Sunday, January 29, 2012

Melese Zenawie What’s He Got to Hide, When two Swedish Journalist lament in prison

Irada Humbatova/Reuters
The case of two Swedish journalists imprisoned in Ethiopia sheds light on a harsh campaign of repression.

DAVOS, Switzerland

On the Ground

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Damon Winter/The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof
IN a filthy Ethiopian prison that is overridden with lice, fleas and huge rats, two Swedes are serving an 11-year prison sentence for committing journalism.
Martin Schibbye, 31, and Johan Persson, 29, share a narrow bed, one man’s head beside the other’s feet. Schibbye once woke up to find a rat mussing his hair.
The prison is a violent, disease-ridden place, with inmates fighting and coughing blood, according to Schibbye’s wife, Linnea Schibbye Steiner, who last met with her husband in December. It is hot in the daytime and freezing cold at night, and the two Swedes are allowed no mail or phone calls, she said. Fortunately, she added, the 250 or so Ethiopian prisoners jammed in the cell protect the two journalists, pray for them and jokingly call their bed “the Swedish embassy.”
What was the two men’s crime? Their offense was courage.They sneaked into the Ogaden region to investigate reports of human rights abuses.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s increasingly tyrannical ruler, seemed to be sending a signal to the world’s journalists: Don’t you dare mess with me!
So the only proper response is a careful look at Meles’s worsening repression. Sadly, this repression is abetted by acquiescence from Washington and by grants from aid organizations.
Those Swedish journalists will probably be released early because of international pressure. But there will be no respite for the countless Ethiopians who face imprisonment, torture and rape.
I’m in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, and so is Meles. I’ve been pursuing him for the last few days, trying to confront him and ask him about his worsening pattern of brutality.
He has refused to see me, so I enlisted my Twitter followers to report Meles sightings. I want to ask him why he has driven more journalists into exile over the last decade than any other leader in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York City.
Meles has done genuine good in fighting poverty. He has some excellent officials under him, including a superb health minister, and Ethiopia’s economy is making progress in health and agriculture. Ethiopia is full of aid organizations, and it has a close intelligence and military relationship with the United States government.
Yet since 2005, when an initial crackdown left 200 protesters dead and 30,000 detained, Meles has steadily tightened his grip. A Human Rights Watch report this month noted that the government is forcibly removing tens of thousands of people from their rural homes to artificial villages where they risk starvation. Those who resist endure arrests, beatings or worse.
“The repression is getting worse,” notes Tamerat Negera, who fled to the United States after the newspaper he edited was closed down in 2009. “His vision seems an attempt to root out any dissent.”
Meles has criminalized dissent, with a blogger named Eskinder Nega now facing terrorism charges, which could mean a death sentence. His true crime was calling on the government to allow free speech and end torture.
Appallingly, the Meles regime uses foreign food aid to punish his critics. Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of development aid, receiving about $3 billion annually, with the United States one of its largest donors. This money does save lives. But it also “underwrites repression in Ethiopia,” in the words of Human Rights Watch.
Families and entire areas of the country are deliberately starved unless they back the government, human rights groups have shown. In Ethiopia, the verb “to starve” is transitive.
Look, I’m a huge advocate of smart aid to fight global poverty. But donors and aid groups need to ensure that their aid doesn’t buttress repression.
The Meles regime, run largely by a coterie from his own minority Tigrayan ethnicity, has been particularly savage in the Ogaden region, where it faces an armed uprising. When Jeffrey Gettleman, a colleague at The New York Times, went to the Ogaden in 2007, he found a pattern of torture and rape. The government then arrested Gettleman and two colleagues, detaining them for five days in harsh conditions.
The two Swedish reporters illegally entered the Ogaden and met a rebel group to examine that human rights wasteland. In December, they were sentenced to 11-year terms.
Steiner, Schibbye’s wife, said of the harsh conditions: “Eleven years in an Ethiopian prison is equal to life, because you do not survive that long.”
Amnesty International says that in the last 11 months, the government has arrested at least 114 Ethiopian journalists and opposition politicians. It described this as “the most far-reaching crackdown on freedom of expression seen in many years in Ethiopia.”
Prime Minister Meles, you may have dodged me in Davos, but your brutality toward Swedish, American and Ethiopian journalists will not silence the world’s media. You’re just inviting more scrutiny.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Ethiopia: Life sentence for blogger, prison for journalists - Committee to Protect Journalists

Ethiopia: Life sentence for blogger, prison for journalists

From left: Woubshet, Reeyot, Kifle.
From left: Woubshet, Reeyot, Kifle.

New York, January 26, 2012--A U.S.-based journalist convicted on politicized terrorism charges in Ethiopia was sentenced to life in prison in absentia today, while two other Ethiopian journalists received heavy prison sentences in connection with their coverage of banned opposition groups, according to news reports.

Elias Kifle, exiled Ethiopian editor of the Washington-based opposition website Ethiopian Review, was handed a life sentence in absentia today, which followed a 2007 life sentence given to him also in absentia on charges of treason for his coverage of the government's brutal repression of 2005 post-election protests, CPJ research shows. A court in the capital, Addis Ababa, sentenced Reeyot Alemu, a columnist with the independent weekly Feteh, and Woubshet Taye, deputy editor of the now-defunct weekly Awramba Times, to 14 years in prison and 33,000 birrs (US$1,500), news reports said.

"The life sentence for Elias Kifle and the prison sentences for Reeyot Alemu and Woubshet Taye are based on their writings about political dissent. This verdict has little to do with justice," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "We condemn this politicized prosecution designed to cow critical voices into silence and call on the Supreme Court to reverse all the convictions."

The three journalists were charged in September with lending support to an underground network of banned opposition groups, which has been criminalized under the country's 2009 antiterrorism law. Alemu and Taye were arrested in June and held for weeks on government accusations of plotting to sabotage telephone and electricity lines before they were charged. In the trial, government prosecutors presented as evidence intercepted emails and phone calls between the journalists, as well as more than 25 Ethiopian Review articles on the activities of opposition groups, CPJ research shows.

Eskinder Nega, another Ethiopian blogger, has been imprisoned since September and could be sentenced to death if convicted of similar politicized terrorism charges in connection with his coverage of banned opposition groups.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The headline and text of the alert was changed to reflect that the U.S.-based blogger was given a life sentence, not the death penalty.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Judge confirms charges against Ethiopian dissident blogger - Committee to Protect Journalists

Judge confirms charges against Ethiopian dissident blogger

From left: Nega, Gellaw, Negash, Teklemariam, Yenealem, and Belew. (CPJ)
From left: Nega, Gellaw, Negash, Teklemariam, Yenealem, and Belew. (CPJ)

New York, January 25, 2012--Jailed Ethiopian dissident blogger Eskinder Nega will stand trial in March for all of the terrorism accusations initially advanced by prosecutors, a federal high court judge ruled yesterday, local sources said. If convicted on all charges, he could face the death penalty.

Judge Endeshaw Adane of the third criminal bench of the Lideta Federal High Court in the capital Addis Ababa reviewed evidence presented by government prosecutors yesterday and confirmed all six charges against Eskinder. His trial will begin March 5.

Five other journalists, all in exile and to be tried in absentia, initially faced the same terrorism charges. At yesterday's hearing, the judge confirmed all six charges for two of those accused and dismissed all but one charge against three others.

"This ruling is an affront to justice and underscores that these are politicized charges used by the government to intimidate journalists and chill news-gathering activities," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "We call for all terrorism charges to be dropped as they are baseless, and for Eskinder to be released immediately"

The two journalists besides Eskinder who still face all six charges are exiled editors of opposition broadcasters: Abebe Belew of the U.S.-based Internet radio Addis Dimts and Fasil Yenealem of the Netherlands-based ESAT, according to CPJ sources and news reports.

Three other exiled editors -- Abebe Gellaw of the U.S.-based Addis Voice and Mesfin Negash and Abiye Teklemariam of U.S.-based Addis Neger Online -- will be tried in absentia under a single terrorism charge each, according to local sources.

Ethiopia's antiterrorism law criminalizes reporting or publication of information the government deems favorable to groups designated as terrorists, which include opposition movements such as Ginbot 7 and the separatists of the Ogaden National Liberation Front. The government's application of the law against journalists and dissidents has been criticized by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department.

The charges against the journalists are based on accusations of "disseminating terrorist ideas" to Ethiopians such as through ESAT TV, radio, Internet and Web chat forums such as Paltalk. The Addis Neger Online editors are accused of "lending professional support for terrorism," by "allowing terrorist organizations such as Ginbot 7, Oromo Liberation Front, and Ogaden National Liberation Front to express their terrorist ideas and promote their agendas on their online publication," according to a translation of the original charge sheet.

Other charges are based on accusations of recruiting young people to membership of the groups designated as terrorist, and on treason and spying for Ethiopia's arch foe, Eritrea.

Earlier this month, three other local journalists were convicted of terrorism charges -- one in absentia -- and they could face the death penalty, news reports said. Their sentencing is expected tomorrow. In addition, two Swedish journalists were sentencedin late December to 11-year jail terms after being convicted of supporting terrorism and entering Ethiopia illegally.

In Africa, only Eritrea jails more journalists than Ethiopia, according to CPJ research.

January 25, 2012 3:14 PM ET |

Saturday, January 21, 2012

የፌደራል ከፍተኛ ፍርድ ቤት፣3ኛ ወንጀል ችሎት ብይንና የ A I አስተያየት፤ | ኢትዮጵያ | Deutsche Welle | 20.01.2012

የፌደራል ከፍተኛ ፍርድ ቤት፣3ኛ ወንጀል ችሎት ብይንና የ A I አስተያየት፤

Logo amnesty international

ዐቃቤ ህግ ፀረ ሽብር ህግን አስመልክቶ ክስ በመሠረተባቸው 5 ሰዎች ላይ የፌደራል ከፍተኛ ፍርድ ቤት 3ኛ ወንጀል ችሎት፣ በትናንትናው ዕለት ጥፋተኞች ናቸው ሲል መበየኑ ተገልጿል።

ዓለም አቀፍ የሰብአዊ መብት ተሟጋች ድርጅቶች AI ,HRW እና ለጋዜጠኞች ደኅንነት የሚታገለው ድርጅት (CPJ) ውሳኔው አግባብነት የለውም ብለዋል። ተክሌ የኋላ፣ በአምነስቲ ኢንተርናሽናል የኢትዮጵያ ጉዳዮች ተመራማሪ ክሌር ቤስተንን አነጋግሮ የሚከተለውን ዘገባ አጠናቅሯል።

የጥፋተኛነት ብይን የተላለፈባቸውን የአገር ውስጥ ጋዜጠኞችና የፖለቲካ ሰዎች፣ የነበሩ ፤ የኢትዮጵያ መንግሥት ባስቸኳይ መልቀቅ ይገባዋል የሚል መግለጫ ነው AI ያቀረበው ። ብይኑን ድርጅቱ እንዴት እንደተመለከተው ክሌር ቤስተን--

«እኛ እንደምናምነው፤ 5ቱም ተካሳሾች፤ የፍርድ ቤት ምርመራ የተካሄደባቸውና የተበየነባቸው ህጋዊ ተግባራቸውን በማከናወንና ሰላማዊ ድርጊቶችን በመፈጸማቸው ነው። እናም እንደኛ እምነት፣ ያላንዳች ቅደመ-ግዴታ፣ ባስቸኳይ መፈታት ይኖርባቸዋል።

3 ወንዶችና 2 ሴቶች፤ ወንጀል ለመሥራታቸው አናዳች ማረጋገጫ የለም። 5 ቱም የታወቁበት ቢኖር ፣ በአሁኑ ጊዜም ሆነ ቀደም ባለው ጊዜ፣ መንግሥትን በመተቸት ነው። በጋዜጠኛነትም ሆነ በተቃውሞ ፓርቲ አባልነት የሆነው ይህ ነው። »

የተከሰሱትን አብዛኞቹን፤ ከመያዛቸው በፊት መንግሥት በጥብቅ ሲከታተላቸው እንደነበረ ይታወቃል። በፍርድ ሂደቱ፣ በተጨማሪ ጉዳይነት እንደማስረጃ የቀረበው፤ በጋዜጠኛነት ሥራቸውና አዲስ አበባ ውስጥ በአንዳንድ አካባቢ እ ጎ አ፣ በ 2011 መግቢያ አካባቢ «በቃ!» በተሰኘው መፈክር መሠራጨት ሳትኖሩበት አልቀራችሁም ተብለው ነው። በቃ የተሰኘው መፈክር ፤ ህዝቡ በመንግሥት ላይ ተቀውሞ እንዲያነሣ ጥሪ የተላለፈበት ነው ማለት ይቻላል። ይህም ግንቦት 20 ያሁኑ መንግሥት ሥልጣን የጨበጠበት 20ና ዓመት ሲከበር ማለት ነው። ይህ ታዲያ ይላሉ ፣ ክሌር ቤስተን በመቀጠል--

«እንደ ተጨባጭ ማስረጃ ተቆጥሮ ከዚህ ጋር ተያይዞ የቀረበው፤ የሚያስረዳው ቢኖር፣ በነጻ ሐሳብን የመግለጽ መብት በዚህ የፍርድ ቤት ምርመራ እንደወንጀል መቆጠሩ ነው። መንግሥትን መንቀፍና ህዝብ እንዲቃወም ማሳሰብ እንደወንጀል ሆኗል የተቆጠረው።»

AI እና መሰል ድርጅቶች፤HRW, CPJ, RSF ን የመሳሰሉት ሁሉ «ፍትኅ ተጓደለ፤ ሰብአዊ መብት ተጣሰ» እያሉ በየጊዜው ይሟገታሉ። እዚህ ላይ እርስዎ ፤ ወ/ት ክሌር ቤስተን፤ የብሪታንያ ተወላጅና ዜጋ፤ የአገርዎ መንግሥት፣እንዲሁም የዩናይትድ እስቴትስ መንግሥት ፤ ሁለቱም የአሁኑን የኢትዮጵያ መንግሥት ከሚደግፉት ዋንኞቹ ናቸው።

ይህ፣ ለሰብአዊ መብት ተሟጋቾቹ ምን ያህል ተስፋ አስቆራጭ ነው?

«እውነትህን ነው፤ ተስፋ አስቆራጭነት አለበት። የብሪታንያና የዩናይትድ እስቴትስ መንግሥታት፤ እንዲሁም ሌሎች በዓለም አቀፉ ማኅበረሰብ ጠንካራ የሆኑ መንግሥታት የኢትዮጵያን ባለሥልጣናት በጥብቅ የሚደግፉ ናቸው። እነዚህም መንግሥታት፣ በኢትዮጵያ ስላለው የሰብአዊ መብት ይዞታ ዐይተው እንዳላዩ የመሆን ዝንባሌ ነው የሚታይባቸው። A I ሌሎችም በመቀጠል ማድረግ የሚችሉት፤ ድምጻቸውን ከፍ አድረገው ማሰማት ፤ የሚያሳስቡ ሁኔታዎችን በሰነዶች ማሥፈር፤ በዓለም አቀፉ ማኅበረሰብ ውስጥ የተጠቀሱትን መንግሥታትም፣ በኢትዮጵያ ላይ ያላቸውን የጋራ አቋም እንዲለውጡ በተደጋጋሚ መጠየቅ ነው። ጥያቄውን ይበልጥ ባነሣን ቁጥር ከመገናኛ ብዙኀን ጋር መነጋገር እንችላለን። ስለአሳሳቢ ጉዳዮች፣ ስለሰብአዊ መብት ጥሰት በማንሳት!

በእነዚህ አገሮች ያለው ህዝብ መጠየቅ ይጀምራል። መንግሥታቸውን ሊጠይቁ ይችላሉ። ለምሳሌ ያህል በብሪታንያ፤ ህዝቡ፣ መንግሥታችን፤ በኢትዮጵያ ስላለው አሳሳቢ የሰብአዊ መብት ይዞታ ፤አንዳች ጥያቄ ሳያነሳ፣ ሁኔታዎችን ችላ እያለ ለምንድን ነው፤ ለኢትዮጵያ ባለሥልጣናት ድጋፍ የሚሰጠው በማለት ሊጠይቅ ይችላል።»

ተክሌ የኋላ

አርያም ተክሌ

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Standing with Ethiopia's tenacious blogger, Eskinder Nega - Blog - Committee to Protect Journalists

CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Standing with Ethiopia's tenacious blogger, Eskinder Nega

Eskinder Nega (Lennart Kjörling)
Eskinder Nega (Lennart Kjörling)

It would be hard to find a better symbol of media repression in Africa than Eskinder Nega. The veteran Ethiopian journalist and dissident blogger has been detained at least seven times by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government over the past two decades, and was put back in jail on September 14, 2011, after he published a column calling for the government to respect freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and to end torture in prisons.

Eskinder now faces terrorism charges, and if convicted could face the death sentence. He's not alone: Ethiopia currently has seven journalists behind bars. More journalists have fled Ethiopia over the past decade than any other country in the world, according to CPJ.

Eskinder could easily have joined them. In February 2011, he was briefly detained by federal police and warned to stop writing critical stories about Ethiopia's authoritarian regime. The message was clear: it's time to leave. Eskinder spent part of his childhood in the Washington D.C. area, and could have returned to the U.S.

He didn't. Instead he continued to publish online columns demanding an end to corruption and political repression and calling for the security forces not to shoot unarmed demonstrators (as they did in 2005) in the event the Arab Spring spread to Ethiopia. That's landed him back in jail--where he could remain for years in the event he avoids a death sentence.

Since then a group of journalists, authors and rights activists have organized a petitioncalling for the release of Eskinder and other journalists unjustly detained by Ethiopia's government. Among the signatories are the heads of the U.S. National Press Club, the Open Society Foundations, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The petitioners also include Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek journalist jailed by the Iranian government for four months in 2009; three former BBC correspondents in Ethiopia; development economist William Easterly; the Christian Science Monitor's Marshall Ingwerson and others.

The campaign also included a letter published in The New York Review of Books, contacts with the U.S. State Department, press releases, and media interviews. Still, making an impact is difficult. Eskinder was just one of 179 journalists jailed worldwide as of December 1, 2011, according to CPJ data. In addition, Ethiopia is viewed as a strategic partner for the West in combating terrorism and instability in East Africa, making Western governments less likely to press Zenawi on human rights abuses.

People have asked me why we should try to help someone who could have saved himself by fleeing the country. It's a good question. I suspect that even if he were to be released tomorrow, Eskinder would stay in Ethiopia and continue writing and publishing online--at the risk of being thrown back in jail.

After all, this is a reporter whose wife, journalist Serkalem Fasil, gave birth while they were both in jail following the 2005 elections. When they were released in 2007, Serkalem and Eskinder were banned from reopening their newspapers. To survive, they rented their house in central Addis Ababa to a team of Chinese telecom workers and moved to a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.

Like many good journalists, Eskinder is stubborn to a fault. Standing for free speech in Ethiopia can seem a Sisyphean task, but if Eskinder is principled enough to risk more years in jail - and possibly the death sentence - it's our obligation to stand with him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Swedish journalists in Ethiopia to seek pardon

Swedish journalists in Ethiopia to seek pardon

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Two Swedish journalists convicted of supporting terrorism in Ethiopia say they will seek a pardon from the African country's government instead of appealing their 11-year prison terms.

In a brief statement emailed Tuesday to The Associated Press by their spokeswoman Anna Roxvall, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson said "there's a tradition of pardoning and forgiving in Ethiopia and we choose to trust in this tradition."

The reporters were captured by Ethiopian troops six months ago after illegally entering the country with the help of an ethnic Somali rebel group.

They have acknowledged illegal entry but denied the terror charges, saying they were gathering news about a Swedish oil company exploring Ethiopia's Somali region for oil.