Journalists Dismiss as ‘Travesty of Justice' Conviction of Swedish Reporters on Terror Charges in Ethiopia


International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for the reversal of

the ruling by a court in Ethiopia which found Swedish reporters, Johan Persson

and Martin Schibbye, guilty of "supporting a terrorist organisation and

illegally entering Ethiopia". The pair, who was arrested in July while reporting

on a project to exploit oil and its impact on the regional environment, faces up to

15 years in prison.

"We are outraged

by this ruling which amounts to a travesty of justice," said IFJ President, Jim

Boumelha. "Journalists' contacts with organisations do not in any way represent

support for whatever causes they defend. This verdict will not only severely

undermine press freedom in Ethiopia but also adversely impact on the country's

good standing and we look to the higher court to set it aside and order the

journalists' release."

Media reports

say that the judge in the case of the two reporters accepted that they were

"esteemed journalists" but held that "They have not been able to prove

that they did not support terrorism."

The IFJ voiced

its grave concern over this finding which shifts the burden of proof from

prosecution to the accused, noting that the standards of due process have been

affected by a clear bias against the two reporters.


verdict has been widely criticised by journalists' organisations in Africa and

beyond. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) accused the Ethiopian

authorities of engaging in a campaign of intimidation to suppress independent

reporting on the country's affairs.

"This is a

political verdict intended to deter journalists from covering events in a major

conflict zone," EFJ President Arne König said.  "We call on the Ethiopian authorities to

respect the freedom of the press and release these two journalists who were

clearly in the country for genuine journalistic reasons. We also call on the

government to act to ensure that all journalists in Ethiopia are free to do

their jobs and not suppressed through legal actions designed to silence

critical voices."


Eastern Africa Journalists' Association (EAJA) has also condemned the ruling,

calling on the Ethiopian Government to release the two reporters and to respect

the right of journalists, including foreign reporters, to report independently

on Ethiopian matters.


Swedish colleagues, Schibbye and Persson, cannot conceivably be considered

terrorists or supporters of a terrorist group," said EAJA General Secretary, Omar

Faruk Osman. "They have suffered enough in detention and we call for their immediate


For more

information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents more than

600.000 journalists in 131 countries