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 might 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 Ghebrehiwet’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.”
In October 2021, CPJ and 15 other human rights organizations, journalists, and human rights experts called on the Canadian government to impose targeted sanctions on senior Eritrean officials for human rights abuses, including the imprisonment of journalists.
In July 2022, CPJ and a coalition of rights organizations and lawyers, led by the Canada-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, filed a complaint on behalf of detained Eritrean journalists with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
CPJ’s calls to Eritrea’s Ministry of Justice either did not connect or rung without an answer in November 2022. A person who answered when CPJ called the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 2022 could not be heard clearly.
Emails sent to Eritrea’s minister of information, Yemane Ghebremeskel, and Eritrea’s embassies in Kenya, the United States, Switzerland, and Sweden were unanswered or returned error messages in October and November 2022.