Security forces arrested at least nine state media journalists beginning on or around November 12, and they continued to hold at least eight as of December 1, according to several CPJ sources. The reason for the crackdown was not immediately known, but sources said they believed it was intended to intimidate state media workers after several colleagues had fled the country.
Those sources said the government was known to detain and question state media journalists, but the scale and duration of these detentions was unusual. The journalists were initially taken to a police detention center in central Asmara known as Agip, but CPJ sources could not confirm whether they remained there or had been taken elsewhere.
Questioned by Agence France-Presse in the capital, Asmara, Information Minister Ali Abdu claimed that the journalists had been freed. “It was a routine matter and they have been released,” AFP quoted him as saying in a November 23 report. But CPJ sources said one week later that only one had been freed and that the eight listed journalists remained in custody.
Eritrean presidential spokesman Yemane Ghebremeskel told The Associated Press on November 23 that he was unaware of the arrests. Eritrea’s embassy in the United States did not respond to CPJ’s requests for information.