UPDATE: Terrorism law used to crush free speech (Human Rights Watch, 27 June 2012)
(IPI/IFEX) - June 27, 2012 - The undersigned organizations strongly condemned the conviction of blogger and journalist Eskinder Nega on terrorism charges earlier today.
The conviction represents the criminalization of peaceful dissent in Ethiopia and is a clear violation of the rights of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
On June 27, Nega was found guilty of “participation in a terrorist organization” and “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of (a) terrorist act” and is facing life in prison.
Nega is the fifth journalist in Ethiopia to be jailed for terrorism-related crimes in the past six months. In April, he was awarded the prestigious 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, which honours writers that have been persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Eskinder Nega has long been a thorn in the side of the Ethiopian government. He was jailed along with his wife and fellow journalist Serkalem Fasil for 17 months in the aftermath of Ethiopia's disputed 2005 elections. Their son was born in prison. Their publishing house was closed and Nega has since been banned from journalism, but continued to write for online media and speak critically about the ruling party in Ethiopia.
Nega has been in jail since September 2011. He was arrested shortly after he criticized the government's use of anti-terrorism laws to jail opposition figures and other journalists, including Woubshet Taye of the now-closed Awramba Times, Reyot Alemu of Feteh newspaper, and Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, who were arrested while reporting on rebel activity in the Ogaden region. Schibbye, Persson, Alemu and Taye all received years-long prison sentences at the end of 2011 and in early 2012.
Eskinder Nega, five exiled journalists convicted of terrorism (CPJ, 27 June 2012)
Committee to Protect Journalists
Human Rights Watch
PEN American Center
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Committee to Free Eskinder Nega
Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI)
The National Press Club