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Key Developments

» CPJ names Eritrea the most censored nation in the world.

» Numerous journalists jailed without charge in secret locations.

CPJ identified Eritrea as the most censored country in the world in 2012. No independent domestic news outlets have been allowed to operate since a widespread September 2001 government crackdown on dissent. The last accredited foreign news reporter was expelled in 2007. State media operate under the rigid control of Information Minister Ali Abdu, who uses intimidation and imprisonment to enforce a government-approved message. The Red Sea nation is the continent’s leading jailer of journalists; the detainees include independent reporters and editors swept up in the 2001 crackdown, along with numerous state media journalists who have somehow violated the government’s strict controls. The detainees are held without charge and in secret locations. President Isaias Afwerki has consistently refused to account for the whereabouts, legal status, or health of the jailed journalists, or even confirm reports that some have died in custody. Fearful state media journalists have fled the country in large numbers. Eritrea has the fifth highest number of exiled journalists in the world, according to CPJ data. In July, the U.N. Human Rights Council unanimously condemned “widespread and systematic violations” and appointed a representative to further investigate abuses, according to news reports.

  • 28

    Imprisoned on December 1
  • 5

    Possible Deaths
  • 27

    In Exile
  • 1st

    Most Censored

Eritrea is Africa's worst jailer of journalists and the fourth worst worldwide, according to CPJ research.

World's worst jailers in 2012:
Turkey: 49
Iran: 45
China: 32
Eritrea: 28
Syria: 15
Vietnam: 14
Azerbaijan: 9
Ethiopia: 6
Saudi Arabia: 4
Uzbekistan: 4
Democratic Republic of Congo: 3
India: 3
Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: 3
Rwanda: 3
Morocco: 2
Bahrain: 1
Burkina Faso: 1
Burundi: 1
Cambodia: 1
Cuba: 1
Gambia: 1
Iraq: 1
Italy: 1
Kyrgyzstan: 1
Somalia: 1
Thailand: 1
Yemen: 1

Unconfirmed reports say that five imprisoned journalists may have died in Eritrean government custody. CPJ has not independently confirmed those reports, most of which have cited former Eritrean prison guards as sources. CPJ continues to list the journalists in its annual prison census until the deaths can be verified.

Five who may have died:


Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Tsigenay
Medhanie Haile, Keste Debena
Said Abdelkader, Admas
In 2006, an unbylined story on the pro-Ethiopian site Aigaforum reported the deaths of the three detainees, citing prison guards who had fled the country. In 2009, a U.K.-based Eritrean opposition site, Assena, published what it claimed to be death certificates for the three reporters


Mattewos Habteab, Meqaleh
Dawit Habtemichael, Meqaleh
In 2012, the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders reported that the two journalists had died. The group cited “prison guards who fled the country” as its source.


Eritrea had the fifth-highest number of exiled journalists in the world for the years 2007-12, according to CPJ research. Many settle in neighboring Sudan

Top countries from which they flee, 2007-12:


Eritrea bars international journalists and imposes dictatorial controls on domestic coverage, making it the most censored nation in the world.

CPJ's 2012 Most Censored Countries:
1. Eritrea
2. North Korea
3. Syria
4. Iran
5. Equatorial Guinea
6. Uzbekistan
7. Burma
8. Saudi Arabia
9. Cuba
10. Belarus

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Book Cover Support CPJ: Purchase a copy of Attacks on the Press in 2012

Slideshow: Year in Photos

Slideshow: Year in Photos

Attacks on the Press 2012 »

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