Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in a survey of global press-freedom “Predators” released May 3, ranks Eritrea’s President Issaias Afeworki as the world’s worst abuser of media freedom. RSF charges that Eritrea permits no independent media and the state-run newspapers and television network do not allow stories that challenge the nation’s leadership or its policies. The government has described a free press as “incompatible” with Eritrean culture and last year President Isaias said no Eritrean should want or need to attack their own country.
“Around 30 journalists are currently held in its 314 prison camps and detention centres. Four of them have died as a result of the extremely cruel conditions in these prisons. Others have just disappeared,” RSF said in a statement. “Ruled with an iron hand by a small ultra-nationalist clique centered on Afeworki, this Red Sea country has been transformed in just a few years into a vast open prison, Africa’s biggest prison for the media.”
RSF charges that Eritrea denies the existence of large prison camps in parts of the country off-limits to independent observers, and says international rights groups invent statistics and anecdotes so they can follow their own business interests in Africa.
Basic freedoms of the press were officially suspended in 2001 after some former members of Eritrea’s ruling party began pressing for more democracy, RSF said. “Any hint of opposition is seen as a threat to national security. The privately-owned media no longer exist. There are just state media whose content is worthy of the Soviet era.” RSF has ranked Eritrea below North Korea three years in a row. (Reuters, May 3)
See our last post on Eritrea.