Ethiopia: Swedish Journalists Sentenced To 11 Years In Prison

Photojournalist Johan Persson
Photojournalist Johan Persson (Image: Kontinent Agency)

On 27 December Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye have been sentenced to 11 years in prison for illegally entering the country and supporting a terrorist organization by an Ethiopian court .

Photographer Johan Persson and reporter Martin Schibbye were working as freelancers on a story about the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in Ethiopia. The organization is fighting for an independent Ogaden. Ogaden is part of Ethiopia since the 1896 but is populated by ethnic Somalis. According to its own definition, the ONLF was formed in 1984 with the goal to achieve independence for the country and defend its people and natural resources from all enemies.

Persson and Schibbye were covering recent oil discoveries allegedly to be exploited by China for the Swedish agency Kontinent and the magazine Filter. They illegally crossed into Ethiopia from Somalia with the ONLF where they were captured by the Ethiopian army in July 2011. Both admit to having crossed the border without permission, but deny supporting the ONLF which is considered a terrorist organization under Ethiopian law.

Reporter Martin Schibbye
Reporter Martin Schibbye (Image: Kontinent Agency)

The Swedish government is in contact with high-level authorities in the East African country and demands an immediate release of the journalists. Several NGOs are also involved in the case.

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(Sources: Kontinent Agency,  Free Johan & Martin,, Ogaden National Liberation Front; 12 Dec 2012)