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Archive for September 14th, 2012

EASTERN AFRICA JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION welcomes release of Swedish Journalists from jail

Posted by African Press International on September 14, 2012 dickens.wasonga. API Reporter. Kenya dickens.wasonga. API Reporter. Kenya

BY Dickens Wasonga, reporting for API from Kenya..

The Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) today welcomed the pardoning and release of two Swedish journalists who have been held in Ethiopian jails since their arrest in July 2011 over claims that they were assisting an outlawed rebel group, Ogaden National Liberation Front.

Johan Persson, 29, and Martin Schibbye, 31, were in December 2011 sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of supporting terrorism after they illegally entered Ethiopia from Somalia.

EAJA Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman today described the move to pardon and release the two journalists as “a victory for press freedom” adding that a sustained campaign for their release by EAJA and other journalists and human rights organizations had finally borne fruit.
EAJA has been closely following the case of the two Swedish journalists alongside others who have been in Ethiopian jails over terrorism related charges and even organized a delegation that visited the journalists in prison besides petitioning the Ethiopian authorities for their release.

About five months ago, EAJA got information from sources within the government that they would possibly be released on September 11, along with others prisoners on the occasion of the country’s New Year.

The Swedish journalists are part of approximately 1,900 prisoners who have been pardoned under the New Year amnesty. The two journalists were arrested during a clash with rebels in Ogaden in Eastern Ethiopia, which is occupied by members of the ethnic Somali region who have been struggling for independence from Ethiopia since the 1970s.
The journalists, who went through a lengthy trial before they were sentenced to jail, had claimed that they were investigating alleged human rights abuses in the Ogaden Region. Ethiopian authorities do not allow journalists to enter the region.

Osman however said EAJA remained concerned over the continued detention in jail and ongoing prosecution of several local journalists over terrorism related charges.

Among journalists still jail are Eskinder Nega. Ethiopia’s High Court sitting in Addis Ababa on June 27, 2012 found Nega and some opposition activists guilty of encouraging terrorism with the argument that they were advocating for violence and hate in Ethiopia.
Ethiopian prosecution also accused him of supporting a banned political party called Ginbot Seven, which the Ethiopian government considers a terrorist group, and thus fomenting Arab-spring style revolution in Ethiopia. The court sentenced Nega to 18 years of imprisonment while 23 opposition figures also received different sentences on Friday, 14 July 2012.
In the very recent months, other journalists were given more than ten years imprisonments. Journalist Elias Kifle was sentenced to life imprisonment, Wubshet Taye was sentenced to 14 years while Reeyot Alemu was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment.


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Some Norwegians are hungry and homeless in Oslo: Food support for NOK 1 billion to be sent outside Norway,

Posted by African Press International on September 14, 2012

Today, Norway and the World Food Programme (WFP) signed a four-year agreement on Norwegian funding of NOK 245 million a year, amounting to a total of nearly NOK 1 billion.

Norwegian Minister of International Development Heikki Holmås commented, “The financial crisis and extreme weather events have created uncertainty about food prices and access to food. We hope this agreement will enable us, together with WFP, to increase certainty and predictability.”

Mr Holmås and WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin will sign the agreement today. Norway has previously supported the Programme through annual agreements.

“For the third time in ten years, millions of people are suffering from hunger in the Sahel belt in Africa. Women and children are being hardest hit. I met a number of them when I visited Niger earlier this year. WFP is doing a fantastic job to fight hunger and malnutrition. It is one of the most effective humanitarian organisations,” said Mr Holmås.

The finding provided by Norway will be used to provide emergency relief, including access to nutritionally appropriate food, and disaster risk reduction. In addition, Norway also provides annual funding for the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). This totalled around NOK 100 million in 2011, but the amount varies somewhat from year to year.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre commented, “WFP is one of our most important humanitarian partners, I have deep respect for its ability and capacity to deliver emergency relief on a large scale in difficult and often dangerous situations, such as in Syria, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan.

“Just as important as its emergency relief is WFP’s work on improving food security and preventing crises, and accelerating progress towards UN MDG 1: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.”

WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation. This UN agency distributes food, food vouchers and cash to around 100 million people all over the world. It has increased its focus on locally produced food, and also provides logistical assistance to other humanitarian organisations, in the form of aircraft, ships and trucks.




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Upping sticks and heading for Ramallah

Posted by African Press International on September 14, 2012

Israeli Palestinian artist Elias Nicola is one of a growing number of Palestinians moving from Israel to Ramallah in the West Bank

JERUSALEM,  – An increasing number of Palestinian citizens of Israel are moving to Ramallah in the West Bank in search of jobs, education or what they perceive as a more congenial environment.

“They are not running away, they are trying to create a future for themselves. And if that requires them to go elsewhere instead of staying in the state that discriminates against them, what can we do?” said Rania Laham-Grayeb, deputy director of Mussawa, the Advocacy Centre for Arab Citizens in Israel.

While marital reasons and the desire to live in an Arab-only environment are other motives for making the move, marginalization in Israel is also a significant push factor.

“This development has to do with discrimination against Arabs in Israel,” Samer Salame, head of the employment unit in the Palestinian Authority’s ministry of labour, told IRIN. “They come to the West Bank to work in the IT sector, academia, open businesses, or study. They often live here as well.”

However, fearful of losing their citizenship or residency in Israel, most do not register their change of work or living place – there are no official figures for the number of Palestinian citizens of Israel living in the occupied Palestinian territory, though Salame said there were at least 1,000 Israeli citizens running businesses or employed in Ramallah, not counting students and artists.

As of 2011, there were about 1.5 million Palestinians in Israel, comprising about 20 percent of the population of 7.7 million. These figures include the 285,000 Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, most of whom do not hold Israeli citizenship but have permanent residency status.

Israel’s Arab citizens are politically marginalized and economically underprivileged, according to a recent International Crisis Group report.

Adalah, an NGO giving legal aid to Palestinians in Israel, says 30 laws in Israel discriminate either directly or indirectly against Palestinian citizens. “That puts Israeli democracy under a big question mark,” said Mussawa’s Laham-Grayeb.

The Citizenship and Entry to Israel law – prohibiting Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who are married to Israeli citizens from acquiring Israeli residency – is another reason why Israeli-Arabs are leaving for a new life in the West Bank. “They have no other choice. Family considerations are a big emigration factor, as it is impossible for Palestinians in Israel to get married with someone from the West Bank and live together in Israel.”


Israeli citizen Saed Nashef, who grew up in a mixed neighbourhood in Haifa, graduated from an Israeli university in electrical engineering, and then worked for years as an IT-specialist in the USA and Jordan. When he came back to look for work in Israel, he found it difficult, he said.

“I applied for more than 100 jobs. Once, the interviewer said: ‘Oh you are an Arab from Nazareth. Unfortunately, we are doing stuff for the Israeli army, I am sorry’,” Nashef told IRIN. Being refused positions for security reasons is a common reality for many Palestinians in Israel.

''The general feeling of marginalization and discrimination just made me want to move to the Palestinian side''

The Israeli Foreign Ministry told IRIN Israel does not discriminate against people due to their ethnicity, but that an army-related background might be required for certain positions. This applied not only to Palestinian Israelis, but also new immigrants who had not done military service in Israel.

Today, Nashef is running his own company in Ramallah. “But salaries here are much lower than in Israel and the environment is less exciting,” he said. “I would like to work in Israel. It is more challenging, more cosmopolitan. But until those racist barriers disappear, you don’t feel the cities are welcoming you.”

Reacting to these allegations the Israeli Ministry of Labour told IRIN that Israel’s labour legislation is “very progressive in terms of equal opportunities”. Recently an equal employment opportunities commission was established. National commissioner Ina Soltanovich-David told IRIN: “We see the subject of discrimination against the Arab population in the workforce as one of the main issues and therefore invest a big part of our resources in eliminating the forbidden phenomena.”


Mahmoud Mi’ari, who was to have taken up a post at Haifa University in 1972, left Israel long ago.

“Only 10 days before I was supposed to start teaching, the Shin Bet [Israeli secret service] cancelled my appointment,” said Mi’ari, a professor at Ramallah’s Birzeit University. He was rejected for security reasons. Mi’ari said he never found out what exactly was held against him. “The general feeling of marginalization and discrimination just made me want to move to the Palestinian side.”

Other Arab intellectuals highlighted the marginalization of Palestinian scholars in the Israeli academic system as the main reason for leaving, noting the requirement to work in Hebrew. Majid Shihade, another professor at Birzeit University who is an Israeli citizen, told IRIN. “Our skills are worth more here.”

Students are also turning their backs on Israeli universities. According to the Israeli Knesset Research and Information Centre(link in Hebrew), some 1,300 Arab students are currently studying at West Bank universities, including some 800 enrolled at the American University of Jenin, and 400 mostly Bedouin students at the university in Hebron. Some 5,400 Palestinian Israeli students are pursuing university education in Jordan.

The research centre also notes that Palestinian students who graduate from Israeli universities find it difficult to get jobs if they have not completed military service.

Cultural ghetto?

“Artists, authors, all kinds of people in the culture field move to the West Bank. There is simply more potential here than in Israel, where the Ministry of Culture spends less than 3 percent of its budget in support of cultural organizations,” Laham-Grayeb said.

Artist Elias Nicola from Haifa is one of those Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who came to live in Ramallah for cultural reasons. He is managing a restaurant attached to the al-Kassaba Theatre in Ramallah, after having run a bar in Haifa before. Teachers, artists, students, and businessmen dealing with traditional handicrafts were all attracted by the cultural environment, he added.

However, Nicola expressed concern that Palestinian emigration from Israel is what the government might want, saying: “They would be happy to see all of us live in Ramallah.”

ah/kb/cb  source

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