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A Jailed Writer

Eskinder Nega
In my protected, American naivety, I am always shocked to hear about a writer from another country thrown into jail for writing a column, or blogging, or simply speaking out about a government action or inaction, a dictatorial regime, anything. And this is one reason, among many, that I belong to American PEN which advocates for incarcerated and persecuted writers around the world, often with great success, often not. I write letters, sign petitions, try to write directly to a jailed writer in prison from time to time. I will probably do that with Eskinder Nega, if it is possible, because there is something about this picture of him in his baseball cap that is endearing. A young man, writing about the Arab spring, who dared to suggest that it might also happen in Ethiopia. His sentence: 18 years.

Here is a quote from the recent PEN newsletter:

He [Eskinder Nega] wrote to PEN and was honored with the 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. In it, he called for action from the United States—the country he lived in for years and loved—to pressure the government of Ethiopia to lift restrictions on free expression and remedy other human rights abuses. We shared Eskinder’s piece with The New York Times, and on July 25 his "Letter from Ethiopia's Gulag" ran as a prominent op-ed:


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