An imprisoned Eritrean has been named “Journalist of the Year 2007” by Reporters Without Borders. Seyoum Tsehaye has not been allowed a visit from his family or attorney during his six years in prison, the group says. He is one of 15 journalists being held in secret locations since 2001 when all non-government media groups were ordered closed. Eritrea was ranked bottom on overall press freedom this year by RWB—behind North Korea and Turkmenistan. The report said four journalists have died in Eritrean prisons in recent years.
When Eritrea gained independence in 1993, Seyoum became head of national television and then of radio, before resigning in protest over the authoritarian direction taken by President Isaias Afewerki. He went on to work for the private press before being arrested in September 2001, along with several other journalists and government critics.
RWB urged the European Union to bar Afewerki from attending to this weekend’s African summit in Lisbon. The Paris-based RWB asked why European governments had not raised objections to Afewerki, as they had to Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. “One cannot carry on making an issue about Mugabe’s presence or absence and yet ignore the question of Eritrea,” the RWB statement said. “Solidarity with political prisoners requires that those responsible for the tragedy taking place behind closed doors in Eritrea since 2001 should at the very least be barred from European territory.” (BBC, Dec. 6)
See our last post on Eritrea and the Horn of Africa.