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 in connection with a government crackdown on the press that began 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”.
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.