Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2017, 10:05 GMT

2014 prison census - Eritrea: Basilos Zemo, Bereket Misguina, Ghirmai Abraham, Meles Nguse, Petros Teferi, Yirgalem Fesseha

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 17 December 2014
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, 2014 prison census - Eritrea: Basilos Zemo, Bereket Misguina, Ghirmai Abraham, Meles Nguse, Petros Teferi, Yirgalem Fesseha, 17 December 2014, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/549804dd15.html [accessed 23 April 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Basilos Zemo, Radio Bana
Medium:Print
Charge:No Charge
Imprisoned:February 19, 2009
Bereket Misguina, Radio Bana
Medium:Print
Charge:No Charge
Imprisoned:February 19, 2009
Ghirmai Abraham, Radio Bana, Dimtsi Hafash
Medium:Print
Charge:No Charge
Imprisoned:February 19, 2009
Meles Nguse, Radio Bana
Medium:Print
Charge:No Charge
Imprisoned:February 19, 2009
Petros Teferi, Radio Bana
Medium:Print
Charge:No Charge
Imprisoned:February 19, 2009
Yirgalem Fesseha, Radio Bana
Medium:Radio
Charge:No Charge
Imprisoned:February 19, 2009

Security forces raided government-controlled Radio Bana in February 2009 and arrested its entire staff, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable disclosed by WikiLeaks in November 2010.

The cable, sent by then-U.S. Ambassador Ronald McMullen and dated February 23, 2009, attributed the information to the deputy head of mission of the British Embassy in Asmara in connection with the detention of a British national who volunteered at the station. According to the cable, the volunteer reported being taken by security forces with the Radio Bana staff to an unknown location six miles (10 kilometers) north of the capital and later being separated from them. The volunteer was not interrogated and was released the next day. According to the cable, some of the station's staff members were released as well.

The reasons for the detentions were unclear, but CPJ sources said the journalists were either accused of providing technical assistance to two opposition radio stations broadcasting into the country from Ethiopia or of participating in a meeting in which Meles spoke against the government. The staff's close collaboration with two British nationals on the production of educational programs may have also led to their arrests, according to the same sources.

Several of the detainees had worked for other state media outlets before beginning stints at Radio Bana, a station sponsored by the Education Ministry. Ghirmai was the producer of an arts program with government-controlled state radio Dimtsi Hafash, Bereket (also a film director and scriptwriter), Meles (also a poet), and Yirgalem (a poet as well) were columnists for the state-owned paper Haddas Erta. Basilos was the head of Radio Bana, and Petros a reporter for the station. CPJ learned from an exiled journalist in 2013 of their detention with the others in 2009.

Basilos, Bereket, and Meles are believed to be held at Mai Serwa Prison, based near the capital Asmara, according to exiled Eritrean journalists.

CPJ sources confirmed that at least eight of the journalists arrested in February 2009 were released in April 2013: Araya Defoch, Biniam Ghirmay, Ismail Abdelkader, Issak Abraham, Mohammed Dafla, Mohammed Said Mohammed, Mulubruhan Habtegebriel, and Simon Elias.

Sources told CPJ that the mental health of at least two of the detainees, Yirgalem and Meles, had seriously deteriorated in detention.

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