIS ABABA: Sweden’s national television channel SVT has reported that their website has been blocked by the Ethiopia government since early Saturday morning.
The reported blocking, which was able to confirm was not loading in the country, comes less than two weeks after two Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were given pardons after serving one-year in jail on “terrorism” charges after being arrested while covering stories in the eastern part of the country.
According to sources contacted by SVT, the website has been down in the country since early on Saturday morning.
Despite SVT’s claims, one top government official says that if it has been blocked it did “not come from the top,” arguing that new Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has “not given any notification for any media outlet to be blocked in the country.”
But another reporter said Ethiopia is weary of Sweden’s coverage of the country and is taking precautions.
“Ethiopia is very uncomfortable with the information that we have broadcast. They know that we are going to produce more,” said reporter Johan Ripås to
According to Mikael Hvinlund at SVT the cause of the interruption is under investigation.
“It is very regrettable if it is that they have shut down our site, that a country imposes such restrictions. We have had a comprehensive coverage and have strong sources, and they are obviously irritated by the publicity,” he told the TT news agency.
It is still unclear if the site is being blocked by the government, or there is a problem with the service providers in Ethiopia, although experts say the blocking is more likely a cause.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ethiopia bans Swedish state television: report - The Local

Ethiopia bans Swedish state television: report

Ethiopia bans Swedish state television: report

Published: 22 Sep 12 16:49 CET | Double click on a word to get a translation 
The website of Swedish state broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT) has been blocked in Ethiopia amid claims that the reason is their reporting of the case of journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye.
According to sources contacted by SVT, the website has been down in the country since early on Saturday morning.

Persson and Schibbye were recently released from Ethiopian prison and SVT is among the news media which have reported on claims that evidence was falsified to secure their convictions on terror charges.

"Ethiopia is very uncomfortable with the information that we have broadcast. They know that we are going to produce more," said reporter Johan Ripås to

According to Mikael Hvinlund at SVT the cause of the interruption is under investigation.

"It is very regrettable if it is that they have shut down our site, that a country imposes such restrictions. We have had a comprehensive coverage and have strong sources, and they are obviously irritated by the publicity," he told the TT news agency.

"If they have done so deliberately then it is a very serious and powerful signal."

He confirmed that SVT were given no notice, and that it had come as a surprise.

"We are going to contact Ethiopia's embassy in Sweden to seek an explanation for why they have done this."

SVT are also busy investigating whether other Swedish news sites have also suffered the same fate.

"There are others also reporting so if there should be any point with it then they should close more Swedish sites," he said.

TT/The Local/pvs (

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Swedish journalists tell of Ethiopia prison ordeal, say terror trial was a ‘sham’ - The Washington Post

(Scanpix Sweden, Anders Wiklund/ Associated Press ) - Swedish reporter Martin Schibbye, front left, stands with Swedsih Photographer Johan Persson are welcomed by various friends and family as they arrive at Arlanda airport in Stockholm, Sweden, Friday Sept. 14, 2012. The two Swedish journalists were released from captivity earlier this week in Ethiopia after being pardoned by the government which had sentenced them in July 2011 to 11-years for abetting terrorism and entering the country illegally.
STOCKHOLM — Back home after being imprisoned in Ethiopia for more than a year, two Swedish journalists on Friday dismissed their trial on terror charges as a “sham,” saying they accepted 11-year prison terms to improve their chances of being released.
Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson also said in a news conference that their apology on Ethiopian TV in connection with their release last week was not sincere.
“At that time we were still prisoners, and it was part of the process” of being freed, Schibbye said. “I did not mean it.”
The two were arrested in the summer of 2011 while trying to cross from Somalia into Ethiopia’s Ogaden region along with fighters from the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front, which Ethiopia classifies as a terrorist group.
In December, the journalists were sentenced to 11 years each for abetting terrorism and entering the country illegally. They denied the terror charges, saying they were in Ethiopia simply to do their work as journalists.
“This is normal, traditional journalistic leg work,” Schibbye said. “We were sentenced in a sham process to 11 years in prison, and then had to sit in a prison camp for all these months.”
The Swedes said that a video used as evidence against them supposedly showing the raid in which they were arrested was actually recorded several days later and was staged by the Ethiopian army.
Schibbye also said that in the days following the arrest an interrogation leader threatened to kill him in the desert.
“He said ‘you will die here, we will shoot you here today if you don’t tell the truth,’” Schibbye said. “One soldier lifts his rifle and points it at me, then aims it to the side and shoots into the brush. Then the camera comes up and a new investigation begins.”
Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti called the journalists’ allegations “inaccurate” and “unacceptable.”
“They have been saying all along that they were being treated very well, they were even comparing the situation with other countries to say they were very ok and are better off here,” Mufti told The Associated Press.
The jailing of the journalists was condemned by rights watchdogs such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, which said their trial was “an affront to justice and press freedom.”
Associated Press writer Kirubel Tadesse in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ethiopia denies fake footage claims - The Local

Ethiopia denies fake footage claims

Ethiopia denies fake footage claims

Published: 14 Sep 12 08:16 CET | Double click on a word to get a translation 
Ethiopian officials deny the claim that they faked footage in order to get the two jailed Swedish reporters Martin Schibbye and Johan Perssonconvicted of terror charges, in interview with national Swedish broadcaster Sveriges Radio (SR). 
“Why would we try to trick ourselves with a faked video? Our soldiers took them in and made sure that they were given a fair trial,” said Mulugeleta Ayalew, of the Ethiopian ministry of justice’s pardoning committee to SR.

The only evidence presented was that given to them by the soldiers who arrested the two Swedes in the Ogaden province:

“We got our only information from the soldiers who found them, it was no trap,” Ayalew said to SR, adding:

“I think…”

Neither did Ayalew believe that the trial was meant to serve as a warning to other foreign journalists thinking about reporting from Ogaden.

“The Ethiopian government has no reason to stop you from going there, as long as you have all permits in order. Ethiopia is an open country where everyone can move freely,” he told SR.

Ayalew told SR that their pardoning should be seen as a sign of goodwill between Sweden and Ethiopia, and may even serve to strengthen ties between the two countries.

Schibbye and Persson were arrested last year with rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) after illegally entering Ethiopia from Somalia.

The Swedes were in the remote southeastern region of Ogaden, populated mainly by ethnic Somalis, reportedly to investigate the activities of a company affiliated with the Swedish oil firm Lundin Petroleum.

The two Swedes were released from Ethiopian jail on Monday and after recuperating in another country for a few days will touch down on Swedish soil and be reunited with loved ones on Friday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ethiopia: Govt Should Release Journalists Still in Prison

Nairobi — The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the Ethiopian government to set free six journalists in prison for their work, a day after Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were pardoned and released from Kality Prison in the capital Addis Ababa.
Persson, a photojournalist, and Schibbye, a reporter, were arrested on July 1, 2011, and charged under Ethiopia's far-reaching anti-terrorism law, convicted in politicized trials, and sentenced to 11-year prison sentences. Following their convictions, the journalists opted to forego an appeal and submitted an application to the Ministry of Justice Pardon Board.
Monday, the two appeared on Ethiopian state television and expressed regret for entering the country with armed separatists of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and without documentation. The Ethiopian government denies the media independent access to the oil-rich, Somali-speaking Ogaden region and has formally designated the ONLF a terrorist group. The two freelancers were on assignment for the Swedish news agency Kontinent investigating the activities of a company affiliated with the Swedish oil firm Lundin Petroleum, according to wire reports. They were captured after a gun battle between security forces and ONLF insurgents, in which both were wounded.
Since 2011, the government of Ethiopia has convicted 11 independent journalists and bloggers under the sweeping anti-terrorism law, some in absentia. Six journalists who remain in Ethiopian prisons are award-winning blogger Eskinder Nega; award-winning columnist Reeyot Alemu; Woubshet Taye of the now-defunct weekly Awramba Times; Eritrean journalists Saleh Idris Gama and Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi, who have been held since 2006; and Yusuf Getachew, editor of YeMuslimoch Guday (Muslim Affairs).
"Martin Schibbye, Johan Persson and other journalists in Ethiopia have paid a heavy price for trying to uncover what the government is seeking to hide," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "As Ethiopia begins a new year today, we urge the country's new leadership to truly begin afresh by releasing the six journalists still in prison."
Persson and Schibbye--who shared a cell with about 250 inmates and one toilet--are recuperating in an undisclosed location outside Ethiopia before reuniting with family in Sweden, Persson's father told the Swedish news agency TT.
The decision to pardon the two Swedes was approved by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, according to a statement by Ethiopia's Foreign Affairs Ministry. Twice in October 2011, Meles publicly accused them of being accomplices to terrorists. In November, state prosecutors were forced to admit that footage used as evidence against the journalists had been edited and gunshots added to the audio to make it appear as if they were participating in weapons training, according to local journalists and news reports. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, in his personal blog, claimed "quiet diplomacy" between the late prime minister and Swedish officials led to their release.