Ethiobia:Interview with arrested Swedish Journalist, Martin Schibbye in Ogden
Mareeg.com-By Mohamed Faarah and Ahmed Abdi
What was designed as an in-depth interview has turned out to be a large booklet.
Hope, both Jailed Journalists and Ogaden crisis will gain the international
Ogadentoday Press: Welcome to Ogadentoday Press
Martin Schibbye: Thank you Very Much
Ogadentoday Press: What makes you to travel into Ogaden and put yourself at risk?
Ogadentoday Press: Did you have a chance to meet and interview the local Ogadenis
inside Ogaden region?
Martin Schibbye: No, not really, the conflict level is high and the area is
militarized .We passed through an empty village that its residents fled due to the
conflict. We pass abandoned huts, and meet an elderly man wandering the desert who
says his village was burnt to the ground and everyone was killed. He planned to flee
to Dadaab. We also make a long interview with the commander of the ONLF group that
is guiding us about why they fight and their views on foreign oil companies. Because
of the heavy fighting in the area that we passed through the Ethiopian army
detected, followed and ambushed us.
Ogadentoday Press: When did you fall into the hands of the notorious Liyu Police
militia? And how did they treat you?
Ogadentoday Press: Were you imprisoned in one of Ogaden jails?
Martin Schibbye: We spent a couple of nights at the police station in the regional
prison of Jigjiga but then we were taken to Maekalawi prison in Addis Ababa. In the
beginning, we thought that if we could prove that we were journalists we would go
free, but the opposite happened. We were sentenced and charged as terrorists because
of being journalists. They made an assessment. At one hand international criticism
on the other hand to scare away both foreign journalists and the local ones. Meles
Zenawi was on top of our case from day one and wanted to make an example.
In detention we realized that we were not alone as all the cells from right to left
where crowded with politicians and Journalists charged with terrorism. It was
obvious that we were in the middle of crackdown because of Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism
law restricted freedom of expression and used it as a tool to crackdown on
Ogadentoday Press: How do you describe Kality jail to people that have never been in
Ogadentoday Press: Ethiopia government regards jailed Journalists in Kality as
terrorists, do you agree?
Martin Schibbye: No, we have been accused of the same things, we had been to the
same prison and had the same sentences-but that is where the parallel ends: Eskinder
Nega, Woubshet Taye, and Reeyot Alemu and many others still there. Only me and Johan
All these young Ethiopian journalists faced a tough choice. They are intelligent,
and well-educated .They could have chosen an easy life. They could have chosen
another profession, but the love for the truth to their country for their human
being made them journalists. They stayed and continued to write, and that decision
brought them to Kality.
With nine detained journalists left in Kality, Ethiopia today is one of the leading
countries in the world when it comes to imprisoning members of the press. Repression
of the media has also made the country a world leader when it comes to running
journalists out of the country.
Ogadentoday Press: Do you believe that your book for “438 days” can expose both the
plights of Ogaden people and Prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia?
Martin Schibbye: Since our release I have often been asked if the attention helps
the imprisoned or not. My answer is that it is far more important than food and
water. When you’re locked up as a prisoner of conscience, the greatest fear is to be
forgotten. The support from the outside is what keep you going and international
coverage does provide a certain level of protection. Prison guards and
administrators will think twice because they know the world is watching. But we
should also be aware of that the arrest of me and Johan Persson made evident the
damage to its reputation the Ethiopian government was willing to accept in its
effort to silence independent reporters.
One positive outcome of our book and a newly released documentaryfilm based on
material smuggled out by Abdulahi Hussein (a former adviser to the state president
Abdi Muhamud Omar and now a refugee in Sweden) is that The International Public
Prosecutors Office in Sweden has decided to start an investigation of suspected war
crimes against a number of identified politicians and military personel in the
Ethiopian region of Ogaden. Pointed out are the regional president Abdi Muhamud Omar
and the vice president Abdulahi Werer. I hope that the ones responsible for the
terrible atrocities can be held accountable.
I put my hope in the young generation which I shared the concrete floor with in
Kality. Despite, the daily propaganda on the Ethiopian state television, ETV, very
few in Kality regards the jailed journalists as terrorists.