Washington, D.C., June 13, 2001 — A CPJ delegation met with Eritrean ambassador to the U.S. Gima Asmeron to express its deep concern about 15 journalists alleged to have been jailed or forcibly conscripted for military service.
CPJ first raised the issue in a June 7 letter to Eritrean Justice Minister Foazia Hashim. In her June 11 reply to CPJ, Minister Hashim stated that five of the 15 journalists mentioned in the CPJ letter were employed with local publications or NGOs, and that “the remaining journalists are performing their obligations in the National Service Program.”
The CPJ delegation included Africa program coordinator Yves Sorokobi and Washington representative Frank Smyth.
During the meeting, Ambassador Asmeron stated that it was fair for CPJ to inquire about the 15 Eritrean journalists, and added that he viewed press freedom as essential to Eritrea’s stability. He agreed to provide copies of Eritrean press laws and other relevant documents to CPJ.
Ambassador Asmeron said that Eritrea is “moving toward a constitutional democracy, and the press laws are going to be revised and improved after that process is completed.” He welcomed CPJ’s offer to contribute to that process, and also welcomed the possibility of a future CPJ mission to Eritrea.
All participants in the meeting agreed that Eritrea should move toward full press freedom. “There must be freedom of the press,” the ambassador said.