See also:
» 06.05.2011 - Eritrean opposition pleads intl intervention
» 02.03.2011 - Calm Eritrea avoids talks of rebellion
» 21.09.2010 - Eritrea "heading towards failed state"
» 11.12.2009 - 30 Christian women arrested in Eritrea
» 21.10.2009 - Eritrea is the bottom last in Press Freedom Index 2009
» 27.05.2009 - Eritrea rejects release of Swedish journalist
» 16.04.2009 - Eritrea’s human rights violations deepen the rights crisis, HRW
» 21.07.2008 - Eritrea President wants "media war"

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Politics | Human rights | Media

Another Eritrea journalist killed in prison

Fessehaye "Joshua" Yohannes:
«Succumbed to extremely harsh prison conditions.»

© afrol News / Amnesty Canada
afrol News, 14 February
- Prominent Eritrean journalist, playwright and poet Fessehaye "Joshua" Yohannes reported died as consequence of harsh prison conditions one month ago. He is the fourth journalist to die in the inhumane secret prisons of Eritrea since a group of around 12 reporters and editors were arrested in September 2001. None of them have ever been charged or seen a lawyer, and the ones that have not died remain in jail.

According to information confirmed by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the World Editors Forum (WEF), "Joshua" Fessehaye died in detention on 11 January. Mr Fessehaye was a journalist with the now-banned weekly 'Setit' newspaper until he was detained in September 2001 in a major crackdown on Eritrea's remaining independent press.

Mr Fessehaye was paralysed in one hand and had been walking with difficulty for years. "He reportedly succumbed to the extremely harsh conditions in which he had been held since his arrest," WAN president Gavin O'Reilly reports, referring to sources in Eritrea.

After being detained at an Asmara police station and an underground prison in late 2001, and after spells in the Halibet and Sembel hospitals in Asmara, Mr Fessehaye was reportedly taken to a prison camp at Eiraeiro, in the Northern Red Sea desert province, where at least 62 political prisoners are allegedly being held. The existence of the Eiraeiro prison was only made known late last year, following the death of several political prisoners.

Conditions inside the Eiraeiro prison are reportedly inhumane, with prisoners permanently manacled, forbidden from communicating with each other or guards and given only the most basic food. According to some reports, Mr Fessehaye's fingernails had been ripped out.

Nine prisoners reportedly have died in the secret Eiraeiro prison camp during 2005 and 2006. These include three editors - Said Abdulkader, co-founder and editor of the weekly 'Admas', Medhanie Haile, co-founder and deputy editor of the weekly 'Keste Debena', and Yusuf Mohamed Ali, editor of the weekly 'Tsigenay'. All these independent newspapers have been banned since September 2001.

The information on Mr Fessehaye's violent death has only now escaped from the sealed-off country - often seen as contemporary Africa's worst dictatorship - through dissident channels. In line with the normal Eritrean state secrecy when it comes to political prisoners, Mr Fessehaye's family has not heard anything about his whereabouts since 2001. They have not been advised on his death from official sources.

Equally, the dead bodies of editors Abdulkader, Haile and Ali have not been released to their families yet, although their deaths occurred more than a year ago. Neither have their families been informed of their whereabouts or death.

In a public letter sent today by WAN president O'Reilly and WEF president George Brock to Eritrean dictator Issayas Afewerki, the two organisations expressed their "outrage" about the death of Mr Fessehaye. WAN, which groups 18,000 newspapers around the world, urged President Afewerki "to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of freedom of expression and that it ends the abusive treatment of those held in detention."

Also the media watchdog groups Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) today confirmed to have "received reports from Eritrean sources" about the death of Mr Fessehaye. According to RSF's sources, the journalist had died in prison in January this year.

CPJ however has other sources on Fessehaye's violent death. The New York-based group cites a separate report from exiled opposition party leader Adhanom Gebremariam alleging that Mr Fessehaye died in December 2002 in a prison in Embatkala. Mr Gebremariam, who was one of 15 ruling party officials accused of treason after writing a June 2001 public letter urging President Afewerki to democratise his regime, said he received the information from sources he still has in Eritrea.

Meanwhile, the International Press Institute (IPI) says Eritrea remains one of the world's worst countries for journalists. Harassment, detention, threats and physical attacks are commonplace for independent journalists still operating in the country, and most foreign media workers have left the country.

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