Eight years after a sweeping post-9/11 crackdown on the media in Eritrea, none of the 12 journalists and editors imprisoned in that wave of arrests has been released, according to IPI’s ‘Justice Denied’ campaign – which highlights the cases of unjustly imprisoned journalists around the world, and murders of journalists for which no one has been brought to justice.

The post-9/11 crackdown signified the end of Eritrea’s incipient independent media.

After the terrorist attacks of 11 September, with international attention focused elsewhere, the Eritrean government launched an assault on political opponents of President Isaias Afwerki. In response to media criticism, the government used anti-terrorism legislation to justify the closure of all privately owned media outlets and the arrest of leading journalists.

IPI’s Justice Denied campaign has highlighted the plight of the journalists imprisoned in the crushing of Eritrea’s independent media and has repeatedly called for their immediate release.

The journalists arrested in or shortly after September 2001 were: Dawit Isaac; Fessehaye “Joshua” Yohannes; Yusuf Mohamed Ali; Mattewos Habteab; Dawit Habtemichael; Medhanie Haile; Temesken Ghebreyesus; Emanuel Asrat; Seyoum Tsehaye; Fitzum Wedi Ade; Selamyinghes Beyene; and Said Abdulkader.

Four of them – Said Abdulkader, Medhanie Haile, Yusuf Mohamed Ali and Fessehaye “Joshua” Yohannes – have reportedly died in prison.

“The conditions are harsh and there is no any news about them,” Khaled Abdu, former editor of the Admas newspaper and founder of the Sweden-based Association of Eritrean Journalists in Exile (AEJE), told IPI. “If this regime will stay in power for longer time I would imagine that no one our colleagues will be able to tolerate the harsh conditions and there will be minimal hope to see them alive.”

IPI Director David Dadge said: “The detention of these journalists is not only a violation of Eritrean laws but also a crime against the Eritrean people’s right to receive information. President Afwerki has waged war on the media and decimated the free press to ensure that his is the only voice heard in Eritrea. Given the number and the suffering of these journalists, the international community has a moral responsibility to do everything possible to gain their immediate release.”

In the eight years since the post-9/11 crackdown, the Eritrean government under President Isaias Afwerki has arrested at least 20 more journalists, including state media workers.

Eritrea is the only African country with no privately-owned media, according to a profile of the country on the BBC News website, and Eritrean Journalists in Exile head Khaled Abdu.

For an in-depth interview with former Editor-in-Chief of Admas and founding member of the Association of Eritrean Journalists in Exile, Khaled Abdu, please click here.