Saleh Aljazeeri

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Saleh Aljazeeri, who worked at the state broadcaster Dimtsi Hafash and the state Arabic newspaper Eritrea al-Haditha, was arrested in 2002. Like most of those arrested, Saleh’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.

Saleh was among three journalists working for government media who were arrested for unclear reasons around February 15, 2002, a CPJ delegation learned from local sources during a July 2002 fact-finding mission to the Eritrean capital, Asmara. 

Eritrean journalists in exile said they suspected the arrest was linked to Saleh’s work. adding that they believed he was being held in Carcelli Prison in the Eritrean capital Asmara. 

Saleh 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.

Saleh was seen alive in prison in 2006, according to Radio Erena, a France-based station run by Eritrean journalists in exile. Saleh’s son, who fled Eritrea in 2016, told Radio Erena that family members had no information about the journalist’s whereabouts or health.

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 of the journalists arrested in 2001 have died in custody. CPJ confirmed in 2007 that one of the journalists, Fesshaye “Joshua” Yohannes, died in secret detention.

In 2018, Paulos Netabay, director of the state-owned Eritrean News Agency, told CPJ that the arrest of other journalists in 2001 was connected to “subversion and treason by some former politicians” and would be dealt with by parliament but he made no mention of Saleh’s case.

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.