Locked Up for Writing

This video brought me close to tears. Can you imagine going to prison for 17 months because of the nature of your profession? For writing? For questioning public injustice? That’s what Ethiopian journalist Fasil Yenealem Agegnehu endured after the 2005 elections. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) featured him on their multimedia project called 1 Life 1 Story, Refugee Storytelling.

The saddest part for me is when he says, “My country is in my heart, by the way. It’s always in my heart. It has been and it will continue to be until I go back there.” How disheartening it is to hear this. For him to not be able to take his beautiful daughter home and show her her country or see his mother, father, brother, sister freely. To breathe the air of his birthplace and be part of that society. This is the reality for independent journalists in Ethiopia. No wonder most decide to keep their mouth shut and report happy, dandy development news. It’s either that or face the inside of a prison cell on pumped charges.

Watch here:

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2 thoughts on “Locked Up for Writing

  1. No doubt freedom of the press in Ethiopia is non existent. i am sad to see journalist coming to the US and other countries due to the lack of free press. I just hate how the media is tied to politics it seems like most Ethiopian journalist side with a political party!

    • Yes, it’s a glaring issue in a country that claims to be democratic. Although I see why you might think that, that’s not always necessarily true. That’s part of the attack on free press; independent journalists, especially ones who publish critical articles, are portrayed as allies of political groups and other opposition organizations in order to reduce their credibility. While that is sometimes the case, it’s not always true. I was having this same conversation with an Ethiopian journalist who recently fled into exile in DC. He says when journalists try to write a balanced article and reach out to both opposition sources as well as government sources for interviews, they often do not receive a response from government sources. This makes it difficult to write unbiased, balanced stories. In addition, because of the intense oppression they face, a lot of independent journalists tend to focus their writing on their unfair treatment in order to pressure the state to recognize their rights and hold government officials accountable for the claims that they make. This often makes them seem like enemies, opponents and friends with opposition figures.

      It’s a tricky situation but at the end of the day, it is the ordinary Ethiopian citizens who suffer because they do not have access to balanced, unbiased, useful and necessary information.

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