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 sent emails to Netabay and Information Minister Yemane G. Meskel in September 2019, asking about the status and health of imprisoned journalists, but did not receive any response.
In October 2019, CPJ called the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs to inquire about the imprisoned journalists. An official who refused to identify himself answered the call and said it would not be appropriate to discuss the cases over the phone. He directed CPJ to contact the government through the Ministry of Information or via Eritrea’s embassies; CPJ emailed the embassies in Kenya, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States, but did not receive any replies.