Ghebrehiwet Keleta, a reporter for the privately owned weekly Tsigenay, was arrested in 2000. His condition is unknown as the Eritrean government repeatedly has failed to provide credible answers to questions on imprisoned journalists.
Security agents arrested Ghebrehiwet while he was on his way to work. He has not been heard from since his arrest. Sources told CPJ at the time that Ghebrehiwet was being held in connection with the government’s overall crackdown on the press.
CPJ listed Ghebrehiwet on its annual prison list until 2010, when exiled journalists told the organization that Ghebrehiwet may have been released. But in 2013, one of Ghebrehiwet’s children, who had fled Eritrea, said Ghebrehiwet was still in custody, according to another exiled journalist who spoke to CPJ. A relative of the journalist told CPJ in 2014 that Ghebrehiwet was still in prison.
Eritrea’s government has not provided substantive information on Gebrehiwet’s health or location. When CPJ contacted the Eritrean ministry of information in late 2018 to inquire about the well-being of the country’s imprisoned journalists, Paulos Netabay, director of the state-owned Eritrean News Agency, responded on behalf of the ministry but did not address Ghebrehiwet’s case.
In June 2019, a group of over 100 prominent African journalists, writers, and activists wrote an open letter to Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki asking to visit the imprisoned journalists and activists, according to a copy of the letter that was published by the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian. In a response published on its website, Eritrea’s Ministry of Information said that only reporters with a “genuine interest in understanding the country” were welcome, and said the imprisoned journalists were arrested for “events of sedition.”
CPJ repeatedly called Eritrea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September and November 2021, but the calls rang unanswered or did not connect. CPJ emailed Paulos and Information Minister Yemane G. Meskel in September and November 2021, but did not receive any replies. The minister also did not respond to a September 2021 query sent to his Twitter account.
CPJ emailed several Eritrean embassies—including in Sweden, the United States, and Belgium– in September and November 2021, but the emails either bounced back or did not receive a response.