Jimi’ie Kimeil, an investigative journalist and sports editor of the state-run Arabic-language newspaper Eritrea al-Haditha, was arrested in 2005, in a wave of arrests of other prominent figures in Eritrea. The reason for his arrest, whereabouts, and health are unknown. CPJ is aware of reports that Jimi’ie died in detention in 2007 but has not been able to independently confirm this.
Eritrean authorities arrested Jim’ie in November 2005, according to a report by the news website Sudan Tribune, research by the diaspora-run Radio Erena, and Mohammed Hiyabu, an exiled journalist who told CPJ that he previously worked with Jim’ie and has written a report about him. According to PEN Eritrea in Exile, authorities arrested Jim’ie on November 24, 2005. The government of Eritrea has never confirmed his imprisonment.
Authorities detained Jim’ie in a wave of arrests of 13 other prominent figures in politics and the arts, according to Mohammed. The Sudan Tribune indicated the journalist was arrested alongside “dozens” of other Eritrean citizens.
Prior to his arrest, the journalist’s criticism of the government had caused tension with his employer, Eritrea al-Haditha, which is published by Eritrea’s information ministry, according to Mohammed.
Mohammed said that Jim’ie often criticized government policies at staff meetings at the information ministry. In one example of critical reporting in 2001, Jim’ie wrote about a government decision to give a visiting International Olympic Committee delegate a cross, a symbol that he argued was an inappropriate representation of a multi-religious country. After the article was published, Jim’ie was warned by authorities to cease critical writing.
Radio Erena and PEN Eritrea in Exile have reported rumors that Jim’ie was killed in 2007, but said they had not independently confirmed that the journalist was killed. CPJ also has been unable to independently confirm the reports and lists Jim’ie on the prison census to hold the government accountable for his fate.
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 Jim’ie’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.