|FAJ President Omar Faruk Osman|
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on May 3, 2011 joined its African group, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) to mark World Press Freedom Day by sending a letter to President Issayas Afewerki of Eritrea, urging him to release all journalists detained by his government.
In a statement, the IFJ and FAJ said the situation of human rights and freedom of expression has been steadily deteriorating in Eritrea where it is estimated that some 30 journalists have been detained, without charges, since the Eritrean government imposed a ban on independent media in September 2001.
“They are being held in undisclosed locations without charges, despite the fact that Eritrean law forbids detention of a prisoner without charges for more than 30 days,” said a joint letter signed by IFJ Jim Boumelha and FAJ President, Omar Faruk Osman. “Prolonged detention without trial is also a violation of international treaties you are party to. Your officials have repeatedly refused to supply any information on the health, whereabouts or legal status of the imprisoned journalists.”
The letter quotes reliable reports, naming journalists who have been detained without charge, including Fessahaye Yohannes, Said Abdulkadir, Yosuf Mohamed Ali, Amanuel Asrat, Temesgen Gebreyesus, Mattewos Habteab, Dawit Habtemichael, Medhanie Haile, Dawit Isaac, Seyoum Tsehaye, Saadia Ahmed, Saleh Al-Jezaeri, Aklilu Solomon, Hamid Mohamed Said, and Ghebrehiwet Keleta.
The Pan-African Journalists, FAJ and its international partner, IFJ raised their grave concerns over the lack of information about the wellbeing of the jailed journalists amid reports that some might have died in prison and others suffering ill health without access to medical care or family assistance.
“This has earned Eritrea the unenviable label as one of the worst jailers of journalists in the world and we respectfully urge you to immediately release all those who have been jailed simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression,” the letter concluded.