His Excellency Issaias Afeworki

President of Eritrea

C/o Permanent Representative to UN


16 July 2003

Your Excellency,

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 Solomon.

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 enemy".

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.

Yours sincerely,

Seok Hyun Hong


World Association of Newspapers

Gloria Brown Anderson


World Editors Forum

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