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Petition to Clinton and Ashton: Demand Pardon of Swedish Journalists in Ethiopia

World  (tags: 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', 'HUMANRIGHTS!', africa, conflict, ethics, freedoms, europe, HumanRights, humanrights, news, terrorism, usa, violence, world, Ethiopia, Sweden, journalism )

- 2325 days ago -
Two Swedish journalists, 29-year-old Johan Persson and 31-year-old Martin Schibbye, were arrested and sentenced to 11 years in prison in Ethiopia while reporting on human rights issues according to The Guardian, a leading British newspaper.

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Ola H (27)
Monday February 6, 2012, 2:34 pm
IN a filthy Ethiopian prison that is overridden with lice, fleas and huge rats, two Swedes are serving an 11-year prison sentence for committing journalism.

Please sign the petition to help them!

Carol H (229)
Monday February 6, 2012, 5:15 pm
signed and noted, thank you Ola for bringing this to my attention!!

Nino U (17)
Wednesday February 8, 2012, 7:13 am

Jenny Dooley (830)
Thursday April 26, 2012, 7:53 pm
Signed, thank you Ola
Shared with the human rights group, SLAVERY TODAY.

Vivien Green (153)
Friday April 27, 2012, 7:24 am
Signed and shared thank you Ola

Friday April 27, 2012, 9:38 am
Signed and noted, thanks.

linda b (186)
Sunday April 29, 2012, 11:16 am
Signed, thanks Ola.

Margaret K (19)
Thursday May 3, 2012, 2:02 pm
Signed and noted

Yvonne F (181)
Saturday May 19, 2012, 6:31 am
Tack Ola!!!

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Friday August 10, 2012, 1:38 pm
Supporting Stability, Abetting Repression
Thursday, 12 July 2012 12:51 Ogaden Online

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA — Next time I travel to Ethiopia, I may be arrested as a terrorist. Why? Because I have published articles about Ethiopian politics.

I wrote a policy report on Ethiopia’s difficulties with federalism. I gave a talk in which I questioned Ethiopia’s May 2010 elections, in which the ruling EPRDF party (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front) won 545 out of 547 seats in the Parliament. As part of my ongoing research on mass violence in the Somali territories, I interviewed members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a separatist rebel group in eastern Ethiopia that the government has designated as a terrorist organization.

In the eyes of the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, my work is tantamount to subversion. Not only do his officials have zero tolerance for criticism, they consider people who either talk to or write about the opposition as abetting terrorists.

In recent years the government has effectively silenced opposition parties, human rights organizations, journalists and researchers. On June 27 a federal court convicted the journalist Eskinder Nega and 23 opposition politicians for “participation in a terrorist organization.” More than 10 other journalists have been charged under an anti-terrorism law introduced in 2009. Among them are two Swedes, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, who are serving an 11-year prison sentence in Ethiopia. Hundreds of opposition supporters languish in prisons for exercising the very democratic rights that the Ethiopian Constitution nominally protects.

Most people outside Ethiopia associate the country with famine and poverty. They know little about the country’s history and politics — for example that Ethiopia was never colonized, or that it has Africa’s second biggest population. Nor are they aware that Ethiopia is a darling of the donor community, receiving more aid than any other African country. Over the past year alone, the U.S. Agency for International Development has given Ethiopia $675 million in aid. The United States closely collaborates with Ethiopia in covert missions against radical Islamists in neighboring Somalia.
Much of this support comes from the portrayal of Ethiopia as a strong and stable government in a region riddled with political upheaval. The problem, however, is that Ethiopia is plagued by too much state control.

When EPRDF came to power in 1991, it promised to democratize the country. Two decades later the party has a tight grip on all public institutions, from the capital to remote villages. Formally a federal democracy, Ethiopia is a highly centralized one-party state. No independent media, judiciary, opposition parties or civil society to speak of exist in today’s Ethiopia. Many of the country’s businesses are affiliated with the ruling party. Most Ethiopians do not dare to discuss politics for fear of harassment by local officials.

As I found out in dozens of interviews with Ethiopian Somalis, security forces indiscriminately kill, imprison and torture civilians whom they suspect of aiding Ogaden rebels.

How have donors who fund about one third of Ethiopia’s budget and many humanitarian programs reacted to this? They haven’t. They not only continue to support the Ethiopian government but in recent years have increased their aid. The West, most prominently the United States and the European Union, have concluded a strange pact with Meles Zenawi: So long as his government produces statistics that evince economic growth, they are willing to fund his regime — whatever its human rights abuses.

This policy is wrong, shortsighted and counterproductive. It is wrong because billions in Western tax money are spent to support an authoritarian regime. It is shortsighted because it ignores the fact that the absence of basic rights and freedoms is one of the reasons Ethiopians are so poor. It is counterproductive because many Ethiopians resent the unconditional aid and recognition given to their rulers. In Ethiopia — and also in Rwanda and Uganda — the West is once again making the mistake of rewarding stability and growth while closing its eyes to repression.

on the website Ogaden Online -

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Friday August 10, 2012, 3:07 pm
Over six months after Ola's message to me about this petition & post, I expected to find that the two Swedish journalists had been freed. What a terrible surprise to discover that they are still being held.

The petition is still open @ & has 7,114 signatures out of the 50,000 originally counted on. On the petition page, there are links to the Guardian article & a NYTimes piece by Nicholas Kristof both on the plight of the Swedish journalists. There is also a link to the Amnesty International pdf report; "Dismantling Dissent: Intensified Crackdown on Free Speech in Ethiopia."

The article that I reprinted in my comment above is useful because it provides some facts that can be used to make a more powerful comment on the petition: With all the billions both the US & the EU are funneling into Ethiopia, American & EU negotiators shouldn't have too difficult a time arranging for the release of the two journalists -- all that aid going to Ethiopia should certainly provide some leverage in a negotiation!
The US & EU are major donors & all they have to do is state that stability & economic growth are not enough anymore-- to earn that aid, Ethiopia has to begin introducing some democratic reforms & could begin with freedom of speech & the release of the journalists.

The US & the EU give an awful lot of lip service to the ideals of human rights -- we hear about it on the subject of China & Iran for example. Couldn't they start emphasizing human rights in their relations with Ethiopia??

The only thing lacking is the political will to do it!

Jim Phillips (3257)
Friday August 10, 2012, 5:13 pm
Petition signed.

11 years for reporting news??? The journalists should be freed now. They have served more time than they should have in the first place.

The US should not be supporting this regime if it is bad with any kind of freedoms including news, opinions
and so forth.

These two journalists should not be languishing in prison at all.

Ty, PeasantDiva.

Robert S (111)
Friday August 10, 2012, 5:31 pm
Thank you for signing the petition "Clinton and Ashton: Demand Pardon of Swedish Journalists in Ethiopia"

We must not allow Journalists, the eyes and ears of the world to be silenced. We must cry out and stand up for them. We must win their freedom.

Peace Monger (185)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 1:39 am
Noted & signed with thanks to Pleasnt D for alerting me to this.

Pamylle G (461)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 5:47 am
Signed a while back, but glad to see new activity on this...

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 7:50 am
Thanks for signing, Pamylle, Kim, Jim & Robert.

This BBC article is the first I've come across published with their pictures; at last you can have a look at them.

30June2012 "Swedes Schibbye and Persson Mark Year in Ethiopia Jail"

"It has been the longest year in our lives," photojournalist Person and reporter Schibbye said in the statement conveyed via Swedish diplomats who met them at the prison earlier this week.

"Initially we only focused on eating, keeping warm on the cement floor and not falling ill. Today the challenge is psychological. Prison kills your intellect."
Human rights group Amnesty International has said the journalists were prosecuted for doing "legitimate work".

But Ethiopia's government spokesman Bereket Simon has said the journalists were "red handed" co-operating with "terrorist organisations".

Media reports have suggested that the reporters would not appeal their sentence, but rather apply for clemency.

Closed region
Schibbye and Persson were captured by Ethiopian troops during a clash with ONLF fighters on 1 July. (2011)

The men acknowledged during their trial that they had held talks with ONLF leaders in London and Nairobi, before entering Ethiopia from Somalia and meeting about 20 members of the group 40km (25 miles) from the border.

However, they said their contacts with the ONLF were intended to help them to get into a region the Ethiopian authorities would not allow journalists to enter.

They said they wanted to report on the activities of a Swedish oil company, Lundin Petroleum, in the Ogaden.

Both men denied terrorism charges, including claims that they had been given weapons training.

Rebels in the Ogaden region have been fighting for independence since the 1970s and the ONLF has been at the forefront of the fight since it was founded in 1984.

The Ogaden is an ethnic Somali part of Ethiopia.

One ONLF faction has signed a peace deal with the government, but another splinter group has continued to fight the army.

Rights groups accuse Ethiopia of trying to cover up abuses by troops in the region.

International Press Institute: Eskinder Nega Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison - Five Other Exiled Journalists Sentenced in Absentia for ‘Terrorism’

VIENNA, July 13, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) strongly denounced the long prison sentences handed down to journalist and writer Eskinder Nega in Ethiopia today, as well as the punishments given to five other journalists who were tried in absentia, all of whom were convicted of “terrorism” in late June 2012.

“Not only do these judgements violate the journalists’ rights to freedom of expression and press freedom, it denies Ethiopian citizens’ in general access to information and weakens the media’s ability to hold government accountable, undermining the fight against actual terrorists,” Bethel McKenzie added.

Eskinder Nega was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He was convicted this past June 27 of “participation in a terrorist organization” and “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of (a) terrorist act.” Five other journalists, sentenced in absentia, received prison terms of between eight years and life in prison. Their names are Mesfin Negash, Abiye Tekelemariam, Fasil Yenealem, Abebe Gellaw and Abebe Bellew.

A total of 11 journalists have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes since December 2011. Of these, five are in custody, locked away at the notorious Kaliti prison in Addis Ababa. Those jailed there rely on visitors for food, are locked up with hardened criminals, and are reportedly subject mistreatment and torture. In addition to Nega, Reyot Alemu and Wubshet Taye are serving 14-year sentences for “conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism” and money laundering, while Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson are serving 11-year sentences for “rendering support to terrorism”, which includes the crime of offering ill-defined “moral support”. Only journalists have ever been jailed for the crime of offering “moral support” to terrorists, according to a June report from Human Rights Watch.

For the past year, Ethiopia has used its controversial 2009 Anti-Terror Proclamation – as was feared – to systematically silence critical journalists and opposition members. Human rights groups have condemned the politicised nature of their trials. Human Rights Watch noted the lack of due process afforded the defendants, who were denied access to their legal counsel, and whose complaints of mistreatment in prison were not properly investigated.

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 8:52 am
I have just googled "Swedish oil company, Lundin Petroleum, in the Ogaden" from the above BBC article & discovered that there is in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia a situation similar to that in the Niger Delta of Nigeria:

--:- the same kind of relationship between Lundin, the Swedish petrol company, & the Ethiopian govt' as there has been between Shell in the Niger Delta & the Nigerian government;

--:- You have militarization in both areas to protect the oil interests & operations, with the military carrying out expropriations, bashing the local people who protest (either against the polluting oil extraction cum spills or being marginalised by the country's govt & central power), local people are jailed, tortured, raped and/or killed, etc;

--:- you have rebel or separatist groups which have resorted to armed struggle-- M.E.N.D. in the Niger Delta/ the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in Ogaden--- which allows the governments concerned to take measures against 'terrorists,' instead of addressing the legitimate grounds for protest.

--:- Lundin, like Shell, is no longer directly present, but their interests are maintained by a subsidiary or an affiliated company.

What complicates the plight of the Swedish journalists is that they were in the remote region of Ogodon to investigate alleged human rights abuses by the company affiliated to the Swedish oil group Lundin Petroleum, and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildtn, the govt person who should have been in the forefront most energetically demanding the release of the journalists, served as a Lundin BOARD MEMBER from 2000 until 2006 (when he was appointed foreign minister).

"Bildt enraged the media, and others, when he failed to immediately demand the release of the pair and implied shortly after their arrest that they only had themselves to blame since "they were in a zone where we have issued a travel warning."

He has since called on Ethiopia to free the pair, but media and HUMAN RIGHTS organisations have BLASTED the foreign minister for DRAGGING HIS FEET and FAILING to secure their RELEASE in the CRUCIAL FIRST days of their detention."

"Kerstin Lundell, the author of a book on Lundin's activities in Africa, wrote in a recent newspaper article that "the fact that Carl Bildt has REASON TO HIDE what is going on in Ogaden COULD EXPLAIN why these journalists are STILL in PRISON."

"Innocent civilians are being jailed, tortured, raped and killed because the military thinks they may hurt the oil companies' operations. Lundin Petroleum is no longer there, its activities have been taken over by Africa Oil. But this company is a part of the Lundin sphere," she wrote in Sweden's paper of reference Dagens Nyheter on September 13." (2011)

I have found this valuable info in an AFP article published just before the journalists' trial opened in Oct, 2011:
Sweden's Bildt under fire over Ethiopia detainees

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 9:04 am
The words of the Swedish author of the book on Lundin Petroleum's African activities -"the fact that (Swedish Foreign Minister) Carl Bildt has REASON TO HIDE what is going on in Ogaden COULD EXPLAIN why these journalists are STILL in PRISON"- take on an eery, chilling resonance knowing that these journalists are still in prison a year after their arrest.

Abdessalam Diab (145)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 9:21 am
Thank you for signing the petition "Clinton and Ashton: Demand Pardon of Swedish Journalists in Ethiopia"
Noted signed and shared.Thanks Ola for the post.Thanks PD for the forward

Suruna WTF (38)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 2:20 pm
Done, TY for forwarding Abdessalam.

Susanne R (235)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 2:25 pm
I hope these journalists aren't being jailed under the worst of conditions due to "Lundin Petroleum's African activities"! That would make the Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, complicit with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zanawi, in this horrible injustice!

The fact that Persson and Schibbye, along with at least 114 Ethiopian journalists and opposition politicians, have been jailed within the last 11 months is telling. What is the government trying to hide? It can't be good.

"Truth never damages a cause that is just."
~~Mahatma Gandhi

Thank you, Ola, for posting this important article and petition. And thank you PD WM for the forward and all the background information you added. I've signed the petition and will share with friends.

Mary T (178)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 2:53 pm
Thanks for posting I have already signed and shared.

Barb K (1688)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 3:34 pm
Signed and noted. TY Olga!

Aurea Aurea Walker (226)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 4:20 pm
Signed and noted!

Gina Caracci (219)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 4:26 pm
S&N and so sad that people are treated like this ESPECIALLY when they did nothing wrong..
seems its over money...what else is new..
my prayers to the victims, ALL of them and their families..
Thanks Sue for alerting me to this and thank you Ola for bringing us this disgusting example of human behavior...Jesus PLEASE HURRY


Joe R (190)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 5:25 pm
Signed and noted.

Thanks Ola, and thanks Susanne R. for bringing this to my attention.

Fiona Ogilvie (565)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 5:29 pm
Petition signed. Thank you, Suzanne, for letting me know about this situation.

Sheryl G (360)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 5:46 pm
Gladly signed, hope it helps. Thanks for forwarding Susanne R.

Eternal Gardener (745)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 6:25 pm
Action taken!

David C (129)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 7:19 pm
thanks, signed....Susanne, great story to pass on, hope it helps!

Kevin A (64)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 7:27 pm
Signed and noted

Ellen m (215)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 7:47 pm
Thank G_d they weren't convicted of waging peace...they may be dead now had they.

Ellen m (215)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 7:58 pm
Mmmm..only 20 signatures have been added since Susanne forwarded this to me hours ago..
I just posted this to my fb page, and i know they will help...and don't forget to TWEET!!! governments and politicians alike HATE that!

Craig Pittman (52)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 8:17 pm
Signed and noted. I sincerely trust this helps.

Phillipa W (199)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 9:05 pm
signed and noted. Thanks for the forward Susanne

divergent r (309)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 10:55 pm
signed. Wish it was fox news, especially my ex boss Geraldo rivera.

Harshita Sharma (137)
Saturday August 11, 2012, 11:37 pm
signed and shared

P A (117)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 12:40 am
Just signed - sorry, I didn't know about it before. 7,144 signatures - will forward it in hope it gets a few more. Thanks Abdessalam for this.

Bistra Staykova (4)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 12:45 am
Our Care2 friend Ellen McCame writes in Facebook:Already one year into their 11 year o=prison sentences, and there are only 7,134 signatures out of the 50K needed?!! PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE!!!

Past Member (0)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 12:53 am
signed and shared.

SuSanne P (193)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 1:13 am
Thank you Ola and to Susanne via PDWM for the fwd.
"Thank you for signing the petition "Clinton and Ashton: Demand Pardon of Swedish Journalists in Ethiopia"

Alexandra Rodda (180)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 3:05 am
Whose pockets is all that aid lining? In Ethiopia, the very poor and disabled die in the middle of the road. They can't die on the pavement because the shopkeepers don't like them to be right outside their shops. There is some big rat there, and it could be corruption.
I've never before heard of "the crime of journalism". However, if Romney and Ryan do get elected, it is likely to be a new crime in the USA also.

Past Member (0)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 3:23 am
Signed and noted.

Ayesha M (69)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 3:41 am
Signed. - Thankyou Ola and thanks to Susanne R. for bringing this to my attention.

Past Member (0)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 4:57 am

Gloria p (304)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 5:18 am

Terrie Williams (798)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 7:59 am
Signed and noted.

TomCat S (128)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 8:41 am
Signed gladly.

Nancy C (806)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 3:56 pm

Lynn Squance (235)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 5:42 pm
Signed 7169 and noted

From the article ‘Kenya: UN Highlights Role of Media in Empowering Indigenous People’ as published in (

"From community radio and television to feature films and documentaries, from video art and newspapers to the internet and social media, indigenous peoples are using these powerful tools to challenge mainstream narratives, bring human rights violations to international attention and forge global solidarity," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day.

Part of that message must come from the mainstream media, the writers and photographers who go where comparatively few of us can or will go.

The words of Martin Niemöller were nevermore true.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.
Mahatma Gandhi

Jelica R (144)
Sunday August 12, 2012, 7:29 pm

Phyllis P (237)
Monday August 13, 2012, 8:46 am
Signed and circulated. Don't understand why journalists get arrested for telling the truth???

Jennifer V (341)
Monday August 13, 2012, 10:16 am

Past Member (0)
Monday August 13, 2012, 12:36 pm
Noted & Signed

Caitlin M (104)
Monday August 13, 2012, 1:06 pm
Signed. My thanks to Susanne, PeasantDiva, and Ola. The world seems to be getting sicker and sicker, doesn't it? The only cure is caring, but sometimes it looks pretty bleak when things like this happen. The sad thing is that one can understand, perhaps, disenfranchised nations needing growth and development to treat people better, but what excuse has America got? America is as cruel as this in many ways, but Americans still tolerate it (and even support it) way too much. The gift to 'see ourselves as others see us' is, indeed, a true gift. I wish it for all of us... and very soon!

P. L. Neola (21)
Monday August 13, 2012, 1:10 pm
I signed, and it was recorded!

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Monday August 13, 2012, 3:21 pm
Sorry I couldn't thank Robert, Dandelion, Abdessalam & Jelica with green stars, but I've already used up my allotment for them.

Thank you to all I don't know & did not contact directly for helping with this cause.

As Bistra says, "PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE!!!"

Emily Drew (88)
Monday August 13, 2012, 9:39 pm
Noted and signed thank you!

Teresa W (782)
Tuesday August 14, 2012, 8:08 am
signed with hope and shared on Facebook

Darlene W (303)
Wednesday August 15, 2012, 6:09 pm
noted and signing. Bless their souls.

Susann K (24)
Thursday August 16, 2012, 1:54 pm
Noted & signed!

Ola H (27)
Friday August 24, 2012, 10:34 am
Thank you all for signing the petition and supporting Johan and Martin! I hope they'll be set free soon.

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Wednesday August 29, 2012, 2:38 pm
Oh, Ola, I'm so glad you've finally come back to see all the comments & signatures!
I felt so bad about not having acted when you first wrote to me to this situation that I tried to make up for it by fwding it to my friends on C2, & asking them to pass it on to theirs. Some of them did & voila, the snow-ball effect.

Ola H (27)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 2:37 am
Freed Swedish journalists faced mock execution in Ethiopia

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 10:31 am
Thanks for the updates, Ola. It is so nice seeing you again, too.
I haven't yet read the article you post to, but will as soon as this message is posted.

Ola H (27)
Monday December 10, 2012, 3:11 pm
And thank YOU so much Jill, for promoting this petition! Greatly appriciated. I'm sorry to say I'm not that active in the Care2 community anymore, and haven't been for some years. Life has made it so. And my restless mind. But I try to check back in from time to time and it warms my heart to see that you're always still engaged, still promoting causes and articles that I find interesting. My favourite friend here on Care2 ;) Keep it up and keep your spirit! Hugs
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