A court in Addis Ababa sentenced the two Swedish journalists, Martin Shibbye and Johan Persson to 11 years in prison on Tuesday for “supporting terrorism” and entering Ethiopia illegally. The trial has been widely criticized and this particularly heavy sentence has triggered lively reactions online, with web users now campaigning for their release.

Many have taken to social networks to do so, using the hashtag #ethiopiaswedes to voice their outrage over the verdict and post messages urging the Swedish authorities to come to the defense of the two journalists who were arrested on the 1st July. Many feel the government did not play an active enough role in the affair; this activist is addressing Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, directly, asking him to do everything in his power to obtain the immediate release of his fellow citizens.

There has been widespread online support: this petition is asking the Swedish government to stand up for the journalists detained in Ethiopia, and has already gathered over 3 200 signatures.

There have been all sorts of online initiatives to get web users involved and show their solidarity with the jailed reporters. A number of support sites and Facebook pages have been set up, providing information on the work the journalists were involved in and the circumstances surrounding their arrest; saying they were working on a report on the Ogaden National Liberation Front, at war with the Ethiopian government to make this south eastern region an independent state. The sites are all sending out the same message: the men are not terrorists, they are professional journalists and therefore do not belong in prison.

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