Just two weeks from now, 22 February, is the third anniversary of a raid on Radio Bana in central Asmara in which about 50 journalists were arrested. Most were released but at least 11 are still held and are in solitary confinement. Reporters Without Borders continues to campaign for them and other journalists who are imprisoned in Eritrea, some since September 2001. Prisca Orsonneau, a Paris bar member and coordinator of the Reporters Without Borders Legal Committee, participated in the final of the Caen International Human Rights Advocacy Competition on 29 January. Her speech, entitled “Beautiful Asmara, denied its Jasmine Revolution,” was a plea on behalf of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaac and other journalists who, like him, have been held for more than ten years in Eritrea without being brought to trial. See the video of her plea here (in French). Read the text of her plea in English:
The plea was latest initiative that the Reporters Without Borders Legal Committee has taken in coordination with the Reporters Without Borders section in Stockholm and two Swedish lawyers, Jesus Alcala and Percy Bratt.
In July 2011, a Habeas Corpus petition was sent to the supreme court in Asmara requesting Dawit’s immediate appearance in court under Eritrea’s constitutional and criminal code provisions and international obligations. The court has so far refused to acknowledge receipt of the petition. As no Eritrean lawyer dares to raise the matter with the court it is hard to know whether the petition will succeed and will eventually shed light on the situation of the detainees.
Naizghi Kiflu, an adviser to President Issaias Afeworki and information minister at the time of the September 2001 crackdown, died in London on 6 February. Together with the London-based human rights NGO Redress and the Eritrean exile activist Elsa Chyrum, Reporters Without Borders had called in vain for Naizghi to be tried in Britain for the acts of torture for which he was responsible in Eritrea.
The disastrous situation in Eritrea continues to be overlooked for the most part by the international community. Eritrea was nonetheless ranked last for the fifth year running in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index that was released on 25 January. With at least 34 journalists detained, Eritrea is the world’s third biggest prison for media workers, after China and Iran.
More information on media freedom in Eritrea:
Read the Reporters Without Borders Eritrea country file.
Read the latest press releases on Eritrea.
See the latest Reporters Without Borders campaign ads on Eritrea in English and French.
Watch a presentation video about Radio Erena, an independent Eritrean radio station based in Paris.
Read Les Erythréens (The Eritreans), a French-language book by writer and journalist Léonard Vincent that was published last month by the Paris-based publishing house Rivages.
Photo : Me Prisca Orsonneau.