If the government hoped Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega might slip into grateful silence, they will be disappointed: he told AFP he plans to press on with his journalism as fearlessly as before.

(AFP)―More than six years in jail have not blunted Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega’s criticism of the government that put him there.

He was released in February, as part of a broad prisoner amnesty, and remains just as defiant, just as determined as when he was locked up for writing critical articles.

“I am prepared to go back to prison,” Eskinder, 47, said in an interview in the Ethiopian capital this week. “What I am not prepared to do is give up.”

“We will continue to press and struggle for freedom of expression and democracy.”

Eskinder’s widely-read columns routinely took his country’s authoritarian, one-party government to task, until his arrest in September 2011, after writing a column predicting an Arab Spring-style uprising in Ethiopia.

Like other critical journalists, bloggers, activists and politicians, he was charged with terrorist offenses and later sentenced to 18 years in prison.

His trial and detention attracted international condemnation from rights groups, including the literary freedom organization PEN International.

Despite the recent, unexpected release of thousands of political prisoners, himself included, Eskinder fears life for journalists may worsen — not improve — following the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government’s declaration of a nationwide state of emergency last month.

– A country at a tipping point –

If the government hoped Eskinder might slip into grateful silence, they will be disappointed: he told AFP he plans to press on with his journalism as fearlessly as before.

For a country defined by the all-pervasive power of the ruling party, Ethiopia is at a rare tipping point between greater openness and continued oppression.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his resignation last month, a move unprecedented in the party’s 27-year rule. Behind closed doors, EPRDF leaders are in the midst of an opaque process of selecting a successor.

Whoever is chosen, Eskinder said an essential first step will be a willingness to talk, even to the party’s enemies, if people are to believe democracy is growing.

“If that person wants to make change, wants to make real change in this country, he will have to engage in negotiations with all political parties, including those who have been branded as terrorist organizations,” he said.

Continue reading this story at Daily Mail Online
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