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Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega after his release on Tuesday. He’s among the over 740 prisoners who were set for release by the federal government as part of political reforms announced in January 2018 / Photo: Addis Standard

Ethiopia frees top journalist after 7 years in jail

Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega has finally been released from a prison facility after seven years in jail. Nega was among the over 740 prisoners who were set for release by the federal government as part of political reforms announced in January 2018.

His release comes barely a week after he reportedly refused to sign a ‘false confession form’ in exchange for his liberty.

Nega was imprisoned reportedly after criticizing his country’s abuse of anti-terror laws to silence the press. He was arrested on 14 September 2011, when Ethiopian authorities accused him of “leading a plan to throw the country into serious political chaos through a series of terrorist acts” and linked him to a banned opposition group.

A crowd of opposition supporters welcome the some of the release political prisoners in January / Photo: Addis Standard

 

His jailing came shortly after Nega, a persistent critic of Ethiopia’s former long-time ruler and then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, published a column questioning the government’s abuse of anti-terror laws to punish journalistic scrutiny.

Following his arrest in 2011, a court subsequently convicted him in June 2012 on charges of “participation in a terrorist organization” and “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of (a) terrorist act”.

The Ethiopian journalist was named the ‘World Press Freedom Hero for 2017 by the International Press Institute.

The Committee to Protect Journalists had quoted Eskinder’s wife, Serkalem Fasil, saying that late last week, a prison official asked Eskinder to sign a form which falsely stated that he was a member of Ginbot 7, an organization that the government deems a terrorist group. Fasil said her husband refused to sign and asked to see a more senior official subsequent to which he was returned to his cell.

Adira Kallo

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