- April 11, 2002
His Excellency Isaias Afeworki
Office of the President
P. O. Box 257
Via facsimile: 011-291-11-125123
The Committee to Protect
Journalists (CPJ) is gravely concerned about the safety of 13 Eritrean
journalists currently in the custody of your government.
journalists have not been charged with any crime since their September
2001 arrests. On March 31, 10 of the jailed journalists began a hunger
strike to protest their unfair imprisonment. In a message smuggled out
of Asmara Police Station One, where they are being detained, the
journalists said they would refuse food until they were either released
or charged and given a fair trial.
Three days later, nine of the
hunger strikers were transferred to an undisclosed detention facility.
According to CPJ sources, a tenth journalist, Swedish national Dawit
Isaac, was sent to a hospital where he is being treated for
post-traumatic stress, a result of alleged torture while in police
Most of the jailed journalists were arrested around
September 18 after Your Excellency's government imposed a blanket ban on
all private and independent publications in the country. Some Eritrean
officials tried to justify this drastic act of censorship by claiming
that members of the private press threatened Eritrea's state security
and the "unity" of the Eritrean people.
Other officials claimed
that the journalists refused to participate in a compulsory national
service program. Still others claimed that their newspapers did not have
proper publication licenses.
In addition to Dawit Isaac, the
detained journalists are:
- Yosef Mohamed Ali, the chief editor of Tsigenay
- Amanuel Asrat, the chief editor of Zemen
- Seyoum Tsehaye, a freelance editor and photographer and the former
director of Eritrean state television
- Temesgen Gebreyesus, a reporter for Keste Debena
- Mattewos Habteab, editor of Meqaleh
- Dawit Habtemichael, assistant chief editor, Meqaleh
- Medhanie Haile, assistant chief editor, Keste Debena
- Fessahaye Yohannes, a reporter for Setit
- Said Abdulkadir, the chief editor of Admas.
February 15, Eritrean authorities arrested and jailed three state-run
media employees for reasons that remain unclear. They include:
- Hamid Mohammed Said (Eritrean state television, ETV)
- Saleh Aljezeeri (Eritrean state radio), and
- Saadia (full name unknown) a female journalist with the
Arabic-language service of ETV.
We remind Your Excellency that
Eritrea currently jails more journalists than any country in Africa. As
an organization of journalists dedicated to defending our colleagues and
promoting press freedom around the world, CPJ believes that journalists
should never be imprisoned for fulfilling their professional duties. We
therefore urge Your Excellency to ensure that all journalists currently
jailed for their work in Eritrea are immediately and unconditionally
released. We also call on your government to disclose the whereabouts of
our jailed colleagues without further delay. We thank you for your
attention to these extremely urgent matters and await your