Solomon Abera, who voiced end of Eritrean free press, dies

By Mohamed Keita/CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator on December 2, 2011 5:12 PM ET

Solomon Abera was once a presenter for state television ERI-TV. (Solomon Abera)

The name Solomon Abera will forever be etched in the collective memory of Eritrea's press corps. On September 18, 2001, as the world focused its attention on the terrorist attacks on the United States, the government of Eritrea borrowed Abera's voice to sound the death knell, on state-controlled airwaves, of the Red Sea nation's independent press. Shortly after Abera read the announcement, the government rounded up leading independent newspaper editors and a dozen ruling-party dissidents calling for democratic reform -- all of whom have disappeared in custody.

Ten years to the day after being handed one of the most chilling news items he ever read on Dimtsi Hafash radio during his 14 years as a reporter, presenter, producer, and commentator, Abera reflected on the experience on our blog.

Today, we learned that Solomon Abera, who lived in exile in Germany after fleeing government censorship and intimidation in 2005, is no more.

Sweden-based blogger and activist Meron Estefanos broke the news to me via email: Abera, who had been ill, died quietly at a hospital in Frankfurt on Thursday morning. He was born in 1968. He left a wife and two children who had not been able to join him in exile, Estefanos said.

Though he lived in exile, Abera continued to report on affairs in his homeland. He was a contributor to Eritrean diaspora websites critical of the authoritarian government in power since independence in 1991. Abera was among a group of Eritrean journalists in exile who met Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Eritrea's neighbor and archrival, in part to lobby for the release of two colleagues held incommunicado there since 2007.

The news is beginning to spread through the Eritrean diaspora. Friends have been posting comments on Abera's Facebook wall. "It's really sad news to hear that one great man passed! He did a great job and was doing it for the voiceless! R.I.P Solomon Abera!" tweeted one Germany-based user known as @firnash.


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