January 3, 2012
RAN 64/11: Update 1

ETHIOPIA: Swedish journalists sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Two Swedish journalists, including Johan Persson, pictured with camera, were found guilty of supporting terrorism in Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of CNN.

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International condemns the draconian punishment handed down to Swedish journalists Johann Persson and Martin Schibbye by an Ethiopian judge on December 26, 2011. The two journalists, who were found guilty of entering the country illegally and "supporting terrorism," were each sentenced to 11 years in prison. The WiPC calls for their immediate release.

The reporters 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 ONLF is regarded by Ethiopiaas a terrorist organization and Persson and Schibbye were charged under anti-terrorism legislation. 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. Both denied any involvement in terrorism.

There are 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, visit PEN International here.

By giving your digital signature below, your name will appear in a petition appealing to the Minister of Justice of Ethiopia, Berhanu Hailu. PEN Center USA will write on the signatories' behalf:

  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the journalists Martin Schibbye and Johann Persson.
  • Expressing concern that the journalists have been arrested purely in relation to their journalistic activity, in violation of the right to freedom of expression protected under international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is a party, including the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
  • Protesting the unfair trial in which political interference and fabricated evidence were prominent.

The period for signing this petition is now over.