PEN American Center – Ethiopia: Eskinder Nega

PEN American Center – Ethiopia: Eskinder Nega.

Ethiopia: Eskinder Nega
Eskinder Nega Professional Background
Eskinder Nega, a journalist and dissident blogger based in Addis Ababa, is one of Ethiopia’s leading advocates for press freedom and freedom of expression. Eskinder has been publishing articles critical of the government since 1993, when he opened his first newspaper, Ethiopis, which was soon shut down by authorities. He was a general manager of Serkalem Publishing House, which published the newspapers Asqual, Satenaw, and Menelik, all of which are now banned in Ethiopia. Eskinder has also been a columnist for the monthly magazine Change and for the U.S.-based news forum EthioMedia, which are also banned. He has continued to publicly call for an end to political corruption and repression despite being continuously harassed and denied a license to practice journalism.

Current Status
Eskinder Nega’s trial for charges under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which covers the “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement, and attempt” of terrorist acts, began on March 6, 2012. The prosecution’s evidence against Eskinder and the 23 other defendants has consisted of nearly inaudible recordings of telephone conversations and other comments and video of a town hall meeting in which Eskinder discusses the differences between Arab countries and Ethiopia. Eskinder took the stand on March 28 and denied all the charges against him, saying he has never conspired to overthrow the government through violence and admitting only to reporting on the Arab Spring and speculating on whether a similar movement would take place in Ethiopia. Eskinder’s wife, fellow journalist Serkalem Fasil, maintained that Eskinder is “a journalist, not a member of a political party.“

On a hearing during which the defendants were not permitted to speak on June 27, 2012, Eskinder was found guilty of the charges against him.  His verdict is expected on July 13, 2012.

He is currently being held at Kaliti Prison in Addis Ababa, where political prisoners are housed with criminals. Familiy visits are extremely limited.

Case History
Eskinder Nega was arrested under Ethiopia’s sweeping anti-terrorism legislation on September 14, 2011, after he published a column questioning the government’s claim that a number of journalists it had detained were suspected terrorists, and for criticizing the arrest of well-known Ethiopian actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu on terror charges earlier that week. Eskinder was accused of affiliation with the banned political party Ginbot 7, and state television portrayed him and other political prisoners as “spies for foreign forces.”

Eskinder was among 24 defendants charged on November 10, 2011, and that month government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said that Eskinder stood accused of receiving weapons and explosives from neighboring Eritrea in order to carry out terrorist attacks in Ethiopia.

Eskinder had previously been detained at least six times under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government over the past two decades. In February 2011, he was briefly detained for “attempts to incite Egyptian and Tunisian-like protests in Ethiopia.” In 2005, Eskinder and his wife Serkalem Fasil were jailed along with 12 other journalists for treason for reporting on the government’s violent crackdown following disputed parliamentary elections—a crackdown that included firing on protesters and mass closures of media outlets. Fasil gave birth to the couple’s son in prison in 2006. The couple was acquitted and released in 2007, but both were denied a license. Their newspapers were shut down and not allowed to reopen.

Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law, which criminalizes any reporting deemed to “encourage” or “provide moral support” to groups and causes which the government considers to be “terrorist,” has been widely criticized both for its vague terms and for its application. As Eskinder Nega himself was insisting at the time he was arrested last year, the law has been used to imprison a number of leading journalists.


Take Action for Eskinder Nega

Larry Siems,
(212) 334-1660 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting KOSTENLOS (212) 334-1660 end_of_the_skype_highlighting ext 105
Sarah Hoffman,
(212) 334-1660 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting KOSTENLOS (212) 334-1660 end_of_the_skype_highlighting ext 111

PEN Press Releases

June 27, 2012:
PEN President Peter Godwin Calls Conviction of Award Winning Journalist Eskinder Nega “Shameful”

June 15, 2012:
PEN Welcomes Leahy Statement on Press Freedom Violations in Ethiopia

May 17, 2012:
PEN to President Obama: Stand for Press Freedom in Ethiopia During G-8 Summit

May 11, 2012:
Eskidner Nega’s Verdict Postponed

May 2, 2012:
Heroic Ethiopian Journalist Eskinder Nega, Turkish Publisher Ragip Zarakolu Honored in New York

April 12, 2012:
Top PEN Prize to Honor Eskinder Nega, Jailed Ethiopian Journalist and Blogger on Trial for Terrorism

Eskinder Nega’s Writing

Debebe Eshetu’s arrest and New Year
September 9, 2011
from Ethiopmedia

Ethiopia: Time for peaceful change
September 2, 2011
from Ethiomedia

Gadhafi’s fall and Meles Zenawi
August 26, 2011
from Ethiomedia

SOS: Dissent and terrorism in Ethiopia

July 1, 2011
from Ethiomedia

Open letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
March 4, 2011
from Ethiomedia

Additional Online Resources

Can Press Freedom Happen in Ethiopia?

By Charlayne Hunter-Gault
from The Root

Letter from Congressman Edward Royce to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

Imprisoned Ethiopian Journalist Is Honored With PEN Award
By J. David Goodman

from The New York Times

Jailed Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega honoured

from BBC

Ethiopian Terrorism Trial Hears Journalist Defendant
By Peter Heinlein
from Voice of America

Ban Ki-moon Should Speak Out on Imprisoned Ethiopian Journalists
from International Press Institute

In praise of Africa’s hacks
from The Economist

The Case of Eskinder Nega
By William Easterly, Mark Hamrick, Aryeh Neier, Kenneth Roth, and Joel Simon
from The New York Review of Books

Standing with Ethiopia’s tenacious blogger, Eskinder Nega
By Jason McLure
from Committee to Protect Journalists

Ethiopia: Stop Using Anti-Terror Law to Stifle Peaceful Dissent
from Human Rights Watch

Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No 652/2009

from Ethiopian Law Network


6 Kommentare zu „PEN American Center – Ethiopia: Eskinder Nega

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