1 February 2002

Alert

RSF calls on Parliament to seek imprisoned journalists' release


Incident details

Emanuel Asrat, Seyoum Fsehaye, Zemenfes Haile, Selamyinghes Beyene, Simret Seyoum, Aaron Berhane, Said Abdulkader, Ghebrehiwet Keleta, Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Mattewos Habteab, Dawit Isaac, Tsehaye Yohannes, Medhanie Haile, Temesgen Gebreyesus

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(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has called on members of the Eritrean parliament to ask for the immediate release of all journalists languishing in jail in Eritrea. "Parliamentarians today have an opportunity to show goodwill and their commitment to press freedom. They must take a firm approach vis-à-vis the executive and call for their release," stated RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. "We recall that Eritrea has become the only country in the entire African continent without a single independent publication," he added.


On 29 January 2002, Eritrea's National Assembly opened its first session since 2000. Parliamentarians are set to tackle the issues of jailed political dissidents and the country's independent press. RSF recalled that on 18 September 2001, independent newspapers announced that further to a government order, they were publishing their final issue until further notice. The head of national television then went on the air to explain that "independent media have had time to correct their mistakes. They have been jeopardising national unity." Since then, no independent newspapers have been published.

At the time, eight journalists were arrested and detained at Police Station no. 1 in Asmara. They include "Tsigenay" editor-in-chief Yusuf Mohamed Ali, who was previously detained for several weeks in October 2000 (see IFEX alert of 26 October 2000), "Meqaleh" editor-in-chief Mattewos Habteab, previously arrested several times in recent months, "Setit" journalists Dawit Isaac and Tsehaye Yohannes, "Keste Debena" assistant editor-in-chief Medhanie Haile and Temesgen Gebreyesus, a member of the newspaper's board of directors, Emanuel Asrat, from "Zemen", and independent photographer Seyoum Fsehaye.

RSF still has no news of six other journalists, including former publication director and founder of "Tsigenay" newspaper Zemenfes Haile, "Meqaleh" reporter Selamyinghes Beyene, "Setit" editor Simret Seyoum and editor-in-chief Aaron Berhane, "Admas" editor-in-chief Said Abdulkader and "Tsigenay" journalist Ghebrehiwet Keleta. They are believed to have either been imprisoned or to have gone into hiding to escape arrest.




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