As readers of the previous post on this blog will know, the world is full of journalists who are nothing more than overblown, overpaid stenographers.
But then there are reporters like Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian journalist and blogger, who took a stand for the principle of free speech – in his case criticising the corruption surrounding the election and rule of Ethiopian leader, Meles Zenawi – and in 2012 was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment on the basis of treason laws that essentially criminalize any and all criticism of the regime.
That was his second term in jail for airing concerns about the way the Zenawi regime did its business. His wife was also jailed and while in prison gave birth to the couple’s first and only child, a son. (The worst thing than can happen to most Western journalists, by contrast, is to have their weekly expenses claim challenged!)
Eskinder Nega’s case has become a cause celebre for Amnesty International and other human rights groups but while his plight has occasionally made it into the mainstream media, coverage has really been confined to what one could call the Nicholas Kristof circuit. (He really should have been a Ukrainian Nazi or a Syrian freedom fighter, aka a member of Al-Nusra!)
Part of the reason for this may lie in the fact that the Meles Zenawi regime has become a US ally in the war against Islamic terrorism, to the extent that even though the State Department slated its record on human rights, Ethiopia was exempted from the ban on military aid that normally applies in such cases.
In return Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2007 and overthrew the pro-Islamic government. In an extraordinary move, the US allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from North Korea, even though this was in breach of UN sanctions imposed on the Pyongyang regime because of its nuclear weapons programme.
This little brief from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists tells you all you need to know about US-Ethiopian relations.
Against such forces the Eskinder Nega’s of this world stand very little chance. Which is why everyone should cry out for his freedom.
Here is a plea for his freedom made by his wife, Serkalem Fasil, made by Amnesty International: