ETHIOPIA - Journalist Eskinder Nega sentenced to 18 years in jail


RAN 52/11 Update #2 13 July 2012

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International is appalled by the 18 year prison sentence handed down to the Ethiopian journalist and blogger, Eskinder Nega. Nega was convicted on highly dubious terrorism-related charges on 27 June 2012. The WiPC and other press and free expression groups believe that Nega was charged and convicted because of his critical reporting. The WiPC calls on the Ethiopian authorities to throw out the sentence and free Eskinder Nega.

Nega was the recipient of the PEN American Center 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in April 2012. He was arrested in September 2011, after publishing a column that questioned the government’s claim that a number of journalists it had detained were suspected terrorists; he also criticized the arrest of well-known Ethiopian actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu. For further information on Nega, please see here.

During his trial, the judge reportedly accused Nega of using ‘the guise of freedom’ to ‘attempt to incite violence and overthrow the constitutional order.’ According to news reports, the judge claimed that Nega wanted to spark a popular revolt in the style of the Arab Spring. Nega was also accused of having links with Ginbot 7, a group regarded as a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian authorities.

Ethiopia’s anti-terror legislation is draconian. Actions classified as ‘terrorist’ would often not even be considered crimes outside of Ethiopia. Since November 2011, at least 11 journalists have been charged with terrorism.

BBC Radio recently aired a report on Eskinder Nega, in which Larry Siems of PEN American Center features: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qtl3 (starts around 19 minutes in).

Please send appeals:

Protesting the conviction on terrorism-related charges of Eskinder Nega, and his outrageously heavy sentence of 18 years in jail;
Expressing concern that the Nega has been tried, convicted and sentenced purely in relation to his peaceful journalistic activity, in violation of the right to freedom of expression protected under international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is a party, including the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

Appeals to:

Minister of Justice
Berhanu Hailu
Ministry of Justice
P.O. Box 1370
Addis Ababa
Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 551 7775/ 7755
Email: justice@telecom.net.et, ministry-justice@telecom.net.et
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr Seyoum Mesfin
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
PO Box 393
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 551 43 00
Email: mfa.addis@telecom.net.et
Salutation: Dear Minister

Please also send a copy of your letter to your nearest Ethiopian diplomatic representative (the contact details for some Ethiopian embassies are listed here: http://www.embassyworld.com/embassy/Ethiopia/Ethiopia1.html).

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with International PEN if sending appeals after 13 Septmber 2012***

For further details please contact the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: wipc@pen-international.org