5:16 pm - Wednesday May 24, 4333

FREEDOM NOW: Current Campaigns, Eskinder Nega

Eskinder NegaEskinder Nega


Eskinder Nega, 46, is a prominent Ethiopian journalist who was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison on treason and terrorism charges. Prior his current detention, Mr. Nega was a widely published independent journalist and a well-known critic of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government; as a result of his writings, the Ethiopian government has detained Mr. Nega at least eight times since 1993. Mr. Nega is married and the father of one son.

Mr. Nega began his work as an independent journalist in 1993 when he founded the Ethiopis newspaper. While Ethiopis and many of the other publications where Mr. Nega later worked were banned, he continued to write articles criticizing the Ethiopian regime’s abuses of power.

As a result of his critical reporting, the government has detained Mr. Nega on eight different occasions. In 2005, authorities arrested Mr. Nega and his then-pregnant wife, Serkalem Fasil, who is herself an independent publisher, during a nationwide crackdown following the country’s disputed elections. Mr. Nega was charged with treason and genocide and detained for 17 months before Ethiopia’s High Court released him after a series of negotiations. After releasing Mr. Nega in 2007, the government blocked him from publishing in the country. However, Mr. Nega continued to contribute to online media outlets abroad.

Prior to his most recent detention, Mr. Nega published an online column criticizing the prosecution of journalists and dissidents under Ethiopia’s overly-broad 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and calling for an end to politically motivated prosecutions. In the months prior to his arrest, he had also written extensively about how an Arab Spring-like democracy movement might occur in Ethiopia.

On September 14, 2011, authorities arrested Mr. Nega and eventually charged him under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and accused him of membership in the banned Ginbot 7 political party.

Mr. Nega’s arrest and trial have been condemned by reputable human rights organizations as politically motivated. The prosecution’s evidence against Mr. Nega at his trial included a series of nearly inaudible recordings, short video clips presented out of context, and some of Mr. Nega’s publications and interviews. In response, Mr. Nega admitted to writing the articles in question, but rejected any involvement in Ginbot 7 and reiterated that his writings only call for peaceful democratic reform in Ethiopia.

Mr. Nega was convicted on terrorism charges on June 27, 2012 and the court sentenced him to 18 years in prison on July 13, 2012. After postponing his appeal numerous times, the Ethiopian Federal Supreme Court upheld Eskinder Nega’s conviction and sentencing on May 2, 2013. One of the charges against him, “serving as a leader of a terrorist group” was dropped, but had no affect on sentencing.

In May 2012, PEN awarded him its 2012 Freedom to Write Award for his role as an advocate for freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Ethiopia.

Freedom Now represents Mr. Nega as his international pro-bono legal counsel.


Selected documents from Eskinder Nega’s case
Letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of ExpressionOctober 5, 2016Letter from Freedom Now to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression on behalf of Mr. Nega.
Prominent Rights Groups Issue Letter to Secretary Kerry On Ethiopia CommentsApril 17, 2015Human rights groups issued a letter to Secretary Kerry regarding statements made by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman about elections in Ethiopia.
Letter from 41 organizations to Prime Minister Hailemariam DesalegnJuly 24, 2014Calling for the release of imprisoned journalists and bloggers in Ethiopia.
Appeal to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ RightsOctober 17, 2013Freedom Now and the Media Legal Defence Initiative announce that imprisoned Ethiopian journalists, Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu, are appealing their convictions and imprisonments under Ethiopia’s anti-terror laws before the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
Submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human RightsSeptember 18, 2013Freedom Now along with PEN International and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) submitted a report describing the Government of Ethiopia’s persecution of journalists and violations of press freedom to be considered as part of the Universal Periodic Review of Ethiopia’s human rights policies and practices.
Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the right to freedom of expressionAugust 30, 2013AfricLaw blog post by Patrick Griffith on the Ethiopian government’s use of the Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to punish free expression.
Kerry’s Ethiopia OpportunityMay 15, 2013Wall Street Journal op-ed by Martin Schibbye, a former prisoner of conscience in Ethiopia, and Freedom Now program attorney Patrick Griffith calling for US Secretary of State John Kerry to advocate for Eskinder Nega’s release during his visit to Ethiopia.
Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionApril 1, 2013Finding Eskinder Nega’s imprisonment in violation of international law and calling for his immediate release.
Prisoners of Conscience in EthiopiaMarch 30, 2013Al Jazeera English op-ed by former Ethiopian prisoner of conscience Birtukan Mideksa condemning the Ethiopian government’s use of broad anti-terrorism laws to prosecute independent journalists like Eskinder Nega.
Letter from 16 Members of the European ParliamentDecember 18, 2012Calling for the release of Eskinder Nega.
Letter from 29 organizations to Prime Minister Hailemariam DesalegnOctober 11, 2012Urging the Ethiopian Prime Minister to lift restrictions on civil society and media.
Petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Eskinder NegaJuly 17, 2012Submitted by Freedom Now on behalf of Eskinder Nega
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