Ogaden National Liberation Front

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Governments exploit national security laws to punish critical journalists. By Monica Campbell

(AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand)

Journalist Mohamed Abdirahman was arrested and brutally assaulted while in police custody. (Omer Albashiir)

New York, February 28, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns last week's arrest and brutal assault of Mohamed Abdirahman, a journalist in the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland. 

An Ethiopian court has sentenced Swedish journalists Johan Persson (left) and Martin Schibbye to 11 years in prison. (AFP)

New York, December 27, 2011--In a highly politicized trial, two Swedish journalists have been sentenced in an Ethiopian court to 11-year jail terms after being convicted of supporting terrorism and entering the country illegally, according to news reports.

Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson could be sentenced to up to 18 years. (Reuters)

New York, December 21, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an Ethiopian court's decision to convict two Swedish photojournalists today in what appears to be a politicized trial.

Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (Reuters)

New York, October 11, 2011--Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's public accusations on Monday against two imprisoned Swedish journalists compromise the presumption of their innocence and predetermine the outcome of their case, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The journalists were arrested in Ethiopia in July and charged with terrorism for associating with armed separatists.

In July, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, contributors to the Sweden-based photo agency Kontinent, were arrested after they crossed with rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) into Ogaden, an oil-rich province where the media is barred independent access. Earlier this year, the Ethiopian government formally designated the ONLF a terrorist group under an anti-terrorism law. Under this 2009 law, journalists risk up to 20 years in prison if the government deems their reporting favorable to groups designated as terrorists. Both journalists were charged without their lawyers present, CPJ research shows.

Persson (Kontinent)

New York, July 5, 2011--Two Swedish journalists reporting on the activities of armed separatists operating in an oil-rich province of eastern Ethiopia have been detained without charge since Thursday in the Horn of Africa nation, according to news reports and government officials.

Ethiopian security forces arrested photojournalist Johan Persson and reporter Martin Schibbye, contributors to the Sweden-based agency Kontinent, along the border with neighboring Somalia, government spokesman Bereket Simon told CPJ.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's ruling party has designated five groups as terrorist entities. (AFP)

How can an Ethiopian reporter cover the activities of Ethiopia's leading opposition figure, Berhanu Nega, or an attack by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels without risking prosecution and a 20-year prison sentence? Such questions have haunted Ethiopian journalists since a far-reaching anti-terrorism law came into effect in 2009. The law criminalizes any reporting authorities deem to "encourage" or "provide moral support" to groups and causes the government labels as "terrorists."

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