New York City, July 13, 2012—PEN American Center reacted angrily to the sentencing of journalist Eskinder Nega to 18 years in prison on bogus terrorism charges in Ethiopia, calling on the United States and other donor nations to reevaluate their relationships with the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Eskinder, who received this year’s PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, was one of 20 journalists and political activist to be sentenced today to long prison terms on terrorism-related charges, accelerating a trend where vague anti-terrorism laws are used to silence peaceful dissenting voices in Ethiopia.

The following can be attributed to PEN American Center President Peter Godwin:

By sentencing Eskinder Nega to 18 years in prison, the Ethiopian government clearly means to send a signal to its people: speak against us, and you, too, could be jailed as a terrorist. But is that a signal of strength or of weakness?

This should be a moment for the U.S. and all nations who are invested in security and development in Ethiopia to reflect on their partnerships with the Meles government. It is a time for the world to make clear that its commitment is to the Ethiopian people—whose freedom of opinion and expression Eskinder has energetically defended.

PEN stands with Eskinder Nega and his brave colleagues in the independent press in Ethiopia. We ask individuals, organizations, and governments around the world to join us in demanding that this injustice be reversed, and that Eskinder be immediately and unconditionally released.

For more information on Eskinder’s case, please visit

PEN American Center is the largest of the 144 centers of PEN International, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession.

For more information contact:
Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105, lsiems [at]
Sarah Hoffman, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111, sarah [at]