Hamid Mohamed Said, an editor for the Arabic-language service of the Eritrean government-controlled national broadcaster Eri-TV, was arrested in 2002 alongside two reporters. At least one of the other journalists was later released, but Hamid remains in detention at an undisclosed location. His whereabouts, health, and status remain unknown as the Eritrean government repeatedly has declined to provide credible answers to questions about imprisoned journalists or to allow visits from family or lawyers.
Hamid was arrested without charge after a government crackdown on the press in September 2001.
In a July 2002 fact-finding mission to Asmara, the capital, a CPJ delegation learned from local sources that Hamid was among three state media reporters arrested for unclear reasons. At least one of the journalists, Saadia Ahmed, was later released, but Hamid was being held in an undisclosed location, CPJ was told.
Amnesty International reported in 2002 that it was believed that Hamid Mohamed Said and two other journalists had been arrested after advocating for greater prominence for the Arabic language in programming and for criticizing the government’s language policy.
In 2014, local journalists who had fled into exile told CPJ that Hamid was still in prison. 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 Hamid’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.