This time in prison Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega was no longer tortured, thanks in part to increased international pressure and public awareness. He is a free man again after seven long years in jail.

ADDIS ABABA (Yle)―”Are you here to meet Eskinder Nega?” a man selling fries on the streets of Addis Ababa asks me. After answering in the affirmative, I am assured by the others standing nearby: “Eskinder is a good man”.

It’s clear that Eskinder’s fellow citizens have not forgotten their freedom-fighter hero, despite the fact that he hasn’t been seen in public for years.

A car pulls up alongside us and in the next instant the famed Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega is there, smiling broadly in his ever-present baseball cap.

He is a free man again after seven long years in jail. He still hasn’t reunited with his wife and child, however, as they have left Ethiopia for the US.

We enter a walled courtyard through an iron gate, where Eskinder and his relatives live in modest homes.

His porch is decorated with green, yellow and red balloons, the colours of the Ethiopian flag. They were purchased to celebrate Eskinder’s release from prison just three weeks earlier.

“I am not a hero, I have only done my duty,” Eskinder has said about his life’s work.

Eskinder Nega became a defender of free speech after writing a series of articles demanding democracy in his home country. He was later forced to pay a hard price for this conviction.

But when we met, there was no trace of bitterness in him. He was excitedly planning for the future.

Neither of us could have foreseen that he would be back behind bars all too soon.

Close to seven years ago, Eskinder wrote about the Arab Spring demonstrations and the possibility that Ethiopia’s population might also rise up in protest. The next morning, as he was accompanying his boy to school, he was arrested.

“[My son] cried violently. He was five years old when this happened,” Eskinder says.

It was almost seven years until he spoke with his boy again over the phone.

His child has suffered many times in his short life, just as his parents have done. Eskinder’s wife and fellow journalist, Serkalem Fasil, gave birth to their son while she was imprisoned herself, in 2005.

Eskinder says there are many people who can’t understand how something of this nature could even be possible.

“This is Africa. If you’re a dissident like I was, like I am, you’re accused of being a terrorist,” he says.

Continue reading this story at Yle
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