Eritrea: press crackdown condemned

The Paris-based media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) castigated the international community June 27 for “indifference” to a media crackdown in Eritrea. “Because of the world’s indifference, we are reduced to just watching, appalled and powerless, as the authorities continue to pick off journalists who have been unable to flee the reign of terror in Asmara,” RSF said. The statement said Fathia Khaled, a presenter on state-owned Eri-TV’s Arabic service, was arrested earlier this month and taken to a military camp in the northwest. Asked RSF: “How much longer will we have to continue adding names to the list of people imprisoned by President Isaias Afwerki’s government?”

Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu told Reuters earlier in the month month the government would not respond to “each stupid comment” by groups like RSF. He could not immediately be reached for comment on Khaled’s case.

RSF said Khaled had been re-arrested after being among nine journalists held during a late 2006 crackdown. The journalists were held incommunicado for several weeks and housed in an underground prison before being “beaten until they gave the passwords to their email accounts,” RSF said. “After being released on bail, they were followed, their phones were tapped, they were forced to go back to work and they were expressly forbidden to leave Asmara.”

With no independent media and frequent accusations of harassment of journalists, Eritrea is consistently ranked among the world’s top violators of press freedom by rights groups, along with China, Cuba and (ironically) Ethiopia. (IOL, South Africa, June 27)

See our last posts on Eritrea and the Horn of Africa.