Lobby demands answers over journalists' detention in Eritrea

Tuesday February 4 2020

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (left) in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on June 11, 2015. Media lobby group Reporters Without Borders/Sweden wants Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to explain the continued incarceration of journalist Dawit Isaak and his colleagues. PHOTO | AFP 

CHARLES OMONDI
By CHARLES OMONDI
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Media lobby group Reporters Without Borders/Sweden wants Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to explain the continued incarceration of journalist Dawit Isaak and his colleagues.

They have been held since 2001.

In a letter to the Eritrean leader, signed by board member Björn Tunbäck, the group reminds President Isaias of the case before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for Mr Dawit, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist, and his colleagues. The letter further calls on the president to lift the ban on a free press in Eritrea.

“The Commission also tasked us, as part of the case, to follow up on the decision, since we have written a number of letters to President Isaias, his adviser, some of his ministers and to the Eritrean Embassy in Stockholm, but no one has replied," says the letter.

Eritrea has ranked bottom of the Press Freedom Index since Reporters Without Borders began publishing it in 2002. The Horn of Africa country is one of the worst jailers of journalists in the world.

Mr Dawit and several of his colleagues are among the journalists held for the longest time in the world, without being charged or sentenced.

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The continental Commission, in the case Dawit Isaak vs Eritrea (428/12) that became public in 2017, found Eritrea to have violated six articles in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The case had been brought to the Commission in 2012 by three jurists — Mr Jesús Alcalá, Mr Percy Bratt and Ms Prisca Orsonneau. Reporters Without Borders supported the suit for the Eritrean detainees.

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