Eritrea is one of the worst press freedom censor in the world with at least 23 journalists behind the bars and many of them leaving in exile. Among them Andrea Nicodemo Idris who now works as freelance journalist in Trans World Radio in Nairobi, Kenya.
Andrea has worked as a freelance journalist and radio journalist since Eritrea attained its independence 23 year ago. He was based in Western Eritrea in a place called Bimbilna, which is about 350 km from the capital city Asmara.
“When Eritrea got its independence all the Eritrean citizens were extremely delighted to see the fruits of independence and freedom” he recalls. “In the early years of independence media freedom was not that strict for the citizens to express their views through electronic and print media.
I was one of the few journalists who contributed a lot for the development of freedom of press in Eritrea through the vernacular language of radio programs”.
The high expectations of the Eritrean population that independence would bring freedom turned into nightmare. Land grabbing became rampant as well as discrimination against the minority Kunama ethnic community (whom Nicodemo belongs to) by the high ranking former freedom fighters and the leaders of the regime.
Most of Andrea’s stories focused on politics, family issues, the current situation of the country, discrimination and land grabbing and the human rights violations committed where he was based.
He reported on series of intimidation, arbitrary arrests and torture that started for those who protested that their rights had been violated. Many people were taken to custody and never came back since. Press freedom has been curtailed in order to silence such incidents. “As human right defender and journalist I have never stopped writing about the crimes committed by the regime towards its citizens despite continuing intimidations and harassment”, Andrea said.
His life started to be threatened and his movement became under the surveillance.
“The courageous journalists who were working under private owned media house have been detained since 2001. Some fled to the neighboring countries while others still languish in local jails”, he recalls.
Eventually, Andrea also managed to flee the country. In September 2008 he lost his wife and three children in a tragic boat accident in Northern Sudan while fleeing from Erithrean government.
“I will never stop writing and defending freedom of speech”, says Andrea. “I will continue to work for the voice of the voiceless. Only freedom of expression can ensure that all the crimes committed by the brutal regime are highlighted”.