Sweden: Two journalists, one minister, lots of petrol
18 October 2011
The trial of two Swedish journalists accused of terrorism, which opens on October 18 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is getting a lot of press coverage in Sweden. "Because of political games, the Swedes risk 40 years in jail," says Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, adding that "Ethiopia wants to set an example". Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were arrested on July 1, while investigating oil industry activities and human rights violations in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. They entered the region with the aid of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a separatist group which has fought for greater autonomy for the region since the mid-1980s.
The negotiations to free the journalists were led by the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt. But the minister, who was once on the board of directors of Lundin Oil, an oil firm with interests in Ethiopia, was highly criticised for his lack of commitment in favour of the two journalists. "Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, who talks a lot in general, is keeping a low profile," notes the Dagbladet, adding, "So what is the real meaning of all those Swedish speeches about human rights and all the tax payers' krona for aid to Ethiopia? If we are not ready to fight for freedom of the press and the life of Swedish journalists, in an open and aggressive manner, of what can we be proud?"