Ambassador meets detained journalists

The Swedish ambassador to Ethiopia, Jens Odlander, was allowed to see the two jailed Swedish journalists in Addis Ababa on Friday, in what is seen as a positive step by observers.

The journalists allegedly entered Ethiopia illegally together with rebels classed as terrorists by the regime. Following their arrest, the pair were taken to an arrest in the city Jijiga, before being moved on to the capital.

“He has met them in the federal police headquarters in Addis Ababa for a good hour this afternoon”, said the Foreign Ministry’s Communications Director Cecilia Julin, adding that the pair are feeling well under the circumstances.

However there is still no official word on what charges they are being held on, reports TT.

With the Swedish government still trying to avoid a diplomatic incident, there has been a policy not to openly criticise Ethiopia, for fear of inflaming an already sensitive situation.

On Thursday however, the Foreign Ministry published their first report in three years on the human rights situation in 188 countries, which is highly critical of the Ethiopian’s record.

Amabassador Odlander brought food, clothing, medicines and toiletries for the pair who are being kept in their own single cells. He also added that the injuries suffered by the journalists have now been treated by doctors.

The fact that the federal police have taken over the investigation is seen a positive sign, according to an expert on Ethiopia. Kjetil Tronvoll, who is a professor at Oslo University, said “their security will be dealt with much better.”

Meanwhile journalists around the world continue to campaign on the pair’s behalf. The Swedish Union of Journalists (Svenska journalistförbundet – SJF) and Swedish Union of Photographers (Svenska Fotografers Förbund) are demanding their release, while the International Federation of Journalists has condemned the arrests “in the strongest possible terms” and demand that the Swedes be given access to healthcare.

The Swedish foreign office has requested further opportunities to see the jailed Swedes.

“We have requested further access to them. We want to see them as often as possible,” said Kent Öberg of the foreign office information department to TT on Saturday.

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Fashion retailer H&M plans Ethiopia expansion

Swedish fashion retailer Hennes and Mauritz (H&M) said Friday it would expand its network of suppliers to Ethiopia, after concentrating 80 percent of its production in Asian countries.

Fashion retailer H&M plans Ethiopia expansion

“We are an expansive company and are constantly looking at new potential purchasing markets to guarantee that we have capacity to deliver products to all stores in our expansive markets,” H&M spokeswoman Camilla Emilsson-Falk told AFP.

“We do that by increasing the productivity on the existing production markets as well as looking at new markets,” she added.

Test orders have been placed with Ethiopian suppliers and new factories will be built this autumn, but it is too early to say how many suppliers will be used and when the factories will be ready for production, according to Emilsson-Falk.

The East African country has had a long history in textile, leather and shoe production since its Italian occupation in 1939. Other apparel retailers have already begun sourcing products in the country, including Tesco and Chinese shoe-manufacturer Huajian, providing footwear to Guess and Tommy Hilfiger.

“Ethiopia is a country with strong development and we trust that we can sustain economic growth and job opportunities there,” said Emilsson-Falk.

Despite strong economic growth, 9.9 percent on yearly average since 2004 according to the World Bank, the sub-Saharan nation remains one of the world’s

poorest. And one year after the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi, the country is still criticised for its lack of human rights by watchdog organisations.

“We did an extensive risk analysis for Ethiopia, looking at human rights and environmental issues in the country,” said Emilsson-Falk.

“We have worked with improvement of working conditions in our production countries for many years and will apply our experience when establishing relationships with the Ethiopian suppliers.”

H&M, which has stores in Egypt and Morocco, has no concrete plans for further expansion in Africa.

Two Swedish journalists who were kept in jail for 14 months in the country were released in September 2012.

TT/AFP/The Local/pvs

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