Imprisoned Eritrean honored by Reporters Without Borders

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.

  1. Hatchet job on Eritrea?
    It smells like a concerted villification effort to me.

    They don’t seem to include Bush’t poodle Meles Zenawi or Somalia’s leader in the same category.

    ohh I forgot, as long as your are staunch ally of the US, you can get quite litteraly get away with murder.

    and no body seems to have any issue even RWB, when Meles Jammed all foreign media.

    Hypocrisy ?

    1. The logic of nationalism…
      …continues to be completely illogical. Are you arguing that if Ethiopia censors the press, it is OK for Eritrea to do it? Or are you arguing that if Ethiopia censors the press, that proves Eritrea doesn’t?

      Your charges against RWB are completely unsubstantiated. They have repeatedly denounced Ethiopia’s blocking of foreign broadcasts and dissident websites. From their Annual Report 2007 on Ethiopia:

      After a disastrous year, 2006 in Ethiopia was a static one. Some 20 journalists spent it in cells in Addis Ababa, part of a group of at least 76 members of the opposition, civil society and the private press prosecuted for “treason”, “conspiracy” to overthrow the government and “genocide”. Their trials before the federal high court opened on 2 May. The general disapproval, including from Ethiopia’s traditional allies, failed to get Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to budge…

      Fourteen newspaper editors or publishers were rounded up in the space of one month in November 2005. From December onwards, other journalists were arrested and sentenced in defamation cases. All were still detained as of 1st January 2007.

      Since 1st January 2006, two other journalists were added to the list of the “November prisoners”. Solomon Aregawi, of Hadar, arrested in November 2005, was charged on 21 March 2006 with “insulting the Constitution” and “genocide”, along with 32 other prisoners, members or supposed members of the CUD. Goshu Moges, of the weekly Lisane Hezeb, arrested on 19 February was charged with “treason” on 19 April. A number of other journalists and opposition figures or organisations, were charged while out of the country and tried in absentia…

      Ethiopian journalists are held to an imposed patriotism and foreign correspondents closely watched. Anthony Mitchell, working for the Associated Press (AP), was forced to leave the country on 22 January for having allegedly “tarnished the image of the country”. Foreign media have great difficult in obtaining accreditation from the Information Ministry, which is essential to be allowed to work legally in Ethiopia.

      Reporters Without Borders has been worried since 2004, about the plight of two journalists working for the Oromo service of public television ETV. They were arrested in April of that year, along with other ETV staff, since released, following a violent crackdown on an Oromo student demonstration on the Addis Ababa University campus, on 4 January 2004. The two journalists were accused of being informers for the separatist Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).

      RWB’s 2007 Press Freedom Index ranks Ethiopia very near the bottom, at 150. Eritrea is last at 169. Hardly a vindication of Ethiopia.


      1. Why don’t they demand the
        Why don’t they demand the same thing with Zenawi whose troops are gunning down journalists in Mogadishu in broad day light? isn’t this hypocracy? Don’t tell me they report it annually. I am not saying it is OK for Eritrea to jail journalists indefinatly. I srongly condemn that. Or is Zenawi “our dictator”?

        1. You mean…
          …why don’t RWB demand that Zenawi be barred from the Lisbon conference too? OK, that’s a legitimate question. Tho if every thuggish African leader was barred, it would be pretty lonely in Lisbon…

          1. RSF’s hypocrisy.

            I am not defending what happened to Journalists in Eritrea at all. But the concerted villification, ranking Eritrea as the worst when clearly Journalists are in worse situation in Somalia and Ethiopia smells fishy to me. The report that you quoted about Ethiopia is not recent compared to the many that were written about Eritrea and I am not the only one to question their impartiallity or their true motive by the way.


            Unlike RSF, CPJ wrote this letter to Rice before her visit.


            And the hatchet job on Eritrea that I mentioned is not a figment of my imagination, a lot of disinformation campaign and skullduggery is being campaigned by the State department.


            If this did not came from John Bolton, I am sure you would not have believed it either 🙁