(Video) 438 Days Imprisoned in Ethiopia

(Democracy Now) While President Obama visited Ethiopia on Monday, he made a passing reference to press freedom, calling on the Ethiopian government to “open additional space for journalists, for media, for opposition voices.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists has described Ethiopia as one of the leading jailers of journalists on the continent. At least 11 journalists and bloggers are currently in prison. Six others were released just before Obama’s visit. We look at the remarkable story of two Swedish journalists who traveled to Ethiopia in 2011 to report on the actions of the Swedish oil company Lundin Oil in the Ogaden region, where there has been a fight for independence since the 1970s. Five days after crossing the border from Somalia to Ethiopia, the journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were shot and captured by the Ethiopian army. “We were both shot during the arrest. We were kept in the desert,” Schibbye said. “They brought in some Steven Spielberg figure, who turned out to be the vice president of the region, who made a mockumentary about what happened when we were arrested. They brought in fake rebels, who they gave guns, and it was a total surreal episode where we, under gunpoint, had to participate in the movie that was supposed to be shown on Ethiopian state television and also used in court to sentence us for support of terrorism.” Schibbye and Persson ended up spending over a year in prison, which they chronicle in their book, “438 Days: How Our Quest to Expose the Dirty Oil Business in the Horn of Africa Got Us Tortured, Sentenced as Terrorists and Put Away in Ethiopia’s Most Infamous Prison.”