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Eritrea30 November 2006

Eight state media journalists still held in police-run “Agip” centre in Asmara

Reporters Without Borders today disputed Eritrean information minister Ali Abdu’s claim that nine journalists arrested on 12 November have been released, insisting that only one of the nine has been freed and the other eight are still being held. The journalist who was released is Simon Zewde (previously identified as “Simon”), who works for the state television station Eri-TV.

The press freedom organisation also condemned Sudanese complicity in Eritrea’s press freedom violations, which led to the arbitrary closure in early November of the Eritrean radio station Al-Sharq, which had been broadcasting news in Tigrinya to western Eritrea from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and the eastern town of Khasm al-Girbah for nine hours a day for the past year.

The closure of Al-Sharq is the result of a rapprochement between Asmara and Khartoum after Eritrea played a key role in the signing of an according with the Sudanese rebel movement operating in the eastern part of the country. On 3 November, Sudan and Eritrea signed an accord under which Sudan will supply its neighbour with oil and cross-border trade is reestablished.

Reporters Without Borders has been able to obtain that exact names and details of all of the detained state media journalists. Some of this information was missing when the organisation first reported their arrests.

The eight journalists still being held are Ahmed “Bahja” Idris of Eri-TV, presenter Senait Tesfay of Eri-TV’s Tigrinya-language service, Paulos Kidane of Eri-TV’s Amharic-language service and Radio Dimtsi Hafash (Voice of the Broad Masses), Daniel Mussie of Radio Dimtsi Hafash’s Oromo-language service, Temesghen Abay of Radio Dimtsi Hafash’s Tigrinya-language service, Yemane Haile of the Eritrean News Agency (ENA), presenter Fathia Khaled of Eri-TV’s Arabic-language service and Amir Ibrahim of Eri-TV’s Arabic-language service.

"Agip" detention center (Google Earth)

Contrary to the information initially received by Reporters Without Borders, these journalists are being held in the capital, Asmara, in a police-run complex that is called “Agip” because the Italian oil company of that name used to have installations there.

Located behind the “Capitol” cinema and opposite the presidential palace, this complex is “where the police take detainees to torture them before transferring them to their final destination,” a former detainee told Reporters Without Borders. The detained journalists are reportedly in the charge of Col. Simon Gebredinghel and Lt. Col. Tekhelesghi Estifanos.

Asked about the arrests by Agence France-Presse on 23 November, the information minister replied: “It was a routine matter and they have been released.” Presidential spokesperson Yemane Gebremeskel told the Associated Press on 24 November he was not aware of the arrests.

To see "Agip", download Google Earth location

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