Two US client states, one “Axis of Evil” member cited as “black holes” for press freedom

North Korea, Eritrea and Turkmenistan are named as the three countries in the world where there is virtually no freedom of expression in a newly-released annual study. They occupy the bottom three places on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index (which dubs the trio “black holes” for news, where independent media does not exist).

Other countries near the bottom of the list of 167 include China, Iran, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia. “Liberated” Iraq is ranked 157, with RWB noting that 72 reporters and media workers have been killed there since the war started.

The US fell 20 places to 44 from last year, with RWB citing the imprisonment of Judith Miller and legal moves to undermine the privacy of journalistic sources. (UK Press Gazette, Oct. 27)

Turkmenistan’s megalomaniacal leader Saparmurat “Turkmenbashi” Niyazov runs one of the most hermetically-sealed dictatorships on the planet, but this hasn’t prevented the State Department and Pentagon from sending several high-level delegations in recent years to schmooze the despot for pipeline rights across his oil-rich and strategically-placed country.

Eritrea has used the ongoing tensions and proxy war with Ethiopia as an excuse to crack down on labor and press freedoms. The US has much closer military ties to Ethiopia (131 on RWF’s list), but is characteristically hedging its bets. In December 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew to Eritrea to meet with President Isaias Afwerki, becoming the highest-ranking US official to do so since Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Immediately after 9-11, Afwerki unleashed a purge, imprisoning several journalists, students and dissidents, accusing them of being al-Qaeda or Ethiopian agents (despite the fact that Eritrea is majority-Muslim and Ethiopia is majority-Christian). (Frank Smyth in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 15, 2002)

  1. Eritrea /Ethiopia
    On you news you said moslems are the majority in Eritrea, while christians are the majority in Ethiopia. You are far from the truth.

    The fact is moslems and christians are about 50% in ERitrea, while in Ethiopia moslema are around 60% and christians are around 40%.

    Check your facts. By the way Frank Smith is a CIA stooge who had a beef with the Eritrean Goverment. His adgenda was to incite chaos in Eritrea. He is the pseudo journalist who has given workshops for those illiterate eritrea wanna be hodgepodge kids who tried to play his game by breaking every rul of the land.

    Free pree and human rights should start at home here in the Old BIG US of A.

    Check Guantanamo Bay, check Iraq, check SAudi Arabia Bush’s best friends.

    Fool me ones your mistake fool me twice my mistake!
    So long!!!

    1. More semi-literate cheerleading for dictators
      The CIA World Factbook page on Ethiopia puts Muslims at 45%-50% and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians at 35%-40%, with “animist” and “other” making up the difference. This obviously represents a recent demographic shift, as 1991 data from the Country Data website puts the Christians at 50% and Muslims at 40%. And certainly the Christians have traditionally held political power in Ethiopia.

      The CIA World Factbook page on Eritrea puts the Muslims in the majority, without providing an actual percentage.

      I don’t know about this “Frank Smith” character, but Frank Smyth is assuredly not a “CIA stooge.” If he were, it is very unlikely he would be writing exposés on US arming of the Colombian paramilitaries

      Unless by “CIA stooge” you mean “somebody I disagree with.”

      How do abuses of press freedom in the US let Eritrea off the hook? What a weasily, pathetic argument.

      “Hodgepodge kids”?


          I think you people are so much obsessed by the Tyrant; self oriented backers of the west. Eritrea ,if seen in the eye of you. You wouldn’t think of it as a nation. I don’t know “ whether you might say …oh Eritrea I think It hasn’t still got its independence

        2. It seems…
          …that although the independence movement was first launched in the 1960s by Muslim Afars from the coast under the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), it was superceded in the early ’70s by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), led by Isaias Afewerki from the Christian-majority Hamasien highlands. Both groups professed a secular Marxist ideology (as nearly all African armed struggles did in that innocent time). President Afewerki (who has been in power since 1993) has banned all political parties except his EPLF, but the ELF continues to exist in clandestinity, as does an “Eritrean Islamic Jihad,” which has launched a few armed actions against what it calls the “Christian regime” and (ironically) the “terrorist regime.” So Afewerki may not be completely hallucinating with his convenient invocation of a post-9-11 jihad threat. But maybe he could undercut the allure of such groups a little by taking such radical measures as permitting a free press and opposition parties. Hey, just a thought.

          For all you Afewerki fans out there, there’s a charming picture of your hero shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld on his Wikipedia page.

          The Eritrean Federal Democratic Movement, an opposition group based in Sweden, provides an interesting breakdown of the country’s regions and ethnic groups in its manifteso, and calls for a decentralist solution that “allows each group to manage its cultural, economical and religious rights without violating other group’s rights.”

          1. Peace be with you..
            Peace be with you..

            I don’t know why people from all over the world are pretending to be interested in providing a solution to the eritrean, social, poletical and economic problems. Eritreans are very proud people and we are capable of addressing our problem, be it political or social. We won the big ethiopian army while the whole world (the UN) was sitting there and said Eritrea is not feasible to be an independent state and the likes of US and others say we better be crashed under the ethiopians for their own advantage. But at the end we were victorious.

            And now we have political problem at home and boarder problem with ethiopia and if you F.. leave us alone we (Muslim and Christian) will stand together to solve our problem our way not your way.

            by the way what do you know about the peoples of Eritrea?

            1. you are dreaming lol….
              you are dreaming lol….you never won the ethiopian army….they let it go..cos mengistu was a dictator. we have seen a marvelous nation of “independent” soveriegn ertrea…who can’t feed more than half of its people and don’t see of any hope of doing it for the next 100 or more years…and you keep bragging about defeating the ethiopian army..when even your cousin meles was about to take asmara in 2 months…don’t say the word defeat again…you are no match for the ethiopian people…you can’t even take your puppet meles

          2. Eritreans are mainly moslems and Arabs
            Erireans are Arabs and even the Christian Eritreans think they are Arabs. The whole conflic with Ethiopia has its roots in Arabs helping and arming Eritreans. Ethiopians defended their soverinity that all they did. They defended themselves from Eritreans and Arabs.

            1. Eritreans are mainly moslems and Arabs: Are you sure??????
              Dude … are you implying Arabs are taken Ethiopian territory: Eritrea … I don’t get your argument … by the way there is a mix of Arabs and Africans as people from the two continents the bright skins from Asia and the darker skins from Africa cross the continents for a number of reasons and have inter-marriage between the two people.. after many generations you have a bit of lighter colour people in Ethio/Erirea/Sudan/ … This certainly does not make those people living in this part of the world Arabs by very nature, do not be naïve and disgrace yourself in public … I think you need to read more and get your opinion a bit more wiser … we all are one people Eritrea Ethiopia , contrary to your opinion … who knows out of the significance of our relationship there might come time were there is a need to have one greater Ethiopia where all people from all religion and ethnic background live in harmony both from Eritrea and Ethiopia… look what is going on in developed countries they are trying to demolish artificial boundaries EU, NAFTA for Europe and N-American respectively … but look at us instead of taking advantage of our natural resources and aspire to develop and prosper and compete to regain our lost economic and political space in the world we are fighting each other on issues that do not make bread for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, health for the sick …and wealth for our nations.. So please wake up and do not continue to bury yourself in the dark age of religious and ethnic stereotyping … the best policy for you and the like is either to shut-up or be wise

          3. If you do your job, we’ll take care of ours!
            Mr Weinberg,

            Eritrea was cast in a bottomless pit of global oblivion for thirty years during the Ethiopian occupation. Now we find ourselves in that same very pit for the last five years of renewed Ethiopian occupation.

            No Eritrean is ever going to accept an outsider’s view of what’s happening on the ground. Why? It’s the small things like you claiming that the Struggle was launched by Afars from the coast. The truth is of course that military action was initiated in the western lowlands bordering Sudan. Mind you, this is the military part here, civilian struggle had been going on ever since the federal solution was imposed upon the Eritrean people.
            Your small errors is a clear signal that you didn’t do your home-work hard enough. And outsiders not doing their home-work always brought mayhem and napalm for Eritrea, in the past and today.

            You are probably no enemy of Eritrea, but until you know what you are talking about you’ll only be doing more harm than good.

            It it a true shame that Eritrea is in a position where it is reported to be a “black hole” when it comes to press freedom. But this situation didn’t come out of nowhere. Eritrea is now under a long hard siege, and until this situation is reversed the forces of democracy won’t stand a chance.
            Lobby for the Ethiopians to stop their illegal occupation, agree to the border being demarcated, and after that, come as a friend and work together with us for democracy and human rights.

            Here is some further reading:

            Regarding “Eritrean Federal Democratic Movement”, you should know that just having the word “democratic” in their name doesn’t make an African/ Oriental political party champions of democracy. This group is nothing but Ethiopian puppets. and utterly irrelevant on the Eritrean scene. That web-site is about as much as they have achieved.

            Best regards,

            An Eritrean

            1. Just doing my job…
              Here are various webpages on Eritrean history which indicate that the ELF, the earlier of the two independence movements, emerged from the lowland Muslim peoples.


              On War

              Terrorism Knowledge Base

              Library of Congress Country Studies (Temporary file):

              In 1960 Eritrean exiles in Cairo founded the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). [F]rom the outset the ELF was bent on waging armed struggle on behalf of Eritrean independence. The ELF was composed mainly of Eritrean Muslims from the rural lowlands on the western edge of the territory. In 1961 the ELF’s political character was vague, but radical Arab states such as Syria and Iraq sympathized with Eritrea as a predominantly Muslim region struggling to escape oppression and imperial domination. These two countries therefore supplied military and financial assistance to the ELF.

              Home Planet

              Short History of Eritrea

          4. Half of Eitrea is Ethiopian.
            There is no doubt the Afars are not coming back to Ethiopia soon. Welo and Shewa will never give up on this issue even if the tigres and oromos seceed.
            We aso know – like tigres in ethiopia who are trully hated for their racist system of governance-the tigres of Eitrea are also hated by real Eritreans who are muslim and hamitic in race. The two tigre, who are Arab-like or arab fans will unite for fear of Amara from the south and hamitic muslims from the north. Thatonly will take the beak up of Eitrea to completion.
            The muslim Part will go to Sudan, the tigre parts such as amasien,mendafra and deqimaare will have to join their cousins in Tigray republic. Europe And america are sensing what is to come. They need to support the oppositions in both countries. The two tigres are destroying the whole region because they love war,destruction and tribaslism ; their christian fundamentalism has no bounds, too.

            1. The Devil
              You who wrote that half of Eritrea is muslim, you must be out of your stupid, you have no country, you think that you being a muslim that sudan is your country. Remember that Sudan is half christian infact the wealthy part. Dont wast your time writing this kind of stupid notes and confuse other naive people.

    2. Narrow mind
      The question is not the percentage of christians or muslims. The question is how the Eritrian government took advantage of the anti-terror war to arrest and punish clean civilians. What you are just said shows your and the Eritria government point of view, which is narrow minded, immature politics.

  2. Get your facts right.
    Get your facts right. BOTH Eritrea and Ethiopia are 50/50 Christian and Muslim. Check any credible source on relgious demography of these countries.

    1. Hey, argue with the CIA, OK?
      I just report what I read. And as someone just posted above, “The question is not the percentage of Christians or Muslims…”

      1. You are the one who brought up
        You are the one who brought up the question of religion. The CIA piece does not say that muslims are in the majority (that might be your interpretation but it does not say that). If you look at the US State Department report they list specific percentages that show the religious demography of both countries is very similar. For Eritrea, see and for Ethiopia see

        I don’t care about your opinions. But if you choose to use facts to support your arguments, you should use correct facts.

        1. As a matter of fact…
          it was Isaias Afwerki who brought up the question of religion, by portraying the opposition as Islamic extremists. That’s why we’re talking about religion, remember? And by listing the Muslims first, the CIA page clearly denotes they are the most numerous group. The State Department page you link to puts the Christians at 50% and the Muslims at 48%. So in any case the country seems about evenly divided. OK?

          1. What we need is peace
            Hey people why are you fooling yourself? The point is, in fact in both countries Eritrea and Ethiopia, the oppressing regimes took this opportunity to quell those who oppose their ideology. They dont believe in dialogue so the only solution they achieve is through killing of innocent people and the oppositions. If they really want to fight terrorism, they should start it aginst themselves and their government. Because they are terrorising the innocent people of their countries muslims and christians alike.