Ten journalists on hunger strike in Eritrea

Saturday, May 11, 2002
Toronto, April 11 - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression is concerned about the well-being of 10 Eritrean journalists on a hunger strike since March 31. The journalists, arrested in the aftermath of the closure of all eight independent newspapers on September 18, 2001, are Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Mattewos Habteab, Dawit Habtemichael, Medhanie Haile, Temesgen Gebreyesus, Emanuel Asrat, Dawit Isaac, Fessehaye Yohannes, and Said Abdulkader. A freelance photographer, Seyum Tsehaye, has also joined the strike. All ten are said to be refusing food and water until they are released or given fair trials. On April 3, nine of them were reportedly taken from the police station where they were held and moved to undisclosed places of detention, where they are at grave risk of ill-treatment. The 10th, Swedish citizen Dawit Isaac, recently had surgery and was taken to hospital. "We are very disturbed by the continued detention of these Eritrean journalists, who were jailed only for carrying out their professional duties," said CJFE Executive Director Joel Ruimy. "We call on the government to ensure their immediate and unconditional release." Last September, the government of Isaias Afeworki ordered a crackdown on political dissidents after several officials wrote an open letter criticizing their own government for its lack of transparency and democracy. Eleven officials were jailed as a result and the eight newspapers were shut down. The journalists were accused of publishing interviews with the officials. Eritrea jails the highest number of journalists in Africa. Currently, 14 are being detained, while six have managed to escape abroad. Meanwhile, in a report presented to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights this week, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Abid Hussain says the Eritrean government has yet to respond to his request to visit the country and examine the situation. CJFE is a non-profit, non-governmental association of journalists, writers, editors and others devoted to the promotion and protection of freedom of expression in Canada around the world. For more information, please contact Joel Ruimy, CJFE, Tel: 416 515 9622, Email: cjfe@cjfe.org, Web: www.cjfe.org.

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