Ethiopia said Monday it has pardoned two Swedish journalists, who will be released from jail within the next day.
Justice Minister Berhan Hailu said that photographer Johan Persson and reporter Martin Schibbye were pardoned by former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died last month due to illness.
The two journalists were accused of involving themselves in terrorism and have been jailed for more than a year. They were sentenced to 11 years in prison, a move that was denounced by press watchdogs and human rights organizations.
Ethiopia’s new year is on Tuesday and marks a day when the government releases prisoners.
“The two Swedes are among the ones to be released,” Hailu told the BBC. “The decision to pardon them was made in July,” he added. He stressed the two men have to leave Ethiopia within the next 24 hours.
Reporters Without Borders lauded Ethiopia’s decision to release the two.“Let us not forget that the journalists were imprisoned for 14 months without genuine cause,” said Christophe Deloire, the director general of Reporters Without Borders in a statement. “They simply doing their duty of reporting the news.”
The two were arrested last July along with members of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front. They were reporting on the human rights situation in the Ogaden region in southeast Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government considers the Liberation Front a terrorist organization.