Jimi’ie Kimeil

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Jimi’ie Kimeil, an investigative journalist and sports editor at the state-run Arabic-language newspaper Eritrea al-Haditha, was arrested in 2005 in a wave of arrests that included other prominent figures in Eritrea. Like most of those arrested, Jimi’ie’s whereabouts, health, and legal status remain unknown as the Eritrean government repeatedly has failed to provide credible answers to questions about imprisoned journalists or to allow visits from family or lawyers. CPJ has been unable to confirm reports that Jimi’ie died in custody in 2007 and retains his name on the prison census to hold the government accountable for his fate.

Eritrean authorities arrested Jim’ie on November 24, 2005 as part of a crackdown on leading voices in politics and the arts, according to Mohammed Hiyabu, an exiled journalist who worked with Jim’ie and wrote a tribute to him and the freedom of expression advocacy group PEN International. The government of Eritrea has never confirmed his imprisonment.

Prior to his arrest, Jim’ie’s criticism of the government caused tension with his employer, the ministry of information, which publishes Eritrea al-Haditha, Mohamed said. Jim’ie often criticized government policies at staff meetings, he said. In one example, Jim’ie wrote in 2001 about a government decision to give a visiting International Olympic Committee delegate a cross, which he argued was an inappropriate symbol to represent a multi-religious country. After the article was published, authorities warned Jim’ie to cease critical writing.

Jimi’ie was arrested in the wake of the government’s sudden ban on the privately owned press on September 18, 2001, in response to growing criticism of President Isaias Afwerki. Days later, about 11 journalists were arrested after several of them wrote a letter to the Ministry of Information demanding clarification on the decision to shut down the private press.

The diaspora-run Radio Erena and free speech organization PEN Eritrea have reported rumors that Jim’ie was killed in 2007 but they could not independently confirm his death. CPJ also has been unable to confirm the reports.

Over the years, Eritrean officials have offered vague and inconsistent explanations for the arrests of journalists–accusing them of involvement in anti-state conspiracies in connection with foreign intelligence, skirting military service, and violating press regulations. Officials, at times, even denied that the journalists existed. 

Meanwhile, shreds of often unverifiable, second- or third-hand information smuggled out of the country by people fleeing into exile suggested that seven journalists arrested in 2001 had died in custody.

In 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 a May 2023 report, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, said the whereabouts and wellbeing of disappeared Eritreans remained unknown, including 16 journalists who had been held for more than 20 years, making them the longest detained journalists in the world. 

As of late 2023, CPJ’s emails to Eritrea’s minister of information, Yemane Ghebremeskel, and via the ministry website did not receive any replies. A person who answered a phone call to the ministry of foreign affairs provided an email address for queries but CPJ’s email did not receive any response. A person who answered two calls at the ministry of justice could not be heard clearly.