ESKINDER'S 30 YEAR FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY
Eskinder Nega is an Ethiopian human rights and pro-democracy activist that has devoted his career to peacefully struggle for the liberation of Ethiopia for 30 years, and he has been detained over 9 times by the government. He is a recipient of many international awards, such as the PEN America Freedom to Write Award and the International Press Institute's World Press Freedom Hero Award.
In 1993, Eskinder founded Ethiopis, which was the first newspaper in Ethiopia to be critical of the government. However, the newspaper was shut down, making Eskinder the first to be arrested under the Meles Zenawi regime’s press law.
Eskinder was arrested with his wife Serkalem Fasil in 2005 for reporting on the Meles regime’s deadly crackdown on protesters in Addis Ababa following the rigged national election. In 2006, Serkalem gave birth to their newborn son in prison. Upon their release in 2007, their existing newspapers, such as the Asqual, Satenaw, and Menelik, were shut down. They were also prohibited from obtaining licenses to launch new newspapers.
In 2012, Eskinder was charged with terrorism and sentenced to 18 years in prison after questioning the government’s use of the anti-terrorism law to crack down on journalists, as well as suggesting that the Arab Spring uprisings could repeat in Ethiopia.
After nearly 7 years in prison, Eskinder was released in 2018 following the national protests in Ethiopia demanding the freedom of all political prisoners, which led to the rise of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Despite the international euphoria and expectations that Ethiopia would democratize under Abiy's tenure, Eskinder faced increased harassment and censorship from the authorities over the past 2 years. Frustrated with his criticisms of the government, Prime Minister Abiy threatened to wage war against Eskinder on national television. Also, Eskinder's press conferences were repeatedly cancelled by the police in Addis Ababa.
To provide an alternative to authoritarian rule for the residents of Addis Ababa and Ethiopia at large, Eskinder founded and became Chairman of the Balderas for Genuine Democracy Party in 2019.
For providing a media platform to ethnically displaced Addis Ababa residents, whose homes were inhumanely demolished by Abiy’s regime during the COVID-19 pandemic, Eskinder was briefly detained on April 25, 2020 under the pretext of violating social distancing rules. His cell phone was also confiscated for weeks without an order from the court, and his digital data was compromised.
WHY ESKINDER NEEDS YOU NOW
On June 30, 2020, following the assassination of musician Hachalu Hundessa, the Abiy regime used the opportunity of the unrest to unjustly detain Eskinder. Despite releasing Eskinder in 2018 from his 18 year prison sentence on the former TPLF regime’s false allegations of terrorism, the Abiy regime re-charged Eskinder with terrorism and returned him to his former cell in Kaliti prison. Eskinder has been severely beaten and starved by the police, restricted from contacting his wife and son in the U.S, and denied bail. On December 25, 2020, the Lideta Federal High Court scheduled Eskinder Nega and his colleagues’ next court date to four months from now on April 7, 2021. Citing the court’s overriding of the decision for witness testimonies to be behind the curtain, Abiy’s regime is using its kangaroo court to prevent Eskinder Nega and the other imprisoned leaders of the Balderas for Genuine Democracy Party from participating in the upcoming election. However, Eskinder's next court date was amended to take place on January 13, 2021.