If Ethiopian journalists could report freely they might be able to confirm what has been documented by organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders for years. Accounts of villages burned to the ground, systematic rape, displacement and war crimes in the closed off Ogaden region where foreign gas and oil companies prospect new findings. But attempting to disclose what the Ethiopian government would rather keep hidden comes at a high price.

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Analysis: ‘Commission must stand up for human rights inEthiopia’

Article | December 20, 2011 – 3:01pm

The Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were arrested by Ethiopian military in July. Having entered the country illegally in order to investigate alleged human-rights violations in the closed Ogaden region, they now stand charged with terrorism.

The Swedish government chose to act through so called quiet diplomacy, a course of action which has been criticized and which has also proven to be unsuccessful in the past when trying to free the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaac, who after ten years remains imprisoned inEritrea. But choosing silence is not an option for those journalists who see it as their job to tell the stories that would otherwise remain untold.

Because what does it mean when a government imprisons journalists and charges them with terrorism in order to quiet them? Whose story will not be heard then?

If Ethiopian journalists could report freely they might be able to confirm what has been documented by organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders for years. Accounts of villages burned to the ground, systematic rape, displacement and war crimes in the closed off Ogaden region where foreign gas and oil companies prospect new findings. But attempting to disclose what the Ethiopian government would rather keep hidden comes at a high price.

The past decade of repression has led the Committee to Protect Journalists to rankEthiopiaas the country with the highest number of exiled journalists in the world. Since June this year eleven journalists have been accused of terrorism and at least 100 members of the opposition have been arrested in2011. InNovember alone six journalists were charged with terrorism. One of them is Mesfin Negash. Forced into exile because of his journalistic work he is currently seeking asylum inSweden. The broadly formulated Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which was introduced in 2009, has become an effective tool in the hands of the Ethiopian government to silence opposition and critical media. The two Swedish journalists have also been charged in compliance with this law, which makes it an offence for journalists to even refer to individuals or groups that have been declared terrorist.

What, then, should be the reaction of the international community? How should the EU react to what is happening inEthiopia, the country that is its biggest recipient of developmental aid? Is it acceptable that human rights organizations and journalists are prevented from entering the Ogaden province to investigate the alleged crimes being committed there? That the research team of Amnesty International is expelled from the country and that an Ethiopian employee of the UN is arrested, for talking to the rebel movement ONLF, while in the process of negotiating the release of hostages taken by them?

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1 Comment

  1. Ahmed says:

    Mr. Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, you were not alone in the oppressive TPLF regime’s Kangaroo court; the Ogaden people and all freedom loving people went with you and will stay with you in their prayers until justice is served.

 
 

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