Time is Running out for Eritrean Journalists held in Communicado for over Decade, Says IFJ

Fear is mounting over the fate of a group of Eritrean journalists who have been held without charges since 2001, following the regime's clampdown on independent media. The International Federation of Journalists (IF), which has from the beginning campaigned for their release, today called on the Eritrean government to disclose information about their situation amid reports that some have died.

"These journalists have been denied justice by the regime's unconscionable disregard for their fundamental rights," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "Now their very lives are at risk and time is running out to save them. The authorities must disclose their whereabouts and state of health."
The IFJ says the Eritrean authorities have resisted previous calls for the journalists' release, denying even requests to provide information about their conditions of detention and to allow family visits. In 2007, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights found Eritrea in breach of the journalists' rights and ordered their release or a speedy trial and fair trial but the government failed to comply with the ruling.

The Federation estimates that at least 18 journalists have been detained without charges since the Eritrean government imposed a ban on independent media in September 2001. They include Zemenfes Haile, founder and manager of independent weekly Tsigenay, his editor-in-chief Yosef Mohamed Ali  and reporter Ghebrehiwet Keleta, Selamyinghes Beyene, reporter for MeQaleh, Binyam Haile of Haddas Eritre, Seyoum Tsehaye, freelance and former Director of Eritrean State Television (ETV), Temesgen Gebreyesus of Keste Debena, Mattewos Habteab (MeQaleh), Dawit Habtemicheal (MeQaleh), Medhanie Haile, editor-in-chief (Keste Debena), Fessahye Yohannes, editor-in-chief of Setit, Said Abdulkadir, chief editor of Admas, Amanuel Asrat, chief editor of Zemen, Amanuel Asrat (Zemen) and Dawit Isaac, a dual Eritrean and Swedish national. He had returned to his native Eritrea after independence and helped launch the country's first independent newspaper, Setit. Dawit was briefly released in 2005 but re-arrested and there has been no official information on the journalists' situation.

This week in Swedish, an online campaign ‘4000 days' is being organised on social media, Facebook and on Twitter ‘#fourthousand', to mark the 4000 days he and his colleagues have spent in detention.

Recent reports have claimed that some of the detainees have died after the Eritrean officials acknowledged earlier this year that some of the journalists had died in detention but refused to give names.

"These reports will understandably add to the anguish and distress of the journalists' families and colleagues," added Beth Costa, IFJ General Secretary. "This may be the last chance to save Isaac and his colleagues and we must pile on the pressure on Eritrea to release them."

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries