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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.
(via PEN American Center - April 12, 2012: Top PEN Prize to Honor Eskinder Nega, Jailed Ethiopian Journalist and Blogger)

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.

(via PEN American Center - April 12, 2012: Top PEN Prize to Honor Eskinder Nega, Jailed Ethiopian Journalist and Blogger)

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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

SOS: Dissent and terrorism in Ethiopia

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Eskinder Nega’s Verdict Postponed 
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.” 
(via PEN American Center - May 11, 2012: Eskinder Nega’s Verdict Postponed)

Eskinder Nega’s Verdict Postponed 

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.” 

(via PEN American Center - May 11, 2012: Eskinder Nega’s Verdict Postponed)

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We are dismayed at the conviction of Eskinder Nega. The evidence presented in court shows that this courageous journalist spoke and wrote only of peaceful change in Ethiopia; not of terrorism, nor of violent overthrow of the government, as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has tried to insist.

That Eskinder was put on trial at all for his writing, shows a shameful disdain for Ethiopia’s obligations to its citizens and to international law, and further proof of its alarming descent into an authoritarian state. This guilty verdict is an affront to journalists everywhere who exercise their internationally-protected right to freedom of expression.

We at PEN urge the world to stand with Eskinder Nega, with the journalists struggling inside Ethiopia, and with the 150 journalists who have now fled Ethiopia into exile. Our pledge to Eskinder is this: we will keep campaigning for your release until you walk free.”

PEN President Peter Godwin on Ethiopian Journalist Eskinder Nega’s conviction
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New York City, July 13, 2012—PEN American Center reacted angrily to the sentencing of journalist Eskinder Nega to 18 years in prison on bogus terrorism charges in Ethiopia, calling on the United States and other donor nations to reevaluate their relationships with the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Eskinder, who received this year’s PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, was one of 20 journalists and political activist to be sentenced today to long prison terms on terrorism-related charges, accelerating a trend where vague anti-terrorism laws are used to silence peaceful dissenting voices in Ethiopia.

Read the entire press release here

For more information contact:
Larry Siems, (646) 359-0594
Sarah Hoffman, (201) 874-9849

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Abebe Tolla, (better known as Abé Tokichaw) was a newspaper satirist for Feteh newspaper in Ethiopia. He fled the country in November 2011, fearing imprisonment in retaliation for his critical news commentaries. Ethiopia is one of the repressive states in the world: the government uses very broad anti-terrorism legislation to clamp down on the free press and on any kind of dissent. It has imprisoned numerous journalists for highly questionable terror-related offences that, in other countries, would not even be regarded as crimes.


Abebe Tolla:

In Ethiopia nowadays, journalists – especially those working for the free press – work in constant fear. Nobody knows how long he’ll stay in his job because the government can charge you with being a terrorist any time it likes.

Whenever anyone is arrested under anti-terrorism law now, people [automatically] ask: “Was he/she a journalist?” To be a journalist in Ethiopia is to risk your life.

But I don’t really describe myself as a journalist; I am best known as a columnist. Most of my writings are about the problems faced by the lower social classes and the bad governance of my country. I write because I want things to change.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE