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In July 2012 an Ethiopian journalist and blogger was sentenced for 18 years after writing a blog post critical of the government’s anti-terrorist laws. Eskinder Nega, along with 23 other journalists, had expressed outrage at the laws, which allowed the government sweeping powers to silence opposition and dissent. Shortly before to his arrest, Nega had criticised the government’s harsh laws and called for it to respect freedom of speech.
He was sentenced to 18 years for terrorism.
Since then, the online community worldwide has rallied around him to call on individual governments to put pressure on Ethiopia to respect the freedom of speech and release the blogger. A website details the group’s efforts to force his release.
The petitions are not without precedent. As recently as September the Ethiopian government released two Swedish journalists who had been imprisoned 11 months prior. It had taken significant pressure from the Swedish government and international free-press groups before the government relented.