Mezgebu Hailu Habtewold

Mezgebu Hailu Habtewold

Fotograf: Tomislav Stjepic

Född 1975 i Addis Abeba, Etiopien
Safe haven: Stockholm since 2012

My right to freedom of expression and press freedom…

  … has never been taken for granted. To work in the media business in Ethiopia has always involved a risk. A risk which must be preceded by a conscious choice – if you are ready to take that risk, even if you never know how big it is, or exactly what it will cost you…

I once wrote an article about one of the governments’ prides: a condominium house. The idea was good but the project in practice meant less beneficial conditions for the shareholders. One of the house guests – a woman I had interviewed – called me two days after the article had been published and told med what she had been exposed to. She had been dragged to the prison where she was beaten and threatened to continued silence. Imprisoned, beaten and silence. For what?

Incidents as this one makes you stop; to evaluate and examine the field of journalism. Some things need to be revealed and exposed for the good of the society – but to what price for those individuals who have done nothing wrong besides having the courage to speak up?

Is it worth the price?

2009. I found out that the newspaper I worked for was going to be shut down; the government had launched an attack against us.

What was at risk if I stayed? I decided to leave the country to try to continue my journalistic work from abroad.

Kenya. Darkness. Limbo. Uganda. New journalistic project. Prison.  

Daily fear. Every step preceded by security calculations and safety measures.

That is not a life to live.

There came an opening to a safe haven in South Africa. And then later on, the opportunity to a safe haven in Sweden.

Safe haven Stockholm…

… have given me stability. An opportunity to relax. To reunite with my family and meet my daughter for the first time.

An opportunity to speak about Ethiopia. About those who are still in prison; those who cannot write because of the ban against journalists.

Through seminars, lectures, discussion and interviews tell about what I have experienced. To be a spokesperson for those violations that is committed in the absence of freedom of expression and press freedom.

It is my hope to reach out to the Ethiopian diaspora. To help them reach back to their roots – not necessarily to return, but to become involved in what continues to happen in Ethiopia.

An opportunity to start a radio project.

An opportunity to continue my journalistic work.

An opportunity to exert my right to freedom of expression.

3 May – World Press Freedom Day

Press freedom is a fundamental and central right for a person who has chosen to become a journalist.

2005. The election in Ethiopia. One of the most significant moments in our history. The government became more open. Even public owned media reported on how the country could continue as a democracy without bloodshed. This is something very rare.

Two to three million people. The largest crowd I had ever seen. It was an evidence, showing how thirsty our people was for a democratic future. It was an eye opener for the need to get involved for the sake of the people and democracy.   

The hope of a regime shift was crushed. The election results were ignored. The opposition was arrested. All newspapers were closed down. Thousands of people were killed in one and the same day.

I decided to get involved in the way I could. I approached the newspaper I considered to be among the best things that have ever come about in Ethiopian media world: Addis Neger.

All of my colleagues from the newspaper are today in exile.

Autocracy and dictatorship are the biggest threat to freedom of expression. Autocracy, dictatorship and social values.

My colleagues who are today imprisoned... My colleague who will serve 20 years in prison, if nothing changes... For what? For having promoted peaceful social and political change and development.

Those who remain imprisoned and for whom there are given expressions of concern.

The western world’s expressions of concern…

What do these words mean?

What do the weigh if not followed by action?

Last updated: 2015-07-06

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