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
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
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
information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than
600.000 journalists in 131 countries