5 April 2002


WiPC expresses concern over imprisoned journalists on hunger strike

Incident details

Fessehaye Yohannes, Said Abdulkader, Seyum Tsehaye, Temesgen Gebreyesus, Emanuel Asrat, Dawit Isaac, Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Mattewos Habteab, Dawit Habtemichael, Medhanie Haile

(WiPC/IFEX) - WiPC of International PEN is deeply concerned by the continued imprisonment without charge of numerous independent journalists, ten of whom began a hunger strike on 31 March 2002 to protest their detention.

The journalists, who were arrested in the aftermath of the closure of all eight private newspapers on 18 September 2001, have been named as Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Mattewos Habteab, Dawit Habtemichael, Medhanie Haile, Temesgen Gebreyesus, Emanuel Asrat, Dawit Isaac, Fessehaye Yohannes, and Said Abdulkader. A freelance photographer, Seyum Tsehaye, has also joined the strike. All ten are said to be refusing food and water until they are released or tried fairly.

PEN has recorded the names of twenty-five journalists who are either detained and/or presumed missing in Eritrea, the highest total of any nation in Africa. No charges are known to have been filed against any of them. The journalists on the hunger strike report that they have only undergone questioning on one occasion. Their interrogators wanted to know if they had links with eleven government officials who were detained in September after publishing an open letter critical of the government. Several journalists have fled the country to avoid arrest.

International PEN is deeply disturbed by the Eritrean authorities' practice of detaining independent journalists under the spurious guise of national security.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:

- urging the release of all independent journalists as a matter of urgency

- calling for the re-establishment of freedom of expression in the country

Appeals To

His Excellency President Issaias Afeworki

c/o Permanent Mission to the United Nations

E-mail: eritrea@un.int

Mr. Foazia Hashim

Minister of Justice

P.O. Box 241

Asmara, Eritrea

Fax: +29 11 12 64 32

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Eritrea in your country and to the source, if possible.


International PEN
Writers in Prison Committee
International PEN
Brownlow House
50-51 High Holborn
London WC1V 6ER
United Kingdom
wipc (@) internationalpen.org.uk
Fax:+ 44 0 20 74050339
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