The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the jail
sentences which were handed down today by a judge in Addis Ababa to Swedish
journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson.
The pair were both sentenced to 11 years in jail after an Ethiopian court
last week convicted them of entering the country illegally and supporting
terrorism. Both men admit they entered Ethiopia without permission but
strenuously deny any accusations of supporting terrorism.
The journalists were in the country to investigate the human rights record
of the oil industry in the region. They were specifically interested in Lundin
Oil, a company in which the Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt was on the
board and a shareholder, before becoming a minister.
The Federation vowed to work relentlessly with its European and African
groups, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Federation of
African Journalists (FAJ) to overturn the verdict and secure the reporters'
"This is a devastating blow to press freedom in Ethiopia but we are
determined to pursue the fight for our colleagues' freedom," said Jim Boumelha,
IFJ President. "This sentence is all about cowing independent media into
submission to government's control and it is preposterous to even suggest these
journalists represent a danger to peace and security."
According to media reports, the presiding judge in the case of the two
journalists, Shemsu Sirgaga sentenced the journalists to 11 years in prison,
saying that the sentence "should satisfy the goal of peace and security."
Prosecutors had asked for 18 years in prison for the pair.
The IFJ strongly criticised last week's verdict and joined the EFJ and the
Eastern Africa Journalists' Association (EAJA) in demanding the journalists'
release. Two other Ethiopian journalists were also on trial for terror charge
and they are still awaiting the court' decision.
The Federation plans to mobilise its members and partners in Africa and
Europe in the new year with a view to giving a high profile to this case and
maintaining pressure on the authorities in Ethiopia to review this ruling and
the detention of the Ethiopian colleagues and release them.
"This is clearly an unfair and unjust sentence which adds to the anxiety of
our colleagues and their families," added Arne König, EFJ President. "The Swedish Union of Journalists is
now going to work closely with the journalists' families and is demanding that the
Swedish Government ensures this injustice is remedied and our colleagues can
return to their families and colleagues."
information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than
600.000 journalists in 131 countries