NEW YORK CITYEthiopian journalist Serkalem Fasil, winner of the 2007 International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award, visits New York for the first time to receive the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award on behalf of her husband Eskinder Nega.

Nega is currently on trial and could face the death penalty for his advocacy of press freedom in Ethiopia. The award ceremony is part of the 2012 PEN Literary Gala on May 1 at American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Last month, PEN American Center named Eskinder Nega, one of Ethiopia’s leading advocates for press freedom and freedom of expression, the winner of the 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. The prize, which honors an international writer who has been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression, will be presented at the PEN Literary Gala in New York City this evening. Nega’s wife, journalist and publisher Serkalem Fasil, has been a steadfast proponent of free expression in her own right, weathering a 17-month imprisonment along with her husband for treason beginning in 2005 for their critical reporting on the government’s violent crackdown of protests following disputed elections. Fasil gave birth to the couple’s child in prison.

Eskinder Nega was arrested under Ethiopia’s sweeping anti-terrorism legislation on September 14, 2011, after he published a column questioning the government’s claim that a number of journalists it had detained were suspected terrorists, and for criticizing the arrest of well-known Ethiopian actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu on terror charges earlier that week. Nega was accused of affiliation with the banned political party Ginbot 7, and state television portrayed him and other political prisoners as “spies for foreign forces.” His trial is ongoing. He could face the death penalty if convicted. For more information on his case, visit www.pen.org/eskinder

PEN American Center is the largest of the 144 centers of PEN International, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit www.pen.org.

Frontview of American Museum of Natural History

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