Ethiopian journalist and blogger, Eskinder Nega, has been named the winner of a top press freedom award despite being in jail since 2011.
The International Press Institute (IPI) on Tuesday (25 April) named him as the winner of the ‘World Press Freedom Hero for this year.
Nega was imprisoned reportedly after criticizing his country’s abuse of anti-terror laws to silence the press. He becomes the IPI’s 69th World Press Freedom Hero.
Nega has spent over 2,000 days behind bars since his arrest 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.
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”.
IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said the award was in recognition of Nega’s “unflinching dedication to the free exchange of ideas and information and his determination – at the expense of his freedom and separation from his family – not to remain silent in the face of the Ethiopian government’s cynical attempt to use the fight against terrorism to crush legitimate dissent.”
The journalist was arrested in 2005 along with his wife, journalist Serkalem Fasil and were charged with treason over their coverage of government crackdown after legislative polls in the country.
This is not the first international award Nega has received. In 2014, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) honoured him with its Golden Pen of Freedom Award. He was also bestowed with the Freedom to Write Award by the PEN American Center in 2012.