Ethiopia charged two Swedish freelance journalists with terrorism, at a court in Addis Ababa on 6 September. Reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson had been held in jail since they were arrested on 1 July after illegally entering Ogaden, a southeastern region of Ethiopia populated mainly by ethnic Somalis and now ravaged by famine.
The journalists were investigating human rights violations in the region and were in the company of rebels from the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a militia group fighting for the independence of Ogaden since 1984. A gun battle between the rebels and Ethiopian troops resulted in 15 deaths, with both journalists receiving gunshot wounds.
A government spokesman said that in addition to terrorist activities, Schibbye and Persson were accused of "supporting terrorists and providing them with professional aid" and "entering a sovereign country without a valid visa or legal authorisation."
Under Ethiopian law, the maximum sentence for commissioning or planning terrorist activities is life in prison. During the hearing, the public prosecutor screened video footage allegedly showing ONLF rebels instructing the Swedish journalists in the use of weapons.
On the same day, in a separate case, two Ethiopian journalists were charged under anti-terrorism legislation. Woubeshet Taye, the deputy editor of the weekly Awramba Times, and Reyot Alemu, a columnist for the Amharic language weekly newspaper Fitih, were arrested in the capital in mid-June. At the end of June the government said that Taye and Alemu had been arrested on suspicion of organising a terrorist network which was planning attacks on Ethiopian infrastructure, telecommunications and power lines.
Local journalists have indicated that the arrest of Taye might relate to his alleged sympathy for the outlawed political party Ginbot 7, deemed a terrorist organisation by the government in June. In the case of Alemu it has been suggested that her arrest might be linked to her 17 June article which criticised the public fund-raising methods employed by the ruling Ethiopian Peoples