September 29, 2001


Eleven political leaders who had criticized what they called "one man rule" and dictatorial policies by Isaias Afeworki have been jailed along with ten journalists of the relatively independent press. In Eritrea, censorship is practiced and the newspapers had to contend with it to function.

As SOCEPP had stated earlier, the opposition expressed to the rule of Isaias Afeworki was peaceful and the detained called for public discussion and debate to make democratic governance a reality. Petros Solomon,Haile Wonden'sae, Mohamed Sherifo and others were either founders or long standing veterans of the ruling EPLF (now called the PFDJ). It is evident that their arrest is illegal and falls within the category of political persecution and repression of dissent. On the journalistic field, seven editors and reporters have fled to the Sudan (including Kese Debena editor Milkias Mihreteab) while Yusuf Mohamed (editor of Tsegeneye),Said Abdelkadir (editor of Admas),Mathias Habteab (editor of Mequalih),Aaron Berhane (editor of Setit),Medhanie Haile (deputy editor of Keste Debena),two Mequlaih reporters,two others from Zemen newspaper and photographer Seyoum Fissehaye have all been jailed.

Moreover, the government owned media and officials have stepped up the campaign of denigration against the accused alleging that they have all endangered the peace and sovereignty of Eritrea. Since the authorities have been justifiably accused of interfering in the judicial process and the autonomy of the courts, it is proper to fear if the detained will ever get a fair trial.

SOCEPP calls on the authorities in Asmara to release all the political dissidents and the journalists who have been imprisoned illegally and only because they exercised their basic human rights to free speech and free press. The attempt to silence all criticism by brute force should be condemned by all peace loving peoples.