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Ethiopia: Remembering Jailed Dissident Blogger Eskinder Nega

On 13 July, 2012, Ethiopia's federal court sentenced a prominent Ethiopian blogger Eskinder Nega and 23 other opposition activists to 18 years in jail for allegedly participating in terrorist activities.

Eskinder Nega is a journalist, who turned to blogging to find a breathing space online for his dissenting views, has been in a prison for a year now. 14 September, 2012 marks the first anniversary of his arrest. The Ethiopian online community remembers him on Facebook:

Mesfin Negash writes:

One year since journalist Eskinder Nega arrested in front of his son. We mark the day demanding the release of Journalists and other prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia. Light a candle wherever you may be today. We want Eskinder and others FREE!

Ethiopian jailed blogger and journalist Eskinder Nega. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

Jawar Mohammed shares Qale'ab Tadesse Che Jr.’s note which was written by Serkalem Fasil, the wife of Eskidner Nega, and demands that the Ethiopian government free all political prisoners:

It is one year today since Eskinder Nega was thrown to jail , he was then falsely charged with terrorism and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

According to the note below by his wife and fellow journalist Serkalem Fasil, when he was a
rrested, Eskinder was bringing their 6 year old child from school. The police stopped him on his way and would not even let him bring the kid home. They violently split the boy from his father. What was strange was that they ( police) kept video tapping and taking pictures as the boy was crawling on the ground and crying watching his father who was being thrown around and hand cuffed. None of them tried to comfort the terrified baby.

Since then all the young child could to talk is police. He repeats how the police took his father.He is scared that they would come any time. He is terrified of them.

Serkalem asks, “now tell me who is the terrorist?”

She says she is worried more about the psychological impact this had on her young son than incarceration of Eskendir, because unlike the child, the father was prepared and knew this was coming. She says every every time he leave the house, Eskinder used to say goodbye to them because he suspects he might be snatched away before returning home in the evening.

Free Eskinder Nega and the rest of the over 30,000 political prisoners languishing in the various Ethiopian jails.

Meanwhile, Facebook users created a Facebook group which says “iCare” with all members of the group making their Facebook profile pictures with an Ethiopian flag with a note on it which reads “I care!”:

Nebiyu Hailu one of the members of the group writes:

Every single day [especially 14 of September] shows me that Meles Zenawi was monster, evil, cruel dictator. Thanks God I’ll never see Meles again. But this good-for-nothing Epdrf guys must free up Eskinder Nega, Andualem Arage & other political prisoners. I really care! we need freedom. After all we live in a big prison.

Zone Nine, a blog which is a host of nine young Ethiopian bloggers, reports the online event and demands the release of all political prisoners [amh]:

ኢትዮጵያውያን የፌስቡክ ተጠቃሚዎች የረጅም ጊዜ ጦማሪውና የነፃነት ተሟጋቹ እስክንድር ነጋ ወደ እስር ቤት የገባበትን አንደኛ ዓመት የፕሮፋይል ፎቶዋቸውን (በዚህ ምስል) በመቀየር እያስታወሱት ነው፡፡ ዞን ዘጠኝ እንደ የሕዝብ ውይይት እና የነፃነት ደጋፊነቷ እስክንድር ነጋንና ሁሉንም የሕሊና እስረኞች መንግስት እንዲፈታ ትጠይቃለች፡፡

The one year anniversary of the incarceration of Eskinder Nega is being marked by Ethiopians on Facebook! Ethiopians are changing their profile pictures with an Ethiopian flag with a message on it! As a group of bloggers who firmly believe in free press and free discussion we demand to the Ethiopian government to free Eskinder Nega and all political prisoners!

The Ethiopian government has increased its online censorship activities since September 2011. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), since 2011 the Ethiopian government has convicted 11 independent journalists and bloggers under a sweeping anti-terrorism law. Among those jailed are two Swedish journalists who are serving an 11 year prison term for allegedly supporting an ethnic Somali rebel group.

Eskinder Nega is the winner of Pen America's PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award for his endeavor for freedom of expression in an extremely inhospitable media landscape.

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