Martin Schibbye, who has been held in Ethiopian prison with his colleague Johan Persson since the beginning of July, sent a letter dated mid-August to his old classmates from the journalism department of Stockholm University which may hold the key to what the two reporters were doing in the country when they were arrested.
”To understand what we were trying to achieve – read Kerstin Lundell’s book that was published by Ordfront last year,” the letter read, according to Swedish newspaper ETC.
Kerstin Lundell’s book, “Affärer i blod och olja. Lundin petroleum i Afrika” (Business in blood and oil. Lundin Petroleum in Africa), describes how the company has contributed to the encroachment of the civilian population while extracting natural gas in the Ogaden province of Ethiopia, bordering on Somalia.
While writing the book, which won Lundell the Swedish investigative journalism award Guldspaden in 2010, Lundell decided not to travel to the area in fear of what might befall her there, ETC reports
But in the beginning of July 2011, Schibbye and Persson were arrested by Ethiopian police in the Ogaden province, which they had entered illegally with the help of ONLF guerilla soldiers.
In an email to a journalist friend at Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) Schibbye wrote that he was ”doing something on oil” prior to going to Ethiopia, reported the paper.
In June 2010 ECOS (European Coalition on Oil in Sudan), an umbrella group of European organisations, including about 50 NGOs, published a report called “Unpaid Debt”, urging Sweden, Austria and Malaysia to probe whether Lundin Petroleum (then Lundin Oil), in consortium with Petronas and OMV, had broken international law between 1997 and 2003.
By launching oil exploration in such an unstable region, the consortium set the wheels in motion for a power struggle that had led to numerous crimes, including widespread “killing of civilians, rape of women, abduction of children, torture and forced displacements,” the report claimed.
Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt was on the board of directors of Lundin Petroleum at the time.
Following the publication of the ECOS report, Bildt defended Lundin in an interview with Swedish public radio, insisting the company’s actions in Sudan had “opened the way for a peace deal” in the area.
According to ETC, the story that Schibbye and Persson were working on was supposed to be published in Swedish magazine Filter.
Although the magazine could not contribute to the reporters’ expenses in Ethiopia, the editor-in-chief Mattias Göransson had promised the two journalists that if they came back with a story, the magazine would buy it, he told Swedish journalist trade union paper Journalisten last week.
However, the majority of Filter’s articles have a domestic focus.
”I don’t want to disclose anything about the nature of the article, but I can say that there is a very strong Swedish connection,” said Göransson to Journalisten.
Lundin Petroleum is involved in exploration and production of oil and natural gas and is active in Norway, Russia and Sudan, as well as Ethiopia and Somalia.
According to ETC, the company gas been criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups for its activities in southern Sudan.
In 2006, Lundin Petroleum began exploration activities in Ethiopia, despite concerns from human rights groups that Ethiopian authorities had forcibly removed residents to help the company establish operations.
In 2009, Lundin Petroleum, sold its subsidiary in east Africa to Africa Oil, which is jointly owned by Lukas Lundin and Lundin Petroleum.