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
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.
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."
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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