Brev från f.d. fängslade & journalister i exil läses upp under teatern Kality

Foto: Jonas Jörneberg. Grafisk form: MANI

Vittnesmål från exiljournalister och före detta fängslade journalister och bloggare kommer nu att läsas upp på scener runt om i Sverige. Föreställningen “Kality” kommer på initiativ av Martin Schibbye att turnera i vår.

Riksteatern skriver:

“Kality är en samling vittnesmål och berättelser om att bli fängslad för sitt skrivande och de konsekvenser det får; psykiskt, fysiskt och socialt. Föreställningen bygger på texter skrivna av fångar eller före detta fångar på Kality-fängelset i Etiopien.

– Idag råder undantagstillstånd i Etiopien. Journalistik är kriminaliserat. Att i det läget läsa texter från fängslade är ett sätt att visa världen att de kan fängsla journalister men inte det fria ordet, säger Martin Schibbye.

På scenen Martin Schibbye, David Lenneman, Angelica Radvolt och en lokal journalist.”

Premiären äger rum den 4 april på Södra teatern i Stockholm. Mer information finns här: http://www.riksteatern.se/forestallningar/kality/

 

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pressfreedom_untold_stories

Fängslandet av journalister får aldrig bli vardag!

Ursprungligen postat på Untold Stories.

Budbäraren har alltid varit hotad. Det har alltid funnits ett intresse av att hindra avslöjandet av obekväma sanningar. Idag, kanske mer än någonsin, har en journalist som åker till ett konfliktdrabbat område bokstavligen blivit en levande måltavla. De allra mest utsatta är dock de lokala journalisterna, de som arbetar i krigsländer eller diktaturstater där det fria ordet anses vara ett hot. Dessa journalister tvingas ta stora risker för att utföra sitt arbete. Många av de som kritiserat diktaturer, arbetat för demokrati och som krävt frihet för sitt folk befinner sig just nu i fängelse och tortyr. Många utan åtal, andra fängslade med hjälp av anti-terrorismlagar. Journalisterna kallas inte längre budbärare, utan terrorister.

Idag uppmärksammas dessa fängslade under den internationella pressfrihetsdagen, som varje år firas den tredje maj. Samtidigt uppmärksammas hotet mot yttrandefriheten. Att pressfriheten är en viktig del av den demokratiska utvecklingen, och att vår rätt till att uttrycka oss och motta information är en grundläggande rättighet, håller de flesta med om. Men hur viktig pressfriheten faktiskt är inser man först när man tittar på de länder där den inte existerar. Länder där folk dödas, våldtas och torteras utan att någon vågar skriva om det. Där ett folkmord kan ha begåtts, men ingen vet om det, för ingen har vågat berätta om det. Där journalister, bloggare, fotografer och andra fängslas för att ha försökt berätta om orättvisorna.

Journalisterna kallas inte längre budbärare, utan terrorister.

I Sverige är eritreanske Dawit Isaak kanske den mest kända fängslade journalisten. Han arresterades 2001 och beskrivs ofta som Sveriges enda samvetsfånge. Men i världen är han inte ensam. Tillsammans med Dawit är 16 andra journalister fängslade i Eritrea. I grannlandet Etiopien ligger siffran på 13. I medierna råder det allt som oftast tystnad.

Varför är det så tyst om fängslade journalister? Varför värdesätter man inte deras arbete? Varför uppskattar man inte deras medmänsklighet? Under 2015 var 199 journalister fängslade världen över, det är 199 för många. Det är dags att säga ifrån. Tystas journalisterna tystas också folket.

Hotet tvingar journalister att gå i exil. Världen över har 452 journalister tvingats i exil sedan 2010. De har tvingats lämna sina hem, kanske för att aldrig kunna återvända. Deras yrke har inneburit upp-och-nedvända liv och splittrade familjer. Många hamnar i andra former av förtryck i de nya länderna de kommer till. Men trots det fortsätter många av dem att kämpa för att deras folk ska få leva i frihet.

De som allra oftast uppmärksammar de fängslade är de som känner dem personligen. De som levde i deras närhet och som vet deras misär. Såsom Tedla, vars vän Zelalem Workagegnehu är fängslad för att ha anmält sig till en kurs i digital säkerhet. Eller som BefeQadu, som nyligen hälsade på sin vän journalisten Woubshet Taye som sitter fängslad i Zeway. Eller som de som postar bilder på Facebook av alla som skadats, dödats och fängslats för att för att ha protesterat för Oromofolkets rättigheter.

Det får inte bara vara de som personligen känner de fängslade som uppmärksammar dem. Det måste vi alla göra. Fängslade journalister får aldrig bli vardag.

Idag bör vi, mer än någonsin, sätta fokus på hotet mot yttrandefriheten. Framför allt bör vi diskutera hur gör vi ska göra för att utvecklingen ska förändras till det bättre. Säkerhetskurser för journalister har tagits fram – det är en bra början. Men det behövs mer för att göra skillnad. Hela samhällen måste förändras.

Låt därför pressfrihetens dag bli en dag då du står upp för yttrandefriheten. Fundera över vad den betyder för dig personligen. Försök att tänka dig in i hur det är att fängslas bara för något du fotograferat på stan eller skrivit om på din blogg. Att sprida ordet om fängslade journalister, till exempel på sociala medier, är något som alla kan göra. Det kan tyckas vara en liten sak, men det gör skillnad. När en grupp med unga etiopiska bloggare kallade Zone 9 fängslades 2014, startades Twitter-hashtagen #FreeZone9Bloggers. Den blev snart välkänd och uppmärksammades i medier.  Därmed uppmärksammades också deras fall. Plötsligt visste många vilka Zone 9 Bloggers var, och många berördes av deras öde. Människor började kräva deras frihet, något som de äntligen återfick 2015.

Vi måste tillsammans stå upp för yttrandefriheten och inse hur viktig den är. För i slutändan är det just dig det handlar om. Dödas eller fängslas budbäraren är det dina nyheter och din kunskap om världen som påverkas. Världen skulle bli en tyst plats, och det är en skrämmande tanke. Jag tror inte att det är något som du skulle vilja uppleva.

Utan yttrandefrihet finns det ingen frihet.

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My Experience of the Ethiopian Investigation Centre: Maekelawi

This text was originally published at Untold Stories

To hold a pen is to be at war!
– Voltaire

My name is Caalaa Hayiluu Abaataa. I am a 27 year-old poet and author. I am an Oromo, and I lived in my homeland, the Oromia Regional State of Ethiopia, for the most of my life. On January 3, 2012 I was forced to flee to Sudan in fear for my life. This is my story.

Ever since my teenage years, I have been involved in activities to bring changes in social issues. I brought awareness about HIV and AIDS to towns and in the deep countryside of Oromia. I also volunteered in helping homeless people. I worked with orphans and the disabled, supporting them through Oromo volunteer cultural clubs. I wanted to spread awareness about the Oromian culture and way of living by promoting awareness about the indigenous religion and administrative system called ‘Gadaa and Waaqeffannaa.’ In order to inspire and educate my people, I also organized and performed plays.

My disagreements with the cadres of the ruling party of Ethiopia, the TPLF (Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front), began early on. In 2004, when I was 16 years-old, more than 350 Oromo students were dismissed from Addis Ababa University. The Mecha and Tuluma Self-Help Association, an Oromo social movement, was banned and its leaders were arrested. More than 1500 Oromo students from the town of Moyale, including elementary and high school pupils, were forced to flee to Kenya. I was arrested in Moyale. I was beaten, tortured and accused of being a member of the Mecha and Tuluma Self-Help Association. But I had no clue about this association. I did not even know the name of the organization, at that time.

I joined Adama University in 2007 and started taking courses for a law degree. I was very involved in student life from start. I was the student representative of the law department. That brought me immediately under pressure from the authorities. The university was not a free place and the TPLF was not happy with my activities. There was constant pressure on the students to fill membership cards for the ruling party. Representatives from the party came to classes to tell the students they would not graduate or get job opportunities if they did not join the party. I opposed them and told them that we should not be forced to fill the forms or sign any documents. There was a lot of tension. I was followed all the time, and my interactions with other students became monitored.

“For more than three months, I was held in the most horrendous conditions without having committed any crime. I was being persecuted only for being Oromo and actively working for the Oromo people.”

In June 2009, I was one of the secretaries of an Oromo language, culture and history preservation club at the university. I tried to organize a democratic election of the members because I wanted the student’s council to be able to choose their representatives. However, when I put up the posters, I was taken to the University’s security office along with two of my friends. I was asked questions about what we were doing. I made it clear that I wanted to make a democratic election for the students so they could elect their own representatives. The TPLF agents commanded me not to pursue it, but I refused to change my position. When I returned to school in October, after the summer break, the registrar at the university refused to register me even though I was a third year student. I asked why they imposed such a decision on me, but the head of the campus security responded that this was an order from the federal security. I was arrested and the head of the campus security brought me to the Adama security office. They said that I was inciting the students against the TPLF regime. It worried them that the students were Oromo. I was accused of being a member of the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front). I was not, nor had ever been, a member of any organization or political party during that time. I was, however, involved in raising awareness about the traditions of the Oromo people. Following the arrest, I was put in a very dirty cell in Adama prison, where I was beaten by a member of the federal security.

I was released one week later on a bail bond of 10,000 birr, and went back to my studies and social and cultural activities. I published an Oromo poetry book with my own poems. In October 2010, I attended an Oromo thanksgiving festival, an Irreechaa, in the town of Bishoftu, but was arrested during the celebrations. I was told that my book opposed the government and that it was inciting civil war and unrest. They said the book incited a revolution for the Oromo people to overthrow the government. I was again accused of being an OLF member. While in prison in Bishoftu, I was slapped and kicked by a federal security policeman named Addisu Badhasa. I was put in a cell with sometimes more than 40 criminals, even though the cell was not more than 4×5 meters wide. After one week there, I was transferred to Adama, where I was interrogated for one day. I was beaten, verbally insulted and dehumanized in the Commanders Office. I was told that I would be tortured if I did not explain myself and my book. They then took me from the Commanders Office to a room with a public prosecutor and other commanders, and the interrogation continued. I was eventually released on a bail of 10,000 birr, but was required to live at a bail address.

I was arrested for the fifth time in August 13, 2011. The only reason was that I had worked with activities related to the Oromo culture, language, arts, literature and religion. The arrest greatly interrupted my life. I was trying to prepare for my final exams and was preparing my second novel for printing. The TPLF regime prohibited me from publishing it, and arrested me in Adama. One week after the arrest, I was taken to the Federal Police Investigation Center called Maekelawi. It is located in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. For more than three months, I was held in the most horrendous conditions without having committed any crime. I was being persecuted only for being Oromo and actively working for the Oromo people.

Maekelawi

Chellema Bet: Cell 8

Maekelawi is like hell. It is divided into different sections where people are held depending on how much punishment the prison officials want to give them at the time. I was held in different cells during the imprisonment there. For the first eight days of my incarceration, I was held in cell number 8. Cell 8 is one of the cells in the block called Chellema bet, meaning “dark house.” Everyone fears of being put in this cell, because it is not more than 1×1½ meters wide. My hands and feet were shackled and the cell was so small I could not stretch my legs out. The cell was completely dark, as there was no natural or electric light in there. The walls were made of concrete and the door was metal. There were many insects biting me and it was freezing cold. I did not have a mattress to lie on, and nothing to cover me with. I only had the clothes I was wearing. I was only given food – dried bread and tea – on a very limited number of occasions. This was the prison diet. I was not allowed to go to the toilet except on one occasion when they allowed me to go on the way to the interrogation room. I was not eating enough to defecate.

I was beaten throughout the days I was in this cell. Sometimes someone would come to my cell just to beat me, even though the small size of the cell made it difficult for them. Because of this, the beatings usually took place in the interrogation room. When I was taken from the cell to the investigation room, I was often blindfolded and dragged. The prison officials wanted me to confess that I was conspiring with terrorists. They accused me of inciting Oromo people, especially the Oromo students, by my poems. After being held in cell 8 for a few days, I was taken to a first instance court. The first instance court is not a real court. I do not believe it had the jurisdiction to hear my case. I do not believe the judges who heard the case were real judges; I had seen them in the investigation centre acting like they were police investigators. I cannot believe what was happening was legal. There was no proper criminal procedure. We were deprived of the right to communicate with both families and lawyers. I do not know of anyone who was allowed to communicate with their lawyers during the time I was in Maekelawi. I had no right to ask questions. After I was released, my family told me that some of them had tried to see me. They came to Maekelawi with food and money for me, but I was never informed about this and they were not allowed to leave the food and money. Instead, they were questioned about me, why they wanted to see me and the purpose of their visit. They were ordered to give their addresses and phone numbers, and were questioned about many other things.

I was never charged with anything, but due to the length of time I was held, I believe I was held under the Anti-Terror Proclamation. They had also referred to the Anti-Terror Proclamation in court. I asked them to open a formal charge against me, but they had no evidence. All of it was rubbish. The judges were only hearing what the police reported to them. I had no representation. All they did was rubber stamp the request for more time in order to keep me at Maekelawi.

Chellema Bet: Cell 7

After eight days in cell 8, I was moved to cell number 7. It was dark, but some sunlight came in through a small hole. This cell was larger than the others. From what I can recall, the dimensions were about 7×8 meters. Still, it was completely overcrowded. Because of the lack of light and my poor health conditions, it is difficult to tell how much time passed. I think it was about 35 days in this cell. During this time, the number of people in the cell varied from 10 to 15. Most of them were Oromo, including Mr. Olbana Lellisa, the Vice President of the Oromo National Congress Party. There were also children as young as the age of 14. There were many political activists and well known figures being held in Maekelawi. I saw Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, the Swedish journalists who were arrested for entering Ethiopia to work as journalists. They were held in Tawla bet (the wooden house). I saw them from the court yard where prisoners were allowed to get a maximum of ten minutes of sunlight per week. They were inside of their cell and the door was not closed. They seemed very courageous. We exchanged facial expressions and gave each other moral support. I got menthol cigarettes from them. Seeing Martin and Johan renewed my hope of the future.

Next to our cell, there was a filthy toilet we were allowed to visit once a day; sometimes early in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. Sometimes, we were ordered to go to the toilet after the ten minutes of sunlight. There was no regularity to it. If someone had to visit the toilet at other times, the only option was a bucket in the cell. It was filled with urine and the cell stank. I could not wash myself during my time there. It was freezing cold. There were no sheets or mattresses, and in the night we had to lie directly on the freezing cold concrete floor. This did, of course, make sleeping impossible. Also, there were disturbance coming from the interrogation room throughout the entire nights. It was very disturbing and frightening. We feared that the police would open the door and drag us to the interrogation room.

The interrogations were continuous. Sometimes they took place at night, sometimes during the day. They sometimes handcuffed and blindfolded me. I was exposed to an avalanche of ethnic slurs. They told me they had already collected enough tangible evidence against me and that it was better for me to confess my crime. Otherwise, I would be subjected to even more suffering. I continued to receive beatings and one time even passed out because of the ferocity of the beating. Another time I was hung upside down. Once, a pistol was placed in my mouth and they threatened to kill me. I suffered very badly in Maekelawi.

Chellema Bet: Cell 3

After 45 days, I was transferred to cell number 3. This cell was approximately 4×5 meters wide. During the time I was there, the number of people varied between 8 and 20. The cell had a very small and narrow hole on the upper wall, near the roof. The sun light came in through the hole, but only in the direction the hole was angled. Just as in the previous cell, we were only allowed out of the cell for a maximum of ten minutes per week to get some light and go to the toilet. The bucket in the cell, which was used to urinate in, sometimes flooded over onto the ground where we were sleeping and sitting. The smell was very bad and the cell often became waterlogged. It was very cold. I never as much as saw a mattress, but I did not wish for one; I could imagine what state it would be in. I was very sick by this time and had been denied any treatment from the clinic. I had abdominal pains and a severe headache. I could not see properly because I had such little access to light for such a long time.

When I had been detained in cell 3 for approximately three weeks, some Commissioners came to the prison. This was the first time I saw them. They said that they were government representatives and were there to solve the prisoners’ problems. The Commissioners said that they were neutral. This was rubbish. They behaved as investigators and were accompanied by the prison administrators. The Commissioners wanted the prisoners to tell them about our problems. They could see with their own eyes that we had problems, but if we told them a problem, they either ignored it or the information went straight back to the prison authorities. I know this because of their questions and the things they said. Directly after entering our cell, they said, “Why do you not cooperate? Do you want to spend your life here?” They did not listen to our questions or opinions. If they were neutral, they would at least have approached us in another way. I was severely sick when the Commissioners came to cell 3. I told them that I was really sick and needed treatment. One of the men asked my name and I told him my name. He immediately replied that I was an OLF-member. He told me to keep quiet, stop complaining and to not ask for treatment any more. It was at this time that I realized that they were not there to help us. I decided not to answer, ask or request anything more.

When I was later moved to Sheraton, another part of the prison, I continued to see them come to the cells now and then. They always had suggestions to the prisoners, such as “Why do you not cooperate with the police investigators by telling them that it is your fault?” or “Why do you not confess your criminal act?” or “Why do you not believe that you have committed the crime of which they have been investigating you?” I cannot believe that these people were from a human rights organization or wanted to help the prisoners in any way.

Sheraton

When a nurse finally saw me, I was moved to Sheraton. Sheraton is considered to be a better part of Maekelawi, and is therefore sarcastically named after the hotel. The nurse said she would try to report my case to get me treatment. My abdominal pains, back pains and eyes were very bad. Most of the time, I could not eat anything. My other cell members told me to eat or I would die there.

Sheraton has a place where one can move around. Natural sunlight came into the cells, but there was still no electric light. Even though Sheraton is considered better, the conditions were still terrible. There was still a lack of water, insufficient food, filthy rooms and poor hygiene. It was so overcrowded that I could not even tell the real number of prisoners because of the overcrowding. The cells in the Sheraton are approximately 3×4 meters wide and in many of them there were around 15-20 people, sometimes as many as 25. Mostly, people spent their nights standing as there was no place to sit or lie. It was cold and had no blankets or mats. I could go to the toilet when I liked, but there were so many people using it, and the hygiene was terrible. The toilets were filthy. It was in the Sheraton I had the first opportunity to wash myself. I could not, however, do this very often and could not do it properly. The only way of washing was using a tap on the toilet. The crowd made it very difficult to get the opportunity of using the tap, and it was often broken. I believe the prison authority intentionally damaged the tap.

The interrogations stopped to some extent when I was moved to this part of the prison, but not entirely. Instead, I was called to an office to put my signature on papers. I was not shown what the papers said, so I refused to sign. I told them that I will not sign without knowing what I am signing. For this, they beat me. When I was taken to the office again, they said they will release me and that I will graduate from the University – if I sign the documents. I refused. Once again, they told me to sign the papers, and once again I refused. One of the officers, named Tadesse Meseret, took out a pistol and said he would kill me if I did not sign. I refused again.

I was taken to the office one last time. A man came in together with a woman. I was beaten until I fell to the floor. As I was lying there the man walked all over me, stepping on my body. I had nothing left in me after this. I was so exhausted. I gave up and signed the documents and finally they released me. To this day, I do not know what I signed. There was no legal procedure for me. They could do, and did, exactly what they wanted.

Released

When I was released on November 10, 2011, I was told not to contact anyone of the Oromo ethnic group. I did not accept this. I was invited by Gumi Oromo to read my poems at an event organized to welcome new Oromo students to Adama University. My poetry was very appreciated by the students. When I later was at a celebration of the Waaqeffanna religion in the Olanchiti town, the federal police arrested me and six other people, one of whom was a woman. I was imprisoned in a big, very dangerous prison in the Walanchiti town. The men were put together in a cell and the woman was separated from us. We were not given blankets or mattresses, and we were not allowed to wash ourselves. I was detained for one week and then was released on bail.

When I was back in Adama University, a conflict took place on December 29, 2011 between the Oromo students and TPLF’s federal police, the liyu police. It resulted in the arrest of many of the Oromo students. Many of them were beaten and had severe physical injuries. I escaped arrest, but, fearing for my life, I fled to Addis Ababa. From there, I fled to Sudan where I spent 16 months in a refugee camp. At this point, my case as a political refugee was recognized by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and I now finally have permanent residence in Sweden. I had to leave all my documents from the university when I fled. It is my dream to one day be able to continue my education and law studies.

This was my short story, but one can never compare it with the stories of other Oromo prisoners regarding torture and mistreatment perpetrated by the TPLF. Maekelawi is a place of physical and psychological punishment, cut off from the outside world. Nearly all of the Maekelawi officers I had contact with were armed with a pistol or a Kalashnikov. I even saw a health personnel with a pistol. There were many spies in Maekelawi; either prisoners who had been induced to spy on other prisoners, or people like the aforementioned Commissioners. There were no trusted complaints channels at all, and we were totally deprived of our human rights. No one heard or took action on the complaints of the prisoners. They only tried to shut us up and get us to confess. Once you are there, anything can happen to you – and no one will stop it or even report it. You will not complain unless you are prepared to receive more punishment for it. You cannot trust anyone. Having experienced Maekelawi first hand, I am very fearful for the welfare of anyone sent there. There were, and with no doubt still are, many untold horrendous and unlawful acts happening there. The punishment is not only the interrogations and torture you are put through as a prisoner, but also the fear of it. The cell door opening sends fear through you – fear that they are coming to get you. The Ethiopian prison cells are a veritable hell on Earth.

I was forced to flee Oromia out of fear for my life. I was writing critical poetry about TPLF’s evil actions, and I performed and read them to my people. TPLF tried to stop me from doing that. Now I am forced away from my homeland, but I am continuing to do the same thing. They can try to stop me from writing what I think is just and right, or from speaking the truth, but they cannot stop me from thinking. Right now back home, hundreds of poets are still doing what I was deprived of. That gives my mind peace.

 

Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau

This text was originally published at Untold Stories

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Letter from Kality Prison: Who should be the corrected one?

Originally published in Amharic on Facebook January 8, 2015.
Shorter version published on The Dissident Blog, April 8, 2015. Read here.

Translation from Amharic by Abel Asrat
Editing by Melody Sundberg

Reeyot Alemu from the Kality State Prison

Reeyot-Alemu-s

It has been five years since I, as a fellow Ethiopian and caring citizen, started to write for private newspapers reflecting on issues and solutions regarding socioeconomic and political issues in my country. I remember that my very first article was Errors that were made while correcting Errors. In this first article, I mentioned freedom of the press and the impact of the Civil Society Proclamation Law. I suggested that the ruling party should take corrective measures from the errors they have made.

Even though I from start got warnings through the web, containing messages from the ruling party affiliates, things started to worsen the moment I began to work as an editor for Addis Press. The ruling party officials became very sensitive, especially after the article I wrote after attending a training hosted by an ombudsman for press related professionals in Adama. Consequently, my office got a phone call from the men of the ruling party, demanding their reply to my article to be published immediately. This even though it was unnecessary for them to be pushing for their article to be published, since it is already stated in the law that we should accommodate all views and reflections. So we published their response. Despite all of this, the ruling party affiliated newspapers became personally attacking and was busy smear campaigning instead of challenging my ideas with ideas. Furthermore, security agents started to threaten me through calls, by sending letters to my work place address, and by coming personally. Their effort of intimidation did not bear any fruit since “you can intimidate only when there is a coward to intimidate”.

Prior to publishing my first article, I carefully thought about and analyzed the sacrifice I was going to pay for speaking my mind. As a socially conscious citizen I was well aware of what has happened to people who dared to differ from the ruling government in their ideology. I was therefore left with two bad options. The first was to become a passive media staff member so as to avoid any consequences of my actions; actions that would probably lead to the same fate as of those who were once before me. The second was to accept the consequences of my actions, and contribute in serving my country to the best of my ability.

Since I already had made the second bad choice, I became ignoring to the threats posed, and resumed my work. I began to write about the status quo that makes membership of the ruling party compelling in getting a job or a promotion, and the absence of freedom of speech. The failure of EPRDF to think as a nation, and the need for correction, were also among the topics I wrote.

One morning, my journey was tackled by the tyranny government. While working at the Fithe newspaper, I was arrested on Sene (June 18, 2011) because of an article I wrote about the late prime minister.

Maekelawi and Kality

Dear readers. Ever since our ironic government handcuffed me based on terrorism charges, I was – and still am – subjected to countless violations of my basic rights. Some of them are as follows:

Even though the constitution guarantees prisoners access to a lawyer, I and other political prisoners were denied our rights by the Maekelawi prison officials. I was not allowed to see my lawyer until my investigation at Maekelawi was concluded. By then, I was left with only ten days before the transfer to Kality. I was allowed to be visited by my family and friends after two months and three weeks of my detention.

The investigation conducted at Maekelawi was inquisitive about why I wrote the articles I wrote, and who was backing me up. Sometimes, the investigators tried to focus on statements I made during meetings from when I was a high school teacher. They bragged about the competence of their intelligence officers; no word that I had said have gone unheard by them. Such hypocrisy gives me some rest from their boring investigations. What can be more fun than hearing them bragging about the competence of their intelligence officers, over the speeches I made publicly, which are not secret to the public at all?

I hope that there is not any teacher that does not understand that the main reason school administrators are EPRDF officials is not to implement the education policy of the government. Rather, it is to report the stance of the political views that the students and teachers have. Did we not witness the dismissal of school administrators on different reasons, just for not being willing to the demands of the cadres? There is a saying: “ሁሉን ቢናገሩት ሆድ ባዶ ይቀራል” አለ ያገሬ ሰዉ! ሆዴ ባዶ እንዳይቀር ሁሉን መተንፈሴን ትቼ የጀመርኩትን የማዕከላዊ ምርመራ ጉዳይ ልቀጥል፡፡ (Roughly translated as: “If I say everything, my belly will be empty. It is better for me to save some of the words”).

Gradually, the tone of the investigation started to change its color by demanding me to confess on a false accusation. It sated that I had received a terror mission from Elias Kifle, whom I have worked for as a reporter for his website Ethiopian Review. My confession was to be traded in exchange for my freedom. As a consequence of my firm stance in not accepting their offer, I was kept 13 days in solitary confinement in a tiny, bad smelling room with just five minutes access to the toilet in the morning and evening. Following that, the federal prosecutor began to threaten me: If I did not change my mind, I might face the capital punishment.

Furthermore, Hassen Shifa threatened me by saying that it is not difficult for the government to demoralize my courage (described by him as an “young, inflated ego”). In return, I reaffirmed my innocence and said that I prefer to be convicted instead of accepting my freedom by becoming a witness against Elias on a false accusation. As long as EPRDF is in power, it has become our fate to choose the best bad choice among other bad choices.

While in Maekelawi, I was subjected to different kinds of physical abuse; I was slapped and slammed to the wall. But in comparison to the torture and physical abuse that the men is facing, it was like a pinch. So let me skip it.

This does not mean, however, that the interrogators are compassionate towards women. As a proof of this, we can take a look at Emawayesh Alemu who was brutally beaten. She is suffering from her permanent injuries caused by torture. Maekelawi is a place in which people lose their ability to walk on their own after one week of torture. I can vividly remember the scenes and the screams. It has become my day to day feeling of regret.

Let me pause my narration about Maekelawi and mention Kality, another prison where political prisoners are subjected to human right abuse. I was transferred to Kality on September 8, 2011. During that time, I was warned by the woman security official that my profession as a journalist will end at Kality. She suggested me to remain quiet. During my early days in Kality, I was not given a bed but only a mattress to sleep on together with another inmate. This even though we were both sinus patients, and our room was next to the toilet which made matters worse.

Dear readers. When you try to imagine Kality, I hope that you are not picturing clean, concrete cells and neat beds. If so, ETV has tricked you well. There are only two rooms and one toilet built by Pastor Daniel G/Selassie. The rest of the cells are in poor condition and packed with prisoners. Kality is not only an unpleasantness to the body – but also to the soul.

Since the past few months, the library in the women’s zone has made some progress, but ever since my transfer to Kality it has been close to non-existing. I wanted to fill the gap by contributing books sent to me from families and relatives, but half of the books always return due to censorship. History books published by the Addis Ababa University are also in the list of banned books.

After many ups and downs, I was able to get permission to study political science by distance from the Indira Gandhi National Open University, but the Kality security officials were not cooperative in allowing study modules. After a lot of effort I started to get access to the modules, but I was not allowed access to supporting reading materials and books due to their political content, as the censors mentioned. Unfortunately, I was compelled to withdraw my studies due to inconsistent access to modules and books.

In Kality, it was not only me who were deprived of my basic rights, but also those who greeted me, just for befriending with me. I have spent most of my time in Kality in a crowd of prisoners, but those who tries to approach me as a friend faces threats and searches.

My medical condition has been mentioned several times by my family. I will therefore only give a brief over view. Even though I have had appointments for medical examinations at the Black Lion Hospital, I have most of the time missed my appointments because the prison officials refuses to permit my visits. After going through surgery on my left breast, the doctor said that I should come back in three days to get the plaster removed, and after a week to remove the surgical stitches. But the security officials guarding me interfered and told my doctor that I can receive the remaining treatment at the prison’s medical clinic. I was quite aware of that they will not give me permission to get access to a doctor in such an adjacent and frequent schedule.

As a result I was given an appointment after three months. By the time the surgical stitches were to be removed, I informed the security officials. They linked me up with a medical staff member who was a former guerilla fighter. She informed me that I was supposed to carry out all my medical treatment at the Black Lion Hospital. She was very rude towards me and I did not want to be treated by her because of her hate towards me. When I returned to the security officials and asked them to take me to the Black Lion, they informed me that I do not have an appointment to go there. I personally do not want to take any surgery at Kality, even though I am now easing my pain with painkillers.

Another point I would like to mention regarding Kality, is the meetings that are arranged with government cadres and officials against my will. Last year, for instance, some ten people from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, including Ambassador Teruneh Zenna, came to my cell. Since I know that the reports by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission are far from truthful, I was not cooperative in meeting them. I left my cell and stood outside the moment I saw them. One of the men started to take pictures, but he did not take any pictures while I was sleeping on the floor and suffered from my breast pain. He did not take such pictures because he did not want to reflect on the bad handling of prisoners.

The real reason they built me the tiny room in September, was due to the fact that they wanted to use it as a cover up to all their misconduct and mistreatment. The men who visited me from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission were not satisfied by the photos they took the first day. Instead, four men came on the next day. Two of them entered the compound to my cell, and two of them stood in my cell gate. One of the men asked me about my disinterest in talking to them the day before. He wanted me to give an explanation. While he was talking to me, the other man tried to take a picture of me. I instantly snapped and told the man that “if the photo the other man is taking is to be used in a statement I have not made, then I will confront him.” I slammed the door and stayed in my room.

After a few minutes, I told the security officials that when EPRDF do not get enough of my suffering here, they send phony human rights officials trying to take pictures. The security officials replied that they were not aware of the that the men was having a camera.

When a public relation officer from the Federal Correctional Facility came to talk to me in 2013, he was hiding a recorder in his coat. I made it clear to him that he will only be able to record my voice when the private press also attends. I needed the private press to be present because I have witnessed a lot of of edited interviews that were misleading and intended to fit the context of the government agenda. All of them were conducted in the absence of private media. Ironically, both of these incidents, the prison security officials denied being aware of that the men visiting me were equipped with a video camera and a recorder.

Since the issues in Kality is countless, let me just wrap up with one more point regarding my correction time. Dear readers, my right to be visited by friends, relatives and a lawyer has been violated for one year and four months, my family excepted. My elderly mother and father are struggling with illness and aging when visiting me.

Probation

Last year, around the afternoon of July 24, I was taken by a police officer to a lawyers’ office located inside the prison. I then met with Commander Aschalew, a probation officer at the federal correctional facility. After exchanging greetings, his first question was: “Why did you not ask for pardon? Have you not changed your mind about not asking for pardon?” I then explained to him that I did not ask for pardon because I have not done anything wrong that would make me ask for pardon. He replied: “This is a court decision and we should not be going back about your innocence”. I told him that I have no interest whatsoever in asking for a pardon by a kangaroo court ruled by the ruling party. He then asked me about my well being and condition for a while.

He asked me: “Earlier you said that you do not ask for pardon because you do not regret your action. How are you going to do with the probation, since it is only given for those who accept and regret their action?”. He tried to briefly discuss some criteria and regulations regarding the probation. I asked him: “Is there then no difference between pardon and probation?”. He was not willing to reply. Instead, all prisoners who have two months left before completing two thirds of their time in prison, are given a form to fill. It is a probation stating their regret about their actions, demanding for consideration of probation.

I made it clear to him that I was detained while defending the truth, and that I do not regret what I wrote about, and instead of filling a probation I am quite committed to keep on my struggle for freedom of speech. The commander then stated that it is hard for them to consider a probation for someone like me, who do not regret my action. He suggested another option by asking: “What if we fill the form on your behalf?” I then made it clear to him that “if you dare to fill the probation on my behalf, I will expose you for falsely filling the form on my behalf.” After a while he suggested me to consider my stance, and left.

October 22 (two months after I was contacted by Commander Aschalew) would have been the day of my release had I filled in the form. As a result, the prison officials became quite insisting and demanding in wanting me to fill in a probation. Gradually, their demand became more frequent, especially on one occasion. Four officers came to talk to me about the probation and I repeated what I had earlier said to the Commander. I showed them my firm stance. Due to my refusal to comply with their demand, they intensified their abuse. I may not know what will happen to me, but I certainly know one thing: It should be EPRDF that should be corrected and be made to regret, instead of those who are jailed for voicing their opinions when our country is burning.

Dear readers, lastly, I wish to see a democratic Ethiopia where justice is served. I promise to do everything I can to achieve this. For those of you who may ask: “What can you do?”, my answer will be a quote from a book titled Yefikir Abiyot. It says:

“I can’t do everything but not being able to do everything can’t stop me from doing what I can”.

From the Kality Prison,

Reeyot Alemu

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Video om fängslade etiopiska Zone 9 Bloggers och journalister

 

Det behövdes en alternativ röst i Etiopien. Någon som vågade tala sanning. Någon som vågade kräva förändring.

Någon som vågade bry sig.

En grupp unga etiopiska bloggare började därför berätta om de överträdelser som pågick mot de mänskliga rättigheterna. Gruppen valde att kalla sig själva för “Zone 9 Bloggers”, ett namn som syftar på zonerna i Kalityfängelset, där politiska fångar och journalister ofta fängslas. Fängelset har åtta zoner, men den nionde “zonen” är ett smeknamn på hela Etiopien: Även om du befinner dig utanför fängelsemurarna, är du ändå inte fri.

Gruppen ville vara en röst för denna nionde zon. De bestämde sig för att blogga och använda sociala medier för att skriva om demokrati och mänskliga rättigheter. De höll kampanjer om att respektera konstitutionen och rätten till demonstration. De krävde att censuren skulle stoppas.

Trots att det som gruppen gjorde var konstitutionellt, stämplades det av regeringen som ett brott.

Idag är sex av bloggarna, och tre journalister som arresterades samtidigt, fängslade i fängelserna Kality och Kilinto. De har varit frihetsberövade sedan april 2014. Precis som många andra journalister och människorättsaktivister står de inför terrorismåtal.

Videon

I fängelset föddes en idé om att skapa något som berättar om vad som hänt och som samtidigt är lätt att sprida. Endalkachew Chala, medgrundare till bloggargruppen, fick sedan idén om att göra en video. Videon skulle berätta om fängslandena och samtidigt beskriva situationen i landet. Den skulle vara pedagogisk och lätt att sätta sig in i för de som inte kände till fallet sedan tidigare.

Videon skapades med ekonomiskt stöd från Kalityfonden. Den illustrerades och animerades av Animática Studios. Melody Sundberg stod för regi och manus som är skrivet tillsammans med Endalkachew Chala och Zone 9 bloggaren Jomanex Kasaye.

Videon ska vara lättillgänglig och har därför delats på YouTube och i andra sociala medier. Undertexter på engelska och svenska finns tillgängliga och kan aktiveras genom videoinställningarna i YouTube. Fler språk kan komma att läggas till i framtiden.

Hjälp till att sprida budskapet!

Vad som hände bloggarna är en kraftig överträdelse mot yttrandefriheten – en frihet tillhörande oss alla. Fängslandet av människorättsaktivister, bloggare och journalister måste upphöra.

Zone 9 bloggarna själva säger att “vi bloggar för att vi bryr oss”.

Alla bör stå upp för sin och andras rätt till frihet.

Videon är lätt att sprida och vi hoppas att så många som möjligt får se den. Vi är tacksamma för hjälp med att sprida videon.

Tack för ditt stöd!

Melody Sundberg

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Pengar skänkta av Journalistklubben går till Reeyot Alemu

I samband med att Eva Hamilton officiellt avtackats som VD har Journalistklubben gett en gåva till Kalityfonden.

Gåvan, som givits Hamiltons namn, har öronmärkts till att stödja Reeyot Alemu, fängslad journalist i Etiopien. Alemu skrev regimkritiska artiklar som fokuserade på sociala frågor, såsom jämställdhet och fattigdom. Tidningen hon arbetade för, Feteh, kom att stängas ned av regimen.

Alemu är fängslad under den hårt kritiserade anti-terrorismlagstiftningen. Lagen används som ett sätt att stoppa press- och yttrandefrihet, och många journalister, bloggare och oppositionspolitiker har fängslats med hjälp av den. Arresteringen och fängslandet av Alemu har många gånger fördömts av organisationer inom mänskliga rättigheter och pressfrihet. År 2013 gavs UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom-priset till Alemu för hennes arbete för yttrandefrihet.

Pengarna kommer gå till Reeyot Alemus advokatkostnader, samt till sjukvård för behandling av hennes bröstcancer.

 

 

Melody Sundberg

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Straffrihetsdagen: Seminarium gällande handbok för journalisters säkerhet

 

journosafety
Foto: Melody Sundberg

De ger oss våra nyheter och ser till att världen inte är en tyst plats. Ändå mördas fler och fler journalister under sina uppdrag. Den 4 november gjordes erfarenhetsutbyten angående journalisters säkerhet i en förändrad värld. Föreläsare från bland annat Röda Korset, Rory Peck Trust och Svenska Afghanistankommittén diskuterade med åhörarna. Seminariet hölls till följd av att man under våren beslutat att ta fram en säkerhetshandbok för frilansjournalister. Arrangörer för dagen var Kalityfonden och Svenska UNESCO-rådet.

Seminariet hölls i samband med den Internationella dagen för att upphäva straffrihet för brott mot journalister. I en debattartikel av frilansjournalisten Martin Schibbye och Svenska UNESCO-rådets generalsekreterare Mats Djurberg, konstateras det att angreppen mot journalister inte minskar trots att händelserna ger stor internationell uppmärksamhet. Även om det under det senaste decenniet mördats 700 journalister, har ingen dömts i 90 procent av fallen. Det stora antalet ouppklarade fall är mycket oroande eftersom det kan sporra fler att döda journalister.

 

johan_persson
Fotografen Johan Persson understryker vikten av att hålla tät kontakt med frilansare ute i fält.
Foto: Melody Sundberg

Frilansare och representanter från organisationerna berättade om sina erfarenheter från arbete i konfliktfyllda länder, och om vad som idag görs för att stödja frilansjournalister. Ett återkommande ämne var vikten av erfarenhetsutbyte, betydelsen av noggranna förberedelser samt att de som hjälper till runt uppdragen, så kallade fixare, skyddas. Ett bra nätverk och kontaktpersoner som inte bara delger erfarenhet och råd, utan också reagerar snabbt vid nödsituationer, är oumbärligt.

Hotet mot budbäraren kommer alltid att finnas – likaså behovet av journalistiken. Därför behövs strategier för hur man ska ta sig runt hoten. Arbete i konfliktzoner kommer alltid att vara farligt och även om det inte finns en gyllene regel som fungerar för varje plats och situation, finns det fortfarande mycket som kan göras för att öka säkerheten.

En attack mot en journalist är en attack mot demokratin och det fria ordet. Säkerhetshandboken som nu ska sammanställas, kommer att bli en samling av erfarenheter och praktiska tips. Den är menad att vara till hjälp före, under och efter det journalistiska uppdraget, i så väl konfliktzoner, naturkatastrofer som andra hotfulla situationer.

För att projektet ska kunna genomföras kan du bidra genom att förhandsbeställa boken. Läs mer om hur du gör det genom att klicka här. Du är också varmt välkommen att bidra med kapitel, idéer och tankar.

 

Melody Sundberg

  • Tweets från seminariet finner du genom att söka på hashtag #journosafety
  • Fler bilder från seminariet kan ses här:

martin_schibbye_journosafety_2 martin_schibbye_journosafety journosafety_panel journosafety_audience johan_persson_journosafety journosafety2

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Bidra till handbok för frilansjournalister

Hej,

Svenska Unescorådet i samarbete med Kalityfonden och Reportrar Utan Gränser tog i våras ett initiativ att ta fram en handbok/antologi med praktiska tips för frilansjournalister.

Arbetet påbörjades på pressfrihetens dag i maj 2014 med ett seminarium med fokus på journalisters säkerhet. Utifrån diskussionerna där föddes idén om att sammanställa och dela med sig av erfarenheter. Berättelserna, tipsen och alla konkreta råd ska samlas i en handbok som ges ut på Pressfrihetens dag i maj 2016. En handbok är ett sätt att konkret göra något framåtblickande och ta vara på erfarenheter som finns för att kunna fortsätta rapportera vilket är det bästa sättet att hedra de fängslade, skjutna och mördade kollegorna.

För att detta projekt ska bli möjligt vill jag i dag erbjuda dig att förbeställa säkerhetshandboken.

Alla som garantibeställer minst 100 böcker á 249 kronor får en logga längst bak i boken på en sida där det står typ: Författaren ansvarar för alla fakta och åsikter i »XXX XXX«. Boken hade dock inte kommit till utan ekonomiskt stöd från (XX-loggor).

Man beställer genom att sätta in pengar på Kalityfondens banggiro. När vi har fått in beställningar på minst 1 000 böcker kör vi igång.
Allt överskott går till Kalityfonden.

Beställ genom att sätta in valfri summa på konto 924 996 3597
(clearingnummer: 89011).
Ange betalningsmottagare »Kalityfonden- säkbok«.

  • Handboken ska vara ett stöd vid arbete i konfliktzoner, naturkatastrofer och vid hotfulla situationer. Boken ska vara till hjälp både före, under och efter arbete i fält.
  • Vill du eller din organisation bidra med ett kapitel, med tankar om ett ämne du tycker är det viktigaste så är du välkommen.
  • Har du idéer till kortare ensidesgrejer, mikrotips, så är det också välkommet för att göra boken bläddervänlig.

UPPDATERING: Svenska UNESCO rådet har redan beställt 100 böcker och likaså FOJO.

Allt gott,
Martin Schibbye

 

 

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Dawit Isaak 50 år idag

Dawit Isaak brydde sig om sitt land och sitt folk. Detta gjorde att han återvände till Eritrea för att fortsätta utföra sin journalistiska gärning, trots att han visste om riskerna. Det visar inte bara på hur viktig journalistiken var för honom, utan också på en enorm viljestyrka. Kanske är det just denna viljestyrka som än idag, efter 13 år som fängslad, ger honom kraften att fortsätta kämpa.

Idag fyller Dawit 50 år. Vilken är den viktigaste gåva han skulle kunna få, förutom sin frihet och att få vara tillsammans med sin familj?

Det är inte svårt att tänka sig att den största skräcken för en fängslad journalist är att glömmas bort. Att människor ska sluta skriva, sluta berätta, sluta bry sig. Eller med andra ord: Sluta använda sin yttrandefrihet. Du som läser detta har inte fråntagits din yttrandefrihet. Använd den friheten till att göra allt det som Dawit och de många andra fängslade fråntagits att göra. Använd den genom att skriva och tala – mer än någonsin. Använd den till att göra gott. Den viktigaste gåvan vi kan ge de fängslade är att fortsätta deras arbete genom att hjälpa till att sprida budskapet om vår rätt till frihet.

En fängslad journalist får aldrig glömmas bort och det gör Dawits födelsedag extra viktig att uppmärksamma. Grattis på födelsedagen, Dawit. Din kamp för yttrandefriheten kommer aldrig att glömmas.

Melody Sundberg

 

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Texter av fängslade Dawit Isaak översätts till tre språk

Den 23 september för 13 år sedan fängslades journalisten och författaren Dawit Isaak i Eritrea. Nu kommer flera av hans texter, samlade i en bok, att översättas med stöd från Kalityfonden och Svenska Akademien.

Boken Hopp – Historien om Moses och Mannas kärlek & andra texter innehåller journalistiska texter från tidningen Setit, som Dawit arbetade för fram till 2001, debutboken Bana – en kärleksberättelse från 1988, samt en teaterpjäs. När Hopp gavs ut 2010 var det första gången ett urval av Dawits prosa, journalistik och dramatik översatts till svenska. Nu kommer boken även att översättas till engelska, franska och tyska.

Dawit är författare och journalist – en person som vill nå ut med sina ord. Idag är han fängslad och bestulen på sin yttrandefrihet, men genom översättningarna kommer en del av hans yttrandefrihet att ges honom tillbaka. Fler kommer att få möjligheten att lära känna Dawit och hans personlighet. En fängslad journalist får aldrig glömmas bort.

Hopp
kommer att ges ut genom Internationella PEN-klubbens projekt Publishers Circle där flertalet förlag ingår. Målet med översättningarna är att texterna ska nå EU, Afrikanska unionen och olika opinionsbildare. Boken kommer att ges ut i begränsad upplaga under 2015.

Översättningarna sker med stöd från Kalityfonden och Svenska Akademien.

Melody Sundberg

 

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