The United States welcomes journalists' release and looks forward to their reunion with their families.
Two Swedish journalists jailed in Ethiopia for allegedly aiding an outlaw rebel group there and for entering the country illegally have been pardoned and freed with more than 1,900 other prisoners in a customary clemency marking the Ethiopian New Year. The United States welcomes their release and looks forward to their reunion with their families.
We remain concerned, though, about the Ethiopian journalists convicted under the anti-terrorism proclamation who remain in prison for exercising their freedom of expression, and about the use of the proclamation to stifle the exercise of freedom of expression and association.
Martin Schibbye, a reporter, and Johan Persson, a photographer working with him, were arrested in June 2011 in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region while traveling with members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a group fighting for regional autonomy. The journalists traveled there to research a story in the conflict zone.
Ethiopian authorities said that by being in the company of a group of ONLF fighters, who have been designated by the government as terrorists, the Swedes were in effect supporting terrorism. In December, an Ethiopian court convicted them of entering the East African nation illegally, sentencing them each to 11 years in jail. Officials justified the ruling saying other nations have similarly harsh standards for those believed to be working with terrorists.
The case attracted international attention and condemnation from human rights and free press groups concerned that the decision could have a chilling effect on the work of both Ethiopian and foreign journalists. The United States has stressed in its ongoing human rights dialogue with the Ethiopian government that a free press is an important element of democratic society. We reiterate our call for the Ethiopian Government to stop using the proclamation to stifle the exercise of freedom of expression and association, and urge the release of those who have been jailed under it for exercising their fundamental freedoms.