Jul 05, 2011

Ogaden: Swedish Reporters Covering ONLF May Stand Trial

Reporters from Sweden have been detained for attempting to report on ONLF.

Below is an article published by The Local:

The two Swedish reporters being held in custody in Ethiopia may face a court on Tuesday, but according to the Foreign Ministry it is not yet known what they are charged with.

 “They are alive and held by the authorities, but we don’t know how seriously injured they are,” said Linn Duvhammar at the Foreign ministry to news agency TT. 

Freelance journalist Johan Persson and photo-journalist Martin Schibbye first entered Ethiopia by crossing the border to Somalia. The purpose of the journey was to shadow the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) Guerrilla and report on the conflict between the Somali guerrillas and the Ethiopian state. 

On Sunday news agency TT reported that the UK branch of the ONLF had said in a statement that a pro-Ethiopian newspaper had published the names of the missing Swedes and confirmed that they had been taken into custody by the army.

The paper also was reported saying that the two men’s guerrilla guides had been killed. 

Roxwall told TT that Schibbye and Persson had promised to check in with her every third day, but since June 27th it has not been possible for her or for their families to get in touch with them.

Abdi Mahdi, who heads of the UK branch of the ONLF organization in London told TT on Sunday evening that he had been in contact with the reporters three days ago. 

“I spoke to them when they were on their way into Ogaden, and we provided them with guides and directions. The plan was for them to tour the whole area but when we didn’t hear from them we began to worry,” Mahdi told TT. 

Later on Sunday night it was confirmed by Ethiopian authorities that Ethiopian soldiers had killed 15 ONLF rebels in the Ogaden region. 

Schibbye and Persson, who accompanied them, were reported to have sustained minor injuries in the clash between guerrilla and government forces. 

“15 rebels, all armed, were killed and six were injured. Two Swedish reporters sustained minor injuries during the fighting,” Shimelis Kemal, spokesman for the Ethiopian government told news agency Reuters on Sunday. 

He added that the Swedes were currently held in custody but were receiving treatment for their injuries.

Both journalists have now been able to contact their families, according to Sveriges Radio (SR). But their condition is believed to be serious.

The Swedes have confirmed that they sustained injuries when shot at by Ethiopian soldiers three days ago, but claim that they have yet to receive any treatment.

According to the foreign ministry, Persson and Schibbye have been taken to Jijiga in the Somali region, where they may stand trial in an Ethiopian court on Tuesday. 

According to Ethiopian authorities the two reporters have entered the country illegally and are therefore being held in custody.

“We have received information that they will go to court tomorrow but we have not been informed as to what the charges are,” Kent Öberg of the foreign ministry information service told TT.

“We have advised against traveling to Ogaden for some time, partly because it is a dangerous area and partly because we have limited opportunities to help there,” Duvhammar told TT. 

“Now the Swedish embassy is struggling to make contact with the Swedes, to get to see them and check how they are,” she said