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Eritrea20 September 2004

Africa’s biggest prison for the press since 18 September 2001

On the eve of the third anniversary of a round-up of journalists and the elimination of the independent press in Eritrea, Reporters Without Borders today renewed its call to the authorities to free the detained journalists and let the privately-owned media resume working so that Africa’s youngest nation may cease to also be the continent’s biggest prison for the press.

There has been no privately-owned press in Eritrea since President Issaias Afeworki’s crackdown on 18 September 2001. For the past three years, the only source of news for Eritreans has been the governmental press and the few international radio stations whose signals can be received.

What’s more, the last foreign journalist in Eritrea, BBC stringer Jonah Fisher, was expelled from the country at the start of September after being publicly criticised by the information minister.

The situation is unique in the world. Eritrea has been in an extended news blackout since that night in September 2001 when the government closed the privately-owned newspapers and imprisoned the leading journalists. Thanks to President Afeworki’s stubbornness, Eritrea today is still the only country in Africa and one of the few in the world where only the government’s press has the right to publish.

At least 14 journalists are still being held in unknown and possibly very harsh conditions. The authorities release no information about them, not even the location or type of prison in which they are being held. Members of the government and ruling party have on several occasions call the imprisoned journalists "traitors to the nation" but no charges have ever been announced.

In this country
6 March - Eritrea
Plea to EU to suspend development aid in light of fresh crackdown on journalists
30 October - Eritrea
State TV journalist secretly sentenced in 2006 to five years of forced labour
17 September - Eritrea
European Union urged to shake off lethargy after seven years of silence since September 2001 crackdown
24 April - Eritrea
Journalist employed by state-owned Radio Dimtsi Hafash held since 2006
30 January - Eritrea
New revelations about Eiraeiro prison camp - “The journalist Seyoum Tsehaye is in cell No. 10 of block A01”

in the annual report
Eritrea - Annual Report 2008
Eritrea - Annual Report 2007
Eritrea - Annual report 2006

Africa press releases
3 June - Somalia
Alarm at TV station director’s abduction near Mogadishu
27 May - Gabon
Government imposes news blackout on President Bongo’s health
26 May - Somalia
Radio reporter shot by militia dies of injuries, fourth journalist to be killed this year

africa archives

18 March 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo
“Bukavu, murder city”: investigation report into murders of journalists in the capital of Sud-Kivu
21 May 2008 - Eritrea
Naizghi Kiflu, the dictatorship’s eminence grise
6 March 2008 - Kenya
"How far to go ?" Kenya’s media caught in the turmoil of a failed election

Sign the petitions
Sign the petition for the release of ten Eritrean journalists