Inviolability of sovereignty will remain unabated
By Haile-Gebriel Biniyam (ENA)
The campaign launched recently by some governments and political groups for the release of the two Swedish convicted criminals 'journalists' from prison is in contravention of the universally recognized principle of nation's inviolable sovereignty. It is a crime to cross the territory of a sovereign nation without getting a legal permission.
It is to be recalled that the two Swedish journalists were convicted of entering to Ethiopia illegally and supporting a terrorist organization, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). After the court found them guilty of committing the crime, they were sentenced to an 11-year imprisonment.
It is in contravention of Ethiopian or and international law of the inviolability of the sovereignty of the nation some countries and organizations such as, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) are attempting to force Ethiopia to release the legally convicted prisoners claiming the convicts were in Ethiopia for doing their journalistic job, a claim totally unacceptable. But they don’t have the legal or ethical ground to exert pressure on Ethiopia to release the prisoners.
Many law and journalism experts have expressed their indignation over the illegitimate position in which the above mentioned parties have concerning the prisoners in question. Dr. Gebre-Medhin Simon, Dean of School of Journalism and Communication of the Addis Ababa University is one of the scholars who expressed indignation over the claim. He said no journalism ethics allows reporters to do their job by using illegal means. Principles and ethics of journalism are basically the same in all countries in the world.
Commenting about the ethics concerning reporting on conflicts, Dr. Gebre-Medhin said conflict reporting would never violate professional ethics. Whether it is covering conflict or other type of journalistic job, the ethics is the same. So, he described the claim that Swedish reporters were doing their journalist job as “a lame excuse”. “ I doubt whether they are really journalists as they claim,” he added.
Media organizations have the moral and legal responsibility to abide by the ethics. Journalists are not immune from criminal prosecution. There is no a law that provides protection for journalists when found doing illegal practices. Dr. Gebre-Medhin said journalists are treated as any other persons are treated.
The Ethiopian government would not even be accountable even if the convicts were found dead since they didn’t enter into the country legally. Dr. Gebre-Medhin said the two journalists were lucky for being found alive. As professional should bear social and moral responsibility and assume obligation for duty and bear the consequence-sanction and penalty for failing to do so. The two journalists were jailed for their illegal actions but not for being journalists.
Accordingly, as the Swedish journalists concerned, Dr. Gebere-Medhin said since Swedish reporters use journalism as cover for their hidden motives, journalists worldwide need to condemn this act as it is undermining the profession. Using the profession as cover must be condemned.
Despite the claim, what is worth to mention here is that the convicts themselves have confessed that they had violated the immigration law of the nation and have been brought to the country with the assistance of the ONLF.
Journalists associations have similar reflection on the subject in question. One of the associations is the Ethiopian Journalists Association (EJA). According to EJA President Meseret Atalay, the association deeply disappointed with the unethical acts of the Swedish journalists. He described the act “dishonouring the profession.' The two journalists had better to enter into the country legally since the country is peaceful and many media people are allowed to enter from around the world.
Meseret said that some governments and the so-called human rights groups try to associate the incarceration of the Swedish journalists with the issue of human rights and freedom of expression, an allegation which he said, was absolutely groundless. It has nothing to do with human rights and freedom of expression since the Swedish journalists were convicted of committing serious crime by a court of law. He doubted whether the convicts are journalists and added that they might have other political interest. He further urged local media organizations to condemn such an unethical move.
The Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA) President Wondwosen Mekonnen on his part said his association strongly condemns the illegal practice made by the Swedish journalists under the cover of journalism. No journalistic ethics legitimatize the gathering of information through illegitimate means. Concerning the mendacious attack being made by the stated political quarters, Wondwossen said these parties (the governments and human rights groups) are after their interest and don’t mind to give consideration to the honour and rights of others. In fact, Wondwosen said press freedom has been and is expected to be improved more. This is surely is the concern of the Ethiopian people not for outsiders. Mehari Redae, an Assistant Professor with Law Faculty of the Addis Ababa University said there must be permission from the host country to cross its sovereignty. Respecting the laws of the land is mandatory. Being journalists will never and ever be protected from criminal prosecution. No person is above the law including journalists, locals or foreigners alike. As far as the two Swedish journalists are concerned, they must have to get legal permission for entering to Ethiopia. It would have been better for them to come the right way for their business, he said.
Regardless of economic status, population size and other factors each and every country has sovereign equality according to the UN Charter. Protecting the sovereignty is the responsibility and the authority of the countries themselves, he said. “It is unquestionable to detain the two men whoever they are. This is illegal acts targeted at the national interest of Ethiopia and is a serious issue.”
Some international groups and countries tried to_interfere_on the_judicial_procedure just because the_prisoners_were European nationals and_journalists. However, he said,_in spite_of pressures_on the Ethiopian government it treats the case in due court process. The campaign of the stated governments and groups in connection with the case of the two journalists is implausible denial of the real fact.
The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation promulgated in 2009 is clearly states that supporting terrorist group is punishable. The two journalists breached this law. Mehari said the_sentences_passed on the convicts were proper not politically motivated one as some claim. The two journalists came from well developed democracy their act is an expression of dishonouring the Ethiopian law. The above mentioned governments and groups died not comment on the process of the trial since it is flawless. They rather deliberately attempt to associate the case with freedom of speech and human rights issue, he said.
Taffesse Olika is a long-time lecturer in foreign relations and diplomacy at the department of Political Science and International Relations of the Addis Ababa University. Taffesse said Ethio-Swedish relations dates back to 15th century that was later elevated to diplomatic ties level in mid of 1940s. The criminal acts of the two journalists would not be viewed as the manifestation of the government of Sweden.
Asked whether this incident would affect the relation between the two countries, Taffesse replied it wouldn’t. The two countries would settle the issue through their healthy diplomatic channel. There is no room for journalists to be immune from prosecution since they would liable to law as far as they engage in criminal acts.
It is apparently clear that there is no any relation with whatsoever between journalism, freedom of speech and terrorism. It is indeed high time to those groups to stop flim-flam game that intertwine and undercover terrorism with freedom of speeches or human rights issues. They must stop playing games as the fact on the ground clearly show there are differences between exercising journalism and committing crime.
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