Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Predators of Press Freedom: Eritrea - Issaias Afeworki

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 3 May 2011
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Predators of Press Freedom: Eritrea - Issaias Afeworki, 3 May 2011, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
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.

Issaias Afeworki, President, Eritrea

Freed from Ethiopian domination in 1991 and enslaved again in 2001 by Issaias Afeworki's authoritarian lunacy, Eritrea has the distinction of being Africa's youngest republic (until South Sudan's creation) and at the same time governed by its most ruthless dictator. A former rebel chief and hero of Eritrea's war of liberation, he makes no bones about his totalitarian tendencies. He believes a price must be paid for Eritrea's independence. Basic freedoms were officially "suspended" ten years ago after ruling party dissidents started pressing for more democracy. Any hint of opposition is seen as a threat to "national security." The privately-owned media no longer exist. There are just state media whose content is worthy of the Soviet era.

Ruled with an iron hand by a small ultra-nationalist clique centred on Afeworki, this Red Sea country has been transformed in just a few years into a vast open prison, Africa's biggest jail for the media. Around 30 journalists are currently being held in prisons, undergrounds cells or metal containers. Four of them have died as a result of the extremely cruel conditions or committed suicide. Others have just disappeared. And others flee the country illegally, at risk to their lives. But when President Afeworki is asked about the imprisoned journalists, as he was by Al-Jazeera in May 2008, he replies: "There were never any. There aren't any. You have been misinformed."

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