Top PEN Prize to Honor Eskinder Nega, Jailed Ethiopian Journalist and Blogger
PEN American Center today named Eskinder Nega, a journalist and dissident blogger in Ethiopia, as the recipient of its 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. Nega, a leading advocate for press freedom and freedom of expression in Ethiopia, was arrested on September 14, 2011, and is currently being tried under the country’s sweeping anti-terror legislation, which criminalizes any reporting deemed to “encourage” or “provide moral support” to groups and causes which the government considers to be “terrorist.” He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Democracy is humanity’s common destiny. There is no avoiding it whether you are an Eskimo or a Zulu; a Christian or a Muslim; white or black; developed or developing. It is truly universal. And after a long journey, Ethiopia’s encounter with destiny is right around the corner. We are almost there.
Eskinder Nega, journalist, dissident blogger, and 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award recipient, imprisoned since September 14, 2011
One of Ethiopia’s only remaining independent papers, Fitih (Justice), ran this cover of a photoshopped image of Eskinder Nega reaching through the bars of his prison cell to receive the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. The newspaper featured a moving editorial in favor of Mr. Nega.
Ethiopian publisher Elias Wondimu and journalist Serkalem Fasil, wife of PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Prize winner Eskinder Nega, at the 9/11 memorial in New York. Both later posed with police officers at the site, expressing surprise that they were friendly given their experience with hostile security officers in Ethiopia.
PEN President Peter Godwin: “We are disappointed Eskinder Nega’s ordeal didn’t come to an end today with the acquittal he deserves. The trial proceedings only reinforced the baselessness of the charges against him, and the court’s explanation for the delay in issuing a verdict—that it needs another six weeks to transcribe the record—does little to inspire confidence in the court’s workings.
“We ask the world to join with us in pressing the Meles government to bring the unjust persecution of Eskinder Nega and his fellow journalists in Ethiopia to an end.”