PEN International welcomes the release on September 11, 2012, of Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson. Schibbye and Persson had been in the Ethiopian prison system since July 2011. We also call on the Ethiopian authorities to free blogger Eskinder Nega and journalists Woubshet Taye and Reeyot Alemu.

Background Information

Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were arrested on July 1, 2011, in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region, following a battle between Ethiopian forces and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The journalists had entered the country illegally on an assignment and were investigating allegations of human rights violations linked to the activities of the Swedish oil company Lundin Oil. However, the ONLF is regarded by Ethiopia as a terrorist organization and Persson and Schibbye were charged under anti-terror legislation. Both denied any involvement in terrorism.

On December 26, 2011, the two journalists were found guilty of entering the country illegally and of “supporting terrorism.” Both were sentenced to 11 years in prison. The journalists chose to forego an appeal and instead submitted an application to the Ministry of Justice Pardon Board. They received a pardon on September 10 and were released from Kality Prison in Addis Ababa the following day.

PEN and other free expression organizations campaigned for the release of Schibbye and Persson, arguing that there were serious concerns about the fairness of the trial, which saw both political interference by the Prime Minister and the use of fabricated evidence in court. For a full account of the case, please see Ethiopia: Persson and Schibbye.

Ethiopia’s anti-terror legislation is draconian. Actions classified as “terrorist” would often not even be considered crimes outside of Ethiopia. Since November 2011, at least 11 journalists have been charged with dubious terrorism-related offences. Those still in prison include:

Journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega, convicted on terrorism-related charges on June 27, 2012, and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Journalist Reeyot Alemu, a contributor to the independent weekly Feteh, convicted on terror-related charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison on January 19, 2012.

Journalist for the now-defunct Awramba Times, Woubshet Taye, convicted on terror-charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison on January 19, 2012.

Write A Letter

  • Welcoming the release of the Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye;
  • Calling for the immediate release of Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, and Woubshet Taye, expressing concern that they have been convicted and sentenced purely in relation to their peaceful journalistic activity, in violation of their right to freedom of expression protected by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, to which Ethiopia is a party.

Send Your Letter To

Minister of Justice
Berhanu Hailu
Ministry of Justice
P.O. Box 1370
Addis Ababa
Fax: +251 11 551 7775/ 7755
Email: [email protected], [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Seyoum Mesfin
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
P.O. Box 393
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 551 43 00 
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Minister

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Ethiopia in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after November 13, 2012: ftw [at]