Eskinder Nega Honored With Prestigious PEN Award

Eskinder Nega's wife Serkalem Fasil (pictured center) arrived in New York from Ethiopia just hours prior to the event on Tuesday May 1st, 2012, to accept the 26th "PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award" on her husband's behalf. (Photo by Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega was honored Tuesday evening with PEN America’s prestigious “Freedom to Write” award at the literary organization’s annual gala dinner held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Eskinder’s wife Serkalem Fasil, who flew in from Ethiopia just hours prior to the event, accepted the award on her husband’s behalf.

“I accept this award on behalf of Eskinder Nega at a time when freedom of expression and press freedom are at the lowest in Ethiopia,” Serkalem said. Herself a journalist, Serkalem gave birth to their son behind bars while serving a 17-month sentence that began in 2005. “If Eskinder were standing here, he’d accept this award not just as a personal honor, but on behalf of all Ethiopian journalists who toil under withering conditions today: those who went into exile over the years…those in prison with whom he now resides.”

The emotional ceremony was preceded with a short video about Eskinder Nega and his ongoing trial on terrorism charges in Ethiopia. PEN/America recognized Eskinder with the 26th PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award – a highly regarded accolade granted to international writers who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of expression. Forty-six women and men have received the award since 1987; 33 of the 37 honorees who were in prison at the time they were honored were subsequently released.

“The award started twenty-six years ago because we were losing people, they would disappear, they would be tortured and we would never know where they were,” Barbara Goldsmith, the benefactress of the award, told Tadias Magazine. “I and several other people decided that if we can turn a media spot light on people who are being arrested, maybe we can shame these nations into letting them out of jail.” She added: “We have been wildly successful. We have given 37 awards and of those awards 33 have gotten out.”

Ms. Goldsmith referred to Eskinder Nega and stated: “And in this case, that which is primary in our mind is to make sure that the international media pays attention; that’s why we made the movie and we hope it will work this time the way it has always worked.”

Serkalem told the audience that her husband is an advocate for press freedom. “Prison has been Eskinder’s home away from home for the past two decades,” she said. “He is persistent in demanding accountability and transparency in government. He is unflinching in demanding an end to corruption, but most of all he is a dedicated journalist.”

Imprisoned Ethiopian Journalist Is Honored With PEN Award (The New York Times)
Ethiopian journalist honored with PEN America ‘Freedom to Write’ award (The Washington Post)
Jailed Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega honoured (BBC)
PEN Honors Jailed Ethiopian Journalist (Associated Press)

12 Responses to “Eskinder Nega Honored With Prestigious PEN Award”

  1. 1 @dejiridoo May 2nd, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Really wonderful photos from the Gala last night. Thank you for sharing these powerful memories.

  2. 2 S.N. May 3rd, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Eskinder & Serkalem: Congratulations for the well-deserved honor! Your unflinching commitment to truth, justice and the rule of law in Ethiopia is inspiring and much appreciated. Here’s hoping for a better day…

  3. 3 iueae May 3rd, 2012 at 9:40 am

    US is insanely unjust! The US government is supporting the Meles brutal government which gave brevity for Meles to Kill the Ethiopian citizen. We don’t ask the American people to stop Meles’ brutality, which we are responsible to do it, but we plead you at least to stop supporting his regime.

    To Eskender and his family – Ethiopians are proud of you and the recognition you get!!!

  4. 4 Selam mechachal May 3rd, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Never doubt that the truth and only the truth shall and will set us free! However tough, determined and formidable Meles & co may look in their actions of silencing the voice and denying the freedom of countless Ethiopians, I shall say to my fellow citizens, do not despair!for the era where we all will stand equally just as a citizen in that land of ours is not far. Never, Never doubt it people that there will come a time when we won’t be persecuted for speaking our mind or belonging to this or that tribe or challenging the status quo in that land we call እማማ ኢትዮጲያ!

    ሀቅ ይሁን ሀይላችን ፤ እውነት ይሁን መከታችን።

    Eskinder Nega and Serkalem Fasil, you have my greatest respect and love! God bless you!

  5. 5 Nancy May 3rd, 2012 at 11:54 am

    It was a splendid, festive occasion and what an honor it was to have met Serkalem Fasil. As I have told her, I hope to meet her husband Eskinder Nega out of jail in the near future! I have a daughter her age who is a journalist (like me) and married to another journalist (like me). So I know how it feels.

  6. 6 Mulumebet Lakew May 3rd, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Congratulations Eskinder and Serkalem! You are an example to many young people! Very proud of you!

  7. 7 Ellias Ma-tawkal May 3rd, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Congadulation Eskinder and Serkalem-your small bleating voice engulfed the western world. Your suffering is not in vain. Folks in Washington DC be ready for the big party to celeberate this gala in our old fashion way.This is a victory for people who loved their beloved country (Ethiopia) passionately.

  8. 8 yonas May 4th, 2012 at 5:21 am

    As they say, there is a strong woman behind every great man. Serkalem- you made every Ethiopian proud. You are Eskinder’s back bone, stay strong! God bless you!

  9. 9 A.C. Bankerovic May 4th, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Congratulations to Eskinder & Serkalem! for well deserved recognition & prize. PEN America also deserves to be praised for standing steadfastly with the courageous journalist who refused to be silent.

  10. 10 Obaserver May 4th, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I can only imagine how lonely and depressing it must be as human-being to be raising your child without the father only because of what???? I am so happy for her as Fairness means treating people equitably, without bias or partiality. It means actively working to set aside self interest or group loyalty when rendering a judgment. Being impartial doesn’t mean having no biases—rather it means knowing what those biases are, striving to set them aside. Some say that’s a foreign concept for Ethiopians that they blame media glorifying Eskinder. They are wrong because there is nothing foreign about fairness to Ethiopians. It is part and parcel of Ethiopian culture among various peoples across the land and our history and is full of great examples of events inspired by the ideal of justice, fairness is not sameness or always following the letter of the law in these cases. Fairness makes room for us to generate solutions and compromises based on reason and circumstance. Eskinder could not be a criminal if the system was fair.

  11. 11 London May 5th, 2012 at 12:59 am

    Very touching!! Wow, what a beautiful and elegant woman! Eskinder will now be on the tongue and lips of journalists and broadcasters and more in the world that come in contact with Meles. He is the new face. As an Ethiopian, I am very proud of Serkalem and not only what she did for her husband but also her country.! You did us all good Serkalem!

  12. 12 zeqala May 5th, 2012 at 2:28 am

    This is a very encouraging development. As we say where I grew up “What goes around comes around” Who knew this day would come? Well said by the Pen gentleman at the opening in the video. Freedom of expression is not only about the right to speak but it is also about the people’s right to know. The independent Ethiopian press fulfills the Ethiopian peoples right to know what’s going on.

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