By Stephanie Doetzer
The arrest of two Swedish journalists in Ethiopia raises concerns about Ethiopia's overall policy in the Ogaden region.
Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson did something that only few journalists tried in recent years: They defied the Ethiopian governments ban on journalists in the Somali region of Ethiopia and illegally crossed into the country from Somalia.
On July 1st, shorty after their arrival, the two Swedes were arrested by Ethiopian authorities. “I haven't been in touch with them since June 27”, says Anna Roxvell, a close friend and colleague of the journalists. “Our agreement was that they'd send a message every three days, even if it's just a short 'we're ok' via their satellite phone.”
When no more messages came, Roxvell started calling the press and the Swedish foreign department. A representative of the Swedish embassy in Ethiopia has had the opportunity to visit the journalists and says both are “well, considering the circumstances”.
Those circumstances are complicated: Shortly before their arrest, the journalists were injured in a clash between Ethiopian government forces and armed rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), in which 15 rebels were killed.
“They are suffering from bullets wounds and may not get medical treatment”, says Roxvell. “And we don't know what happened to their Somali guides, who had taken them under their wing.”
The Swedish embassy in Ethiopia obtained information that the two journalists have been transfered to Addis Abeba. For Roxvell, this is not a good sign: “In Ethiopia, you can be sentenced for up to twenty years of prison for just talking to the ONLF rebels. To them, they're terrorists.”
The arrest is part of a much larger story. The Somali region of Ethiopia (often called Ogaden, after one of the tribes inhabiting the area) suffers from a bloody conflict – and a media blackout. Read Full Story