CPJ confirms detention of 14th journalist

New York, August 6, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today confirmed that Eritrean journalist Simret Seyoum, a writer and general manager at the banned private weekly Setit, has been in Eritrean government custody since early January.

This puts the total of jailed Eritrean journalists at 14, although government sources recently acknowledged holding only “about eight” media professionals. [See CPJ’s August 2 alert]

Seyoum was arrested on January 6 while trying to cross Eritrea’s border with Sudan, an eyewitness told CPJ. The driver of a minivan carrying Simret and others was also arrested after border patrol agents opened fire on his vehicle, chased it, and captured some of its passengers.

At least one of the fugitives, an Eritrean journalist who chose to remain anonymous, survived the incident and reached the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, days later.

Simret, a hero of Eritrea’s 30-year independence war against Ethiopia, is being held in solitary confinement at the Hadish Maaskar detention facility near the town of Gyrmayka on the border with Sudan, according to CPJ sources in Eritrea.

All 14 journalists are being held incommunicado, and government officials last month refused to tell a CPJ delegation visiting Asmara where the 13 other journalists are jailed. Authorities also refused to comment on their condition.

“The continued information blackout in Eritrea is outrageous, as is the government’s elimination of all private media in the country,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We strongly urge the government to release these journalists immediately and allow them to resume their work of reporting the news.”