Reporters Without Borders submitted its contribution on Eritrea yesterday to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which will examine the country’s performance during the 18th Universal Periodic Review session next January and February.
Each UPR session is used to review the human rights performance of a number of countries and, when necessary, remind them of their responsibilities. Eritrea’s performance was last reviewed in 2009.
In its report, Reporters Without Borders describes the disastrous state of freedom of information in Eritrea and the reasons why the country was ranked last in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index for the past six years.
The report condemns the government’s total control of news and information since 2001, when it closed down all privately-owned media, and its repeated attempts to censor and jam independent broadcast media – international and exile radio and TV stations ¬– which are based abroad.
It also points out that Eritrea is Africa’s biggest prison for journalists, with around 30 currently detained. They include four journalists arrested in 2001, of whom another seven died in detention as a result of the appalling conditions or because they took their own lives.
In its recommendations, the report calls on Eritrea:
- to implement the recommendations it previously accepted,
- to accept visits by UN special rapporteurs,
- to end censorship, mass surveillance and all forms reprisals and harassment of news providers,
- to release all journalists held without charge and without a fair trial.
On World Refugee Day, on 20 June, Reporters Without Borders produced a report on all that it has done to help journalists who have been forced to flee abroad. It also posted six interviews with refugee journalists on a dedicated website, one of whom is Eritrea’s Amanuel Ghirmay. Watch the video of the interview .
Radio Erena, a symbol of the fight for freedom of information in Eritrea, meanwhile celebrated its fourth birthday on 15 June. Launched in June 2009 and run by Eritrean exile journalists, this Paris-based independent radio station broadcasts by satellite and shortwave to Eritreans in Eritrea and on the Internet for everyone else.
By beaming independently reported news and information into Eritrea, Radio Erena provides an alternative to the government’s propaganda.
Media reports about Radio Erena (September 2012 - May 2013):
- “Eritrea: Biniam, the voice of freedom” (France Culture, 52 minutes).
- “Eritrea: Radio Erena, the passion for reporting from exile” (AITV / France Ô).
- “Radio Erena: A Free Voice from Paris to Eritrea”.
- “Radio Erena, fighting for the airwaves” (Libération).
- “Radio Erena, the free voice that Eritrea wants to gag” (Le Monde).
- “Radio Erena is the only independent radio station broadcasting in Eritrea, so it’s no surprise they don’t like it” (Interview with Biniam Simon by RFI’s Sonia Rolley).
- "Radio Erena, an investigation into state piracy in Eritrea" (Slate Afrique).