The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European group, the Federation of European Journalists (EFJ) today condemn in the strongest terms the violent arrest of two Swedish journalists in the Ogaden region on the border with Somalia. Photojournalist Johan Persson and reporter Martin Schibbye, were arrested on 27 June 2011 while reporting on the rebel movement, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), which is fighting the Ethiopian government in the region. The two journalists were also injured after coming under fire from the Ethiopian military.

The IFJ/EFJ accuse Ethiopian soldiers of deliberately endangering the journalists’ safety following reports that they military had been tipped off over the movements of the two reporters in the vicinity by officials of the Puntland Administration in neighbouring Somalia. The two journalists are believed to have been transferred to Addis Ababa and may face terrorist charges as the ONLF is considered a terrorist group by the Ethiopian authorities.

”Journalists are systematically denied access to the Ogaden region and the authorities often resort to violence to suppress reporting on the region,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director. “This reckless targeting of the journalists shows appalling disregard of human life. We hold the Ethiopian government responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the journalists who must be released immediately so that they can receive medical treatment for their wounds.”

According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), IFJ affiliate, Schibbye and Persson who work for Kontinent, a Swedish photojournalist agency, landed at Galkayo airport in Puntland and were travelling from Puntland to a region in Ethiopia which is controlled by rebel forces of Ogaden National Liberation Front when they were followed, attacked and arrested.

The EFJ also called on the Ethiopian government to respect the journalists’ right to work independently.

“These colleagues were only trying to do their job, reporting on a conflict which is not well understood outside the region,” said EFJ President, Arne König. “It is the duty of journalists to provide independent and impartial information which requires access to the location.”



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