438 dagar


Started: July 18, 2015
July 21, 2015

Language: Swedish
Rating: 5/5 stars

“Den här boken skulle inte ha funnits om inte allt gått åt helvete.”
(translation: “This book wouldn’t have existed if everything hadn’t gone to hell.”)

Despite being a self-proclaimed history geek I tend to have trouble with longer books analyzing or retelling particular historical events from a key person’s perspective. This book, however, is different. This book is personal. This book is about a historical event that’s happened in my lifetime and it’s written by those it happened to. It’s not someone else who’s interviewed them and then written it down; this book is their personal story. Like it says in the foreword: “It isn’t just based on a true story. It is a true story.”

In the early summer of 2011 I had just moved back to Sweden from China and was preparing to head off to university. At the same time photographer Johan Persson and journalist Martin Schibbye were preparing for a mission. A dangerous mission. They were going to a part of Ethiopia that was closed off for the media in order to report on the backside of the oil companies’ claim on the area – and they were going there with a group of rebels.
Dangerous, yes.
Mad, yes.
Necessary, absolutely.

They were captured, shot, mistreated and eventually sentenced to 11 years in prison. For terrorism. They ended up being held in captivity by the Ethiopian government for 438 days before being pardoned in September 2012. During that time they met others in captivity, others who, just like them, were journalists. Others who had expressed their mind in words. All of them were accused of terrorism.

You don’t realize how important the freedom to speak your mind is until that freedom is taken from you. You don’t realize how important journalists are for the sake of democracy until they are the ones accused and held in prison halls meant for 100 people – but in truth packed with more than 200. You don’t realize how far people can go to make you say the opposite of what you want to say until they, for months, trick you, give you false hope, let your shot wounds get infected without treatment and are more interested in using you as an actor in a propaganda movie instead of giving you a clean bandage.

It’s gritty, it’s beautiful, it’s filled with good and bad memories, it’s inspiring, and it’s all true.


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