Serkalem Fasil receives Eskinder Nega’s press freedom award

by Engidu Woldie

ESAT News (June 16, 2017)

Ethiopia Journalist Serkalem Fasil received the International Press Institute (IPI) 2017 world press freedom hero award on behalf of Eskinder Nega, imprisoned Ethiopian journalist and blogger.

Journalist Serkalem Fasil, who is also the wife of Eskinder Nega, received the award on behalf of her husband at a ceremony in Alexandria on Thursday from journalist Mesfin Negash, who attended the IPI award ceremony last month to received the award on behalf of Eskinder Nega.

The Vienna based International Press Institute chose Eskinder Nega as the 69th recipient of the prestigious award for his personal sacrifice to press freedom in Ethiopia.

“The world press freedom award recognizes the contribution of individuals for press freedom and their personal sacrifices. We chose Eskinder Nega as the recipient of this years award because we wanted to make sure that his contributions to media freedom and the contribution he made to independent journalism in Ethiopia as well as to draw attention to the situation he currently faces,” Steve Ellis, Director of Communications and Advocacy told ESAT from Vienna in April.

Eskinder Nega, journalist par excellence and blogger, has been in prison since 2011 on trumped up charges of terrorism for criticizing the anti-terror law, which the regime uses to target journalists and dissents.

Ellis said awarding Eskinder sends a clear message to the regime in Ethiopia and the world at large. “He is in in prison for criticizing the anti-terror law and his effort to stand up for freedom of expression and for media independence. We wanted to send a clear signal that he was not forgotten. We want the Ethiopian government to know that and we want the rest of the world to know that.”

“We want to honor him specifically for the toll the imprisonment took on him and his family,” Ellis said.

Eskinder has been in and out of prison for at least seven times. His wife, Serkalem Fasil, was also detained for seventeen months. She gave birth to their son, Nafkot Eskinder in prison ten years ago. Serkalem and Nafkot now live in exile in the U.S.

Eskinder writes in flawless English and Amharic. Eskinder at one point was a publisher of three weekly newspapers critical of a regime which has no tolerance for freedom of speech and that of the press.

Eskinder is the recipient of awards from Pen America, the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International among others.