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PEN USA awards Freedom to Write Award to Ethiopian publisher

Ethiopian publisher Sisay Agena
Ethiopian publisher Sisay Agena


Sisay Agena, the Ethiopian publisher and press freedom advocate who has been jailed at least six times for "speaking the truth against the ruling elite," has been awarded the 2010 Freedom to Write Award by PEN USA.

In October 2005, the Ethiopian government closed down all independent publications in the country after suffering big losses in the elections. Since then most publications have not been allowed to resume functioning - including Agena's independent papers "Ethiop" and "Abay".

Instead, Sisay was charged with treason and served nearly two years in jail. PEN USA, Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have all fought for the rights of Agena, who had been suffering under poor prison conditions and harsh treatment.

Today, he continues to fight for Ethiopia's right to freedom of the press. Unable to travel to the U.S. to accept his award in person at the 17 November ceremony, he said in a statement: "I accept this special award not just for myself, but on behalf of all independent Ethiopian journalists and writers who have been denied the right to write… We use our pens as flashlights to enlighten the people.

"Some people say, 'Freedom isn't free.' In Ethiopia, the freedom to write is not free. It comes at a very high price: loss of peace of mind resulting from a constant campaign of harassment and intimidation; loss of professional practice by being prevented to do what one is trained and passionate to do; and the daily struggle to survive under the cloud of fear and enforced silence."


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