Eskinder Nega, photo by Lennart Kjörling

Yesterday, Senator Patrick Leahy issued a strong statement in support of 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award recipient Eskinder Nega. The Ethiopian journalist and blogger was accused of supporting terrorism when he criticized the Ethiopian government’s use of terrorism legislation to jail journalists and opposition voices. The trial is now over and a verdict is expected on June 21. Nega could face the death penalty if convicted. Nega’s wife, journalist Serkalem Fasil, accepted the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith award on her husband’s behalf at the PEN Gala on May 1.  She then traveled to Washington with a PEN delegation to meet with members of Congress and the U.S. Department of State in order to press Nega’s case and urge action on the deteriorating situation for press freedom in Ethiopia. Senator Leahy is the third member of Congress to speak out about the prosecution of journalists in that country in the wake of those visits. As Senator Leahy said in his statement to the Senate:

The trial of Eskinder Nega, the imprisonment of several of his colleagues on similar spurious charges, and the fact that Ethiopia has driven so many journalists into exile over the last decade, has eroded confidence in Prime Minister Meles’ commitment to press freedom and to other individual liberties that are guaranteed by the Ethiopian constitution and fundamental to any democracy.

Noting that members of Congress will be watching what happens in the Ethiopian High Court next week, Leahy concluded:

What happens to Eskinder Nega and other journalists there will resonate loudly not only in Ethiopia, but also in the United States Congress.

Certainly all eyes in the PEN world will be on that courtroom as well. You can read more about Senator Leahy’s statement here. PEN asks that you make your voice heard on this important case by sending a letter to the Ethiopian government urging Nega’s immediate release. Just click here to use PEN’s online letter writing program to draft a print a personalized letter.