Journalists arrested while working in Ethiopia have been charged with terrorismPosted: September 13, 2011
Last week two freelance Swedish journalists, who were on assignment in Ethiopia, were officially charged with terrorism after being arrested early in July.
Photographer Johan Persson and reporter Martin Schibbye were arrested after entering the restricted Ogaden region with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a rebel group opposing the Ethiopian government. Fighting between the ONLF and the Ethiopian troops while the journalists were traveling with the rebel group. Six people including the journalists were injured and 15 rebels were killed in the fighting.
Under regular Ethiopian law, detainees are supposed to be charged within 72 hours of arrest, but under the anti-terrorism law the journalist were able to held for up to four months without being charged of a crime, according to Ethiopian government spokesman Shimelis Kemal.
The two journalists finally appeared in court last week along with two Ethiopian members of ONLF. All four men were leveled with the terrorism charge. The Swedes also face charges of “abetting and rendering professional assistance to terrorists” and “entering into a sovereign state without a valid visa or lawful permission,” said Kemal. The maxim sentence for the charges under Ethiopian law is life in prison.
The Swedish worry about the charges against the journalists.
“The two journalists were on spot on a journalistic mission and we have not had reason to question their claim,” Swedish foreign ministry spokesperson Anders Jorle told AFP by telephone from Stockholm.
“It is worrying us that the case has been brought to a charge against the journalists.”
The international press freedom watchdogs have also come out against the arrests.
Should journalists have the freedom to associate with risky people and travel to restricted areas in order to cover a story?