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Eritrea31 January 2002

RSF calls on Parliament to ask for the release of imprisoned journalists

Reporters Sans frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RSF), a Paris-based press freedom watchdog has called on members of the Eritrean parliament to ask for the immediate release of all journalists languishing in jail in Eritrea.

RSF General Secretary Robert Ménard said: "Parliamentarians today have an opportunity to show goodwill and a commitment to press freedom. They must take a firm approach firm vis-à-vis the executive and call for their release." "We remind them that Eritrea has become the only country in the whole African continent without a single independent publication," he added.

On 29 January 2002, Eritrea’s National Assembly opened its first session since 2000. Parliamentarians are set to tackle the issue of jailed political dissidents as well as the situation of the independent press in the country. RSF recalled that on 18 September 2001, independent newspapers announced that they were publishing their final issue until further notice, on the order of the government. The head of national television then went on the air to explain that "independent media have had time to correct their mistakes. They have been jeopardising national unity." Since this day no independent newspaper came out.

At the same time eight journalists were arrested and detained at the N° 1 Police Station in Asmara. They are: Yusuf Mohamed Ali, editor in chief of Tsigenay, already detained during several weeks in October 2000, Mattewos Habteab, editor in chief of Meqaleh, previously arrested several times these last months, Dawit Isaac and Tsehaye Yohannes, journalists for Setit, Medhanie Haile, editor in chief of Keste Debena, and Temesgen Gebreyesus, member of the board of directors, Emanuel Asrat from Zemen, and an independent photographer Seyoum Fsehaye.

There is still no news of the six following other journalists: Zemenfes Haile, former director of publication and founder of the Tsigenay newspaper Selamyinghes Beyene, reporter for Meqaleh, Simret Seyoum, general manager of Setit and Aaron Berhane, editor in chief, Said Abdulkader, editor in chief of Admas and Ghebrehiwet Keleta, journalist of Tsigenay. They are believed to have either been thrown in prison or to have clandestinely taken refuge elsewhere to escape arrest.

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