NEW YORK—Eskinder Nega’s release from custody, along with more than a dozen other activists, bloggers, and journalists, comes as a relief after 12 days of unwarranted detention, said PEN America in a statement today.

Eskinder Nega, the 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award honoree, was among a group of individuals detained on March 25 for gathering in defiance of the current state of emergency, and for displaying a banned Ethiopian national flag. The group included a number of individuals who had only recently been freed from prison; Eskinder was released on February 14 after almost seven years in prison, charged under harsh anti-terrorism laws after he criticized the government’s arrest of journalists and activists. Last week he spoke out from detention about the inhumane conditions in which he and his fellow prisoners were being held.

“We are deeply relieved by Eskinder’s release after this cruel and unjust detention,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “The current state of emergency in Ethiopia is being used to crush freedom of expression and dissent, but Eskinder has shown that he will not be silenced. This time, he and his fellow journalists and activists must remain free. The world will be watching.”

Eskinder Nega’s re-arrest came on the heels of the February 15 resignation of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who was responsible for the pardons of more than 700 political prisoners. Following Desalegn’s departure, a state of emergency was declared which includes provisions to limit the rights of free expression, prohibits criticism of the State of Emergency Proclamation itself, and prevents federal and regional media outlets from reporting on the state of emergency without prior authorization. 

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: 

Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: agasparian@pen.org