275/03 : Article 19 / Eritrea
Summary of Facts

1. On 14 April 2003, the Secretariat of the African Commission received a communication brought
by Article 19 against the State of Eritrea, a State Party to the African Charter.
2. Article 19 states that it is concerned especially about the continued detention incommunicado
without trial of at least 18 journalists in Eritrea since September 2001.
3. The 18 journalists who are reportedly detained incommunicado are :1.

Zemenfes Haile, founder and manager of the private weekly Tsigenay;
Ghebrehiwet Keleta, a news writer for Tsigenay;
Selamyinghes Beyene, reporter for the weekly Meqaleh;
Binyam Haile of Haddas Eritrea;
Yosef Mohamed Ali, Chief Editor of Tsigenay;
Seyoum Tsehaye, Freelance Editor and photographer and former Director of Eritrean State
Television (ETV);
Temesgen Gebreyesus, Reporter for Keste Debena;
Mattewos Habteab, Editor of Meqaleh;
Dawit Habtemicheal, Assistant Chief Editor, Meqaleh;
Medhanie Haile, Assistant Chief Editor, Keste Debena;
Fessahye Yohannes (or Joshua) Editor-in-Chief of Setit;
Said Abdulkadir, Chief Editor of Admas;
Amanuel Asrat, Chief Editor of Zemen;
Dawit Isaac, contributor to Setit;
Hamid Mohammed Said, ETV;
Saleh Aljezeeri, Eritrean State Radio; and
Simret Seyoum, a writer and general manager for Setit

4. The Complainant alleges that on August 2001, a dozen senior officials and other members of the
ruling elite, known as the G15 signed a public letter criticising President Isaias Afewerki’s rule. This
letter allegedly generated a political crisis which involved defections, resignations, the dismissal of top
officials, the imprisonment of government critics and journalists and the cancellation of the general
elections that had been planned for December 2001.
5. The Complainant further alleges that on 18 and 19 September 2001, 11 former Eritrean
government officials including former the Vice President Mahmoud Sherifo and the former Foreign
Minister Petros Solomon were arrested in Asmara.
6. Furthermore, on 18 September 2001, the Eritrean government banned the entire private press
comprising of the following newspapers :- Meqaleh, Setit, Tsigenay, Zemen, Wintana, Admas, Keste
Debena and [/i]Mana[/i]. Subsequently, many journalists were arrested and detained, including the 18
journalists who are now being held incommunicado. The reasons given by the government for these
actions ranged from threatening national security to failure to observe licensing requirements.
7. The Complainant asserts that Hadas Eritrea, a government owned daily newspaper, is the only
publication allowed in the country
8. The Complainant states that on 4 October 2002, they sent appeal letters to the President of
Eritrea and to the Chairman of the African Commission urging them to ensure the unconditional
release or a fair trial of the detainees. On 12 November 2002, the Complainant sent a letter to the
government requesting information on the detainees and permission to visit the country and the
detainees. Article 19 alleges that all requests sent to the government have been ignored.

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