Jailed Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega honoured

Related Stories

An imprisoned Ethiopian journalist and blogger has been given a prestigious freedom of expression award.

Eskinder Nega was awarded the Pen America's "Freedom to Write" annual prize for publishing articles critical of Ethiopia's human rights record.

His wife Serkalem Fasil, who is a journalist and also spent time in jail, received the award on his behalf.

In the past decade, more journalists have fled Ethiopia than any other country, press freedom groups say.

'Withering conditions'

"I accept this award on behalf of Eskinder Nega at a time when freedom of expression and press freedom are at the lowest in Ethiopia," Ms Serkalem said on Tuesday night in a ceremony in New York.

Start Quote

He fell victim to exactly the measures he was highlighting”

End Quote Peter Godwin Pen American Center

"If Eskinder were standing here, he'd accept this award, not just as a personal honour, but on behalf of all Ethiopian journalists who toil under withering conditions today: Those who went into exile over the years… those in prison with whom he now resides," she said.

Mr Eskinder has been in Maekelawi prison in the capital, Addis Ababa, since his arrest in September last year.

He is being tried under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism laws - which criminalise commentary that is critical of the government - and could face the death penalty if he is found guilty.

He had published a column questioning the government's claim that a number of journalists it had detained were suspected terrorists, and for criticising the arrest of well-known Ethiopian actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu.

Mr Eskinder is "that bravest and most admirable of writers, one who picked up his pen to write things that he knew would surely put him at grave risk", said Peter Godwin, president of the Pen American Center.

Ethiopian writer Serkalem Fasil, wife of Eskinder Nega Serkalem Fasil, who accepted the award for her husband, gave birth to their son in jail

"Yet he did so nonetheless. And indeed he fell victim to exactly the measures he was highlighting," Zimbabwean-born writer Mr Godwin added.

The Pen award is given to writers who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of expression.

Mr Eskinder opened his first newspaper in 1993, and has been detained at least seven times by the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

He was stripped of his licence to work as a journalist in 2005, but continued to write for the US-based news forum EthioMedia, which is banned in Ethiopia.

He and his wife Ms Serkalem were both jailed in 2005 for criticising the government's violent crackdown of protests following disputed elections.

During their 17 months in prison, Ms Fasil gave birth to their son.

Correction 27 June 2012: This report has been amended to clarify that Eskinder Nega was not found guilty of anti-terrorism charges in January.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Africa stories

RSS

Features

  • Atletico's Diego Godin celebrates his goal with teammate David VillaWeek in pictures

    Selection of the best news photographs from around the world


  • Susanne du ToitTop 10 Tips

    Portrait painter Susanne du Toit on being an artist


  • StampsPost independence

    Will stamps get cheaper if Scots go it alone?


  • Rhea10 things

    Rhea birds can be extremely dangerous, plus other factlets


  • Plane at Shannon airportShannon's call

    The airport that hosted a roll-call of presidents


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.