The jailing of the Swedish Journalists in Ethiopia, Silent Cry and advice

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* Protest organised in front of the Ethiopian consulate in Stockholm this Friday 


By T, Staffer of De Birhan Media 
27/12/11

Today marked the news of the jailing of two Swedish journalists for 11 years in Ethiopia. Foreign journalists have for the first time  experienced the brunt that Ethiopian journalists have been going through. They have been imprisoned since July 2011. They were sentenced for ‘supporting terrorism in Ethiopia and entering the country illegally.’ The judge said .”investigative reporter Martin Schibbye and photojournalist Johan Persson were not trying to gather news when they entered Ethiopia in July with the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).” The Judge said the convictions warranted a sentence of up to 14 and a half years, but noted the freelance journalists’ “good behaviour.” The prosecution had asked for 18 and a half years.


Journalists Johan Persson (L) and Martin Schibbye
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, the Swedish government and rights groups like Amnesty International have criticized Ethiopia, saying the two men were conducting legitimate work. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed ‘serious concern’ saying that while recognizing the Ethiopian judicial process, they hope that the two journalists can be released as soon as possible.  The rebels, Human rights and aid groups have accused government forces of numerous rights violations during the conflict and atrocities against the region’s largely ethnic Somali population.

After the verdict was passed, about a dozen of protesters gathered outside Ethiopia’s consulate in Stockholm, waving Swedish and Ethiopian flags and chanting ‘Free Martin Schibbye! Free Johan Persson! Free all political and journalist prisoners!’  A major protest is also planned by Ethiopians living in Sweden and Swedish nationals. 
The organisers told De Birhan Media that the protest will be held in front of Ethiopian Consulate, Löjtnantsgatan 17 in Stockholm on Friday 30th Dec. 2011 from 10:45-12:00.  They advise protesters to take the Metro to Morby centrum and get off at Stadion and walk 500m to get to the Consulate and also to bring with them placards and Ethiopian and Swedish flags.
‘The government does not respect the rule of law that is made in parliament. This is our reality,’ said 30-year-old Nebiyu Desta Yiman, who is seeking political asylum in Sweden. ‘These two, and thousands of others, should be released.’ reports the Daily Mail.
This year, Ethiopia has detained more than 150 people, including reporters, in a crackdown the opposition says is designed to stifle moves towards more democracy. The government vehemently denies such accusations. Diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Sweden have become increasingly strained in the last couple of years, analysts say. 

President of the Federal High Court 


Wubeshet Shiferaw, President of the Federal High Court who gave a long interview to the State owned Ethiopian Television (ETV) tonight  said that the sentences were proper and non political. He also mentioned that some international groups and countries tried to interfere on the judicial procedure just because the prisoners were  European nationals and journalists. He said however, in spite of the pressures the verdict was given and will be effected as of.

Silent Cry 

Silent Cry is a documentary film that shows the human rights abuses in Ogaden region of Ethiopia produced by a team of four young British journalism graduates with a Somali ethnic descent. The film was produced in 2009 when the team went to a refuge camp in Kenya and  filmed abuse stories by the Ethiopian army in Somali region of Ethiopia. Since the release of the documentary, the team have been travelling around the world showing the recording and campaign about the abuse in the region. The producers grew into being rights group that named itself after their documentary “Silent Cry”.  
According to the Group “Silent cry now has active branches in USA, Europe, Africa and UK. 4 out of the 5 continents around the world all raising awareness on the human rights crises in the Ogden Region.
They also state that their mission is not to feed refugees that they talked to in Kenya. “We are not planning to feed 250.000 refugees in IFO refugee camp but to tackle the grassroots of the the problem. To raise AWARENESS to the international governments about their situations. 
In the documentary they report that they have interviewed Ethiopian Somalis who have run away from “persecution and genocide” in the region. They also took photographs of Ogadeni Ethiopians who had fled to IFO Refugee camp in Kenya like these ones :  
            
                     
However, their campaign and missions seemed to have changed last night 26-12-11 when they were part of a documentary that was produced by the ruling party’s news agency , Walta Infomation Centre and transmitted in the State Tv (ETV). The documentary ,  entitled “The Silent Cry: Was it true or false/fake? , starts by reminding how the the young British students whose initial purpose was to vacation in Kenya, altered their holiday intentions after they had met “Omar”, a Taxi Driver with a story that changed their purpose into filming the atrocities and the impacts. It also explains how the group continued to ‘tarnish the image of the Ethiopian government and Ethiopia by campaigning against it within the US Congress, rights groups and Universities in the West’. 


Then comes the new story. Having watched the film, the Head of the Somali Regional Administration had set out a mission to London to meet these four young men in person. He did meet them and advised them that they could come and visit everything in the region first hand and be the judge themselves, the documentary reports. The film shows the four young men who later agreed to come and visit everything, doing so. The members of Silent Cry are shown speaking how they were from the start exploited by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and produced the documentary and how they came to quarrel with the leadership of ONLF over division of money garnered from the documentary. The Silent Cry members are shown visiting the in and outs of the Somali region of Ethiopia hospitals, prisons, communities and schools. The intriguing part of the documentary is when it presents around six young orphan children who explained to the Silent Cry team and the News Agency how their parents were brutally killed by the ONLF. 
Judging by the age and facial expressions of the children, I may deduce that the students were perhaps made to incriminate ONLF. According to the journalist there are over 300 orphan students in this school alone who lost their parents due to the acts of killing by ONLF. Whoever is the perpetrator, this claim by the journalist alone serves as an evidence that there has been a genocide in the region.  
Before the documentary finishes, the Silent Cry members are listened stating that they were convinced that there is development and peace in the region and the crimes were committed by ONLF. They vow to do a counter PR campaign against ONLF internationally supporting the government. Up until this moment there has been no formal statement from the group regarding the documentary. Regardless of the history of the crew and genuineness of the documentary by Walta, the timing of the transmission (a day before the verdict on the Swedish journalists who came to report the abuse in the region), raises the eyebrows of many.

You may watch the whole documentary here:



Advice 

This is a high time for the Swedish government and the international community to stand with the people of Ethiopia, pro-democracy groups. Sweden has primarily seen cases of the harassment, abuse and the mistreatment of its dear, truth searching nationals in Ethiopia by the regime, thus it is easy for anyone to assume how Ethiopian journalists and politicians are being treated. The government of Sweden needs to work and collaborate for coming of a better administration, non-political justice system and just development in the debt receiving nation, Ethiopia. Giving money and support to a regime that does not respect its own constitution, citizens, funders and the international community is tantamount to being an accomplice of a crime . Therefore , I would advise Sweden to redirect its 21 million euro and all forms of support towards Ethiopians that fight for the entrenchment of democracy, freedom and justice.