Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Jailed Ethiopian Journalist Is Given Press Freedom Award

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Jailed Ethiopian Journalist Is Given Press Freedom Award

Article excerpt

Eskinder Nega has been imprisoned since September. His wife, Serkalem Fasil, accepted a press freedom award from PEN America on his behalf.

As many of his colleagues fled Ethiopia's crackdown on the news media, Eskinder Nega stayed to write.

A journalist, Mr. Nega challenged the prosecution of fellow reporters and editors under terrorism laws in reports that ran afoul of those same laws in the eyes of the government. He went on trial on charges of inciting terrorism and could face the death penalty if found guilty in a hearing scheduled for later this month.

Mr. Nega has stood by his writing and maintained his right to publish. And now his defiant stance in defense of human rights in Ethiopia has earned him a prestigious press freedom award from PEN America in what the literary nonprofit organization said was both recognition of his past work and an attempt to pressure the Ethiopian government into halting its prosecution of journalists.

His wife, Serkalem Fasil, a journalist who was jailed alongside her husband in 2005, accepted the award for him in New York on Tuesday night. "To create the country that we want, someone has to sacrifice," she said Wednesday.

Rights advocates argue that the United States has ignored the harsh treatment of journalists in Ethiopia, where counterterrorism is seen as the primary U.S. focus. In its 2010 report on the Ethiopian human rights situation, the State Department said, "While the Constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and of the press, the government did not respect these rights in practice."

Mr. Nega is among 11 journalists, including two Swedish reporters, arrested under broad anti-terrorism laws that the Ethiopian government, concerned by the Arab Spring protests last year, has increasingly used to quash independent reporting, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is based in New York. About 150 Ethiopian journalists live in exile -- more than from any other country in the world, the committee said. …

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