NUJ, IFJ and EFJ welcome release of journalists held in Ethiopia
Two Swedish journalists are among prisoners who have been pardoned in Ethiopia to mark the country's New Year's Day.
Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were jailed in December 2011 for 11 years following their conviction for "supporting a terrorist organisation and illegally entering Ethiopia". The two journalists, who were reportedly pardoned in July by former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who died in August, have been freed and are expected to fly home soon, according to media reports.
International Federation of Journalists President Jim Boumelha, said."We welcome the news of their release which will come as huge relief for their families and colleagues. They have spent more than a year in prison on flimsy charges but it is now time to put their ordeal behind them and get on with their lives."
Persson and Schibbye entered Ethiopia via Somaliland to investigate the oil project in the region, focusing on Lundin Oil, a company in which the Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt was on the board and a shareholder, before becoming a government's minister.
They were arrested after smirches between the Ethiopian military and the rebel movement fighting in the Ogaden region, on the border with Somalia, where they were captured by the Ethiopian army in July 2011.
Last December, they were sentenced to 11 years in jail after an Ethiopian court convicted them of entering the country illegally and supporting terrorism. Both journalists admit they entered Ethiopia without permission but strenuously denied any accusations of supporting terrorism.
They did not appeal their conviction, preferring to appeal for clemency based on the Ethiopian tradition of 'pardoning' prisoners on the country's New Year Day (11 September).
Arne König, EFJ president, said:"There was never an admission of guilt to terrorism nor any credible evidence to justify their conviction. They were just two journalists trying to tell a story on a conflict stricken area that needs to be told. But they saw little to gain from a protracted appeal process and we are delighted that they are now free."