Gulag for journalists

Five years after Eritrean authorities launched a massive crackdown on independent journalists and media outlets, 13 journalists continue to be held in secret jails according to Reporters Without Borders.

Eritrea is the fourth leading jailer of journalists in the world after China, Cuba and Ethiopia. Most of the 13 journalists were swept up in a crackdown against opposition leaders and the independent press as part of a drive to suppress political dissent ahead of scheduled elections, which the Government subsequently cancelled without explanation.

Since the September 2001 crackdown, there have been no independent newspapers or magazines published. For news, the population has to rely on Soviet-style government media and a few foreign radio stations whose signals can only be received in the capital, Asmara.

Human Rights Watch also raises serious concerns about prison conditions in Eritrea. Many of those arrested are held incommunicado in secret detention sites. A recent anonymous report which first appeared on paints a picture of the brutal prison conditions in which the 13 jailed journalists live. It claims that jailed opposition leaders and journalists were moved to a secretly built prison in 2003, which is located in the desert and accessible only by foot.

mag cover This article is from the November 2006 issue of New Internationalist.
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