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SWEDES JAILED IN ETHIOPIA

JOURNALISTS

Swedish journos decry ‘unnecessary’ jail time

Two Swedish journalists in Ethiopia jailed on terrorism charges say they are being detained unnecessarily, one year into their 11-year sentence, Swedish diplomats said Monday.

Swedish journos decry 'unnecessary' jail time

Diplomats last week visited reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson, who have been held in an Ethiopian jail since their arrest on July 1 last year.

“I think they’re very bored but physically they’re okay, mentally they’re still okay,” Sweden’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Jens Odlander, told AFP.

“They still think they’ve been sitting there unnecessarily.”

The Swedes receive weekly visits from embassy staff and relatives fly to see them about once a month.

The journalists were arrested in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region with rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) after illegally entering from Somalia, and were sentenced in December for supporting terrorism.

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said the court’s decision stands and that Schibbye and Persson “went beyond what is permissible in journalist actions.”

“An independent tribunal has found them guilty…. They could make an appeal if they are aggrieved by the decision of the high court – they still have a chance to appeal and challenge that decision,” he said.

However, the pair said in January that they would not appeal the case. Under Ethiopian law, prisoners may be granted clemency and released early with an admission of guilt, but Odlander would not comment on whether they will seek a pardon.

The rebel ONLF said in a statement on Saturday that the Swedes were “political prisoners of conscience” and accused the Ethiopian government of cracking down on press freedom.

The case has drawn heavy criticism from rights groups, with Amnesty International calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the pair.

The journalists were convicted under Ethiopia’s anti-terror law, which critics have called vague and far reaching.

Last week, prominent journalist Eskinder Nega was found guilty along with 23 others on terror charges. They face life in jail.

Press watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists has said Ethiopia has one of the most restricted media in the world, with 79 journalists forced into exile since 2001.

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MEDIA

France slams Belarus’ ‘arbitrary’ crackdown on foreign media

France on Sunday condemned an "arbitrary" crackdown against the media in Belarus after the accreditation of several journalists working for foreign media was withdrawn in the wake of disputed presidential elections.

France slams Belarus' 'arbitrary' crackdown on foreign media
Belarus opposition supporters protesting against disputed presidential elections results in Minsk on August 27. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP
“The arbitrary measures taken by the Belarusian authorities against journalists violate press freedom,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.
   
“I call on the Belarusian authorities to reverse these measures without delay,” he added, saying that the crisis in Belarus requires “the establishment of an inclusive national dialogue”.
   
“Repressive measures against journalists cannot help,” he said.
   
Belarusian authorities on Saturday withdrew the accreditation of journalists working for several foreign media, including AFP, ahead of a major demonstration Sunday challenging the results of the presidential election.
   
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has faced unprecedented protests since the disputed August 9 election in which he claimed a landslide victory with 80 percent of the vote in a poll
that the opposition says was rigged.
   
 
Belarus government spokesman Anatoly Glaz said the decision to revoke the media accreditations was taken on the recommendation of the country's counter-terrorism unit.
   
He did not specify how many journalists were affected by the measure, but foreign media including the BBC, Reuters and Radio Liberty reported the withdrawal of accreditation of several of their journalists.
   
Belarusian journalists working for Agence France-Presse also had their accreditation revoked.
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