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Eritrea4 April 2002

Nine journalists now held in secret


Nine jailed Eritrean journalists on hunger strike were transferred to a secret place of detention on 3 April. Police in Asmara told their families that the nine were no longer in their cells. They were reportedly taken by soldiers and presidential officials to a new place. A 10th imprisoned journalist on hunger strike, Dawit Isaac, is said be in the Halibet hospital as a result of being tortured in jail.

04.04.2002 - Ten journalists on hunger strike

image 90 x 170 (JPEG) Reporters Without Borders (RSF) expressed great concern today about the start of a hunger strike by 10 journalists jailed in Eritrea and called on the government to free them at once.

"They are being held in very bad conditions and we are worried about their health," said RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard. "All they have done is express their opinions and nothing justifies their lengthy imprisonment. As far as we know, they have not been formally charged with anything and their detention is arbitrary and illegal." Eritrea is the only country in Africa without any privately-owned media.

image 90 x 170 (JPEG) RSF notes that a visa application for its representatives, made to the Eritrean Embassy in Paris several months ago, has received no response.

The 10 journalists from the privately-owned media began a hunger strike on 31 March in what they said, according to letter smuggled out of prison, was a protest against their illegal detention and to demand "justice before a fair and independent court."

image 90 x 136 (JPEG) The 10 hunger-strikers are Yusuf Mohamed Ali, editor of Tsigenay, Mattewos Habteab (editor) and Dawit Habtemichael (journalist) of Meqaleh, Medhanie Haile (deputy editor) and Temesgen Gebreyesus (board member) of Keste Debena, Emanuel Asrat, editor of Zemen, Dawit Isaac and Fessehaye Yohannes, of the newspaper Setit, Said Abdulkader, of the magazine Admas, and a freelance photographer, Seyoum Tsehaye.

The government ordered all privately-owned media outlets to stop publication last 18 September. In the days that followed, a dozen journalists were arrested and taken to the main police station in the capital, Asmara, where they were accused of publishing interviews with politicians who had publicly called for "democratic reforms" in the country. The politicians were also arrested.

RSF notes that another journalist, Simret Seyoum, managing editor of Setit, has been held since 6 January in an unknown place after being caught trying to escape to neighbouring Sudan. Several dozen Eritrean journalists have fled the country in recent years to avoid government reprisals.

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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
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Government imposes news blackout on President Bongo’s health
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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

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Sign the petition for the release of ten Eritrean journalists