The east African nation of Eritrea is famous for being the country with world's least-free press. But now its neighbour and enemy Ethiopia is catching up from behind. Roy Greenslade reports in the Guardian that the journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega is in danger of being sentenced to death tomorrow (on Friday the 11th May 2012). Nega has been under arrest since last September, when he wrote an article critical of the arrest of other Ethiopian journalists under the country's sweeping legislation, which head in the direction of making it a crime to say anything critical of the country's government or supportive of anyone or anything the government dislikes. As well as being accused of supporting terrorism (by writing his critical article), Mr Nega has been accused of membership of a banned political party (opposition parties are often banned in Ethiopia) and of smuggling explosives in from Eritrea.
Mr Nega is no stranger to Ethiopia's prison system. Earlier last year he spent some time inside after writing an article on the Arab Spring that was viewed as an attempt to incite a revolt against the faux democratic regime of Meles Zenawi. He was also banged up in 2005 for writing about that year's disputed elections and newspapers that he and his wife, Serkalem Fasil, write for were closed by the government. There are reports that he has been subjected to torture while in detention.
Mr Nega's detention and possible death sentence is symptomatic of the slight into naked authoritarianism Ethiopia has seen under the regime of Meles Zenawi. Meles and his EPRDF colleagues came to power by overthrowing the brutal dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, ushering in a new era of hope. Since then, however, his party has settled into a cynically authoritarian rule white-washed by increasingly farcical "elections" every couple of years. The fear must be that this new despotism will usher in the kind of violent reaction that erupted against Mengistu in the 1970s and 1980s, with Meles the midwife of another round of civil war.
More (and image source) (IFEX: The global network for free expression)
Even More (PEN)
From Hunting Monsters