His Excellency Issaias
President of Eritrea
C/o Permanent Representative to
16 July 2003
We are writing on behalf of the
World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum,
which represent 18,000 publications in 100 countries, to
express our serious concern at the arrest of journalist Aklilu
According to reports, security
officers arrested Mr Solomon, an Asmara-based stringer for the
US government-funded Voice of America (VOA) news service, at
his home on 8 July and took him to an undisclosed location.
Government officials later said that Mr Solomon had been taken
to a military camp to complete his mandatory national military
service. According to VOA, however, Mr Solomon had documents
proving that he had already completed a part of his service
and was exempt for medical reasons.
We are concerned that the real
reason for Mr Solomon‚s arrest may have been his reporting
activities. In late June, the authorities stripped Mr Solomon
of his press accreditation for reporting that the families of
some soldiers who had been killed in the 1998-2000 war with
Ethiopia were seriously upset by their deaths. This report
contradicted state media coverage, which claimed that the
families had celebrated when the government publicly announced
their relatives’ deaths. The authorities claim that Mr
Solomon’s reporting was biased and designed to "please the
Mr Solomon‚s arrest is the latest
step in an ongoing campaign to silence government critics. In
September 2001, the government closed all private media
outlets in the country and began arresting journalists.
Eighteen journalists are now in prison, most of them held
incommunicado in unknown locations.
We respectfully remind you that
the jailing of Mr Solomon constitutes a clear breach of his
right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by
numerous international conventions. Furthermore, the United
Nations Commission on Human Rights considers that "detention,
as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion, is
one of the most reprehensible ways to enjoin silence and, as a
consequence, a grave violation of human rights".
We respectfully call on you to
ensure that Mr Solomon and all those jailed for carrying out
journalistic activities are immediately released and that all
charges against them are dropped. We urge you to do everything
possible to ensure that in future Eritrea fully respects
international standards of freedom of expression.
We look forward to hearing from
you at your earliest convenience.
Seok Hyun Hong
World Association of
Gloria Brown Anderson