Jul 22, 2011

Ogaden: Swedish Journalists to Remain in Custody

Reporters to remain in custody in Addis Ababa without charge.

Below is an article published by The Local:

“They were remanded back into custody,” said Anders Jörle, head of the ministry’s information department to news agency TT. 

The Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were arrested and injured in the closed border area Ogaden, on July 1st, when caught in a battle between Ethiopian government forces and the ONLF guerilla.

The journalists entered Ethiopia illegally together with the rebels, who are classed as terrorists by the regime. 

Following their arrest, the pair was taken to a detention centre in the city Jijiga, where they were permitted to meet briefly with Swedish ambassador Jens Odlander.

After many conflicting reports as to where they were being held, the pair was subsequently moved to Addis Ababa.

Last week the Swedish foreign ministry officials found out that a preliminary remand hearing had been conducted as early as July 6th in Jijiga, prior to the move of the two Swedish reporters to Addis Ababa. 

However, a new hearing, where the two Swedes would have legal counsel present was scheduled for this week and took place on Wednesday morning. 

According to Jörle no charges have been filed against the two reporters but the preliminary investigation is still ongoing. The two Swedes, under suspicion for terrorism crimes, have denied all allegations. 

“They maintain that they were there as reporters to carry out journalistic work,” Jörle said.

Despite their ordeal the two journalists are not feeling too bad and are not being ill-treated. 

“But of course it isn’t much fun to be stuck there,” Jörle said to TT.

Both the Swedish Union of Journalists (Journalistförbundet) and Reporters Without Borders have criticized the fact that Schibbye and Persson will be expected to pay for their own legal fees, according to daily Svenska Dagbladet. 

“That they are held because they were carrying out journalistic work is absurd in itself, but that they will be forced to pay their own legal representation is really unacceptable,” said Jonas Nordling, chairman of the union to SvD. 

Swedish Reporters Without Borders have started a collection to contribute to the cost. 

So far they have managed to collect 30,000 kronor ($) but chairman Jesper Bengtsson thinks that at least the double will be needed. 

And at the Journalists’ union it is felt that more must be done by the foreign ministry to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to release the two Swedes.

“Anything less than an immediate release is unacceptable. I am expecting the Swedish government to take a clear stance on this,” said Nordling in a statement on Wednesday.