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31 January 2008 Reporters Without Border News Release: New revelations about Eiraeiro prison camp - The journalist Seyoum Tsehaye is in cell No. 10 of block A01

Imprisoned Journalists in Eritrea

In 2001, there was a major crackdown on dissent in Eritrea , with the detention of scores of government critics and journalists who are held without charge in unknown locations. Amnesty International considers these journalists to be Prisoners of Conscience.

These journalists have been detained incommunicado without charge or trial since late September 2001, when the private newspapers they work for were shut down by the government on 18 September 2002. Ten of these journalists were detained because they had published articles critical of the government. Five others journalists were detained on separate occasions in 2000 and 2002 in connection with their work as journalists for the private or government media. AI considers them prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely because of their legitimate work as journalists, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

Due to harsh conditions of detention in Eritrea and being held in a secret and unauthorised place of detention, AI is extremely worried about the safety of the detainees. On 31 March 2002 the 10 journalists arrested in late September 2002 began a hunger strike, demanding a fair trial before an independent court. Three days later they were taken from the police station where they were being held, and nine were moved to undisclosed places of detention. Dawit Isaac was reportedly taken to hospital to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress, but his current whereabouts are unknown. The fact these 10 journalists are being held in secret makes it possible they are being denied essential medical care, without access to doctors of their choice. They are not held in any of Eritrea’s official prisons or police stations and may be held in the same place as the 'G15' detainees and others. The other five people featured in this Action File are also held in secret detention.
Featured Case
Mattewos Habteab

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Case Details :

Name Mattewos Habteab
Age 35 at the time of arrest
Sex Male
Arrested Late September 2001, Asmara
Health Current condition unknown
Former Roles Editor, Meqaleh (Echo), a maths graduate from the university of Asmara

Mattewos Habteab founded Meqaleh in 1998 with Dawit Habtemichael, and Yehdego Ghebremedhin, whose whereabouts are unknown but is believed to be doing military service.

Mattewos was editor of Meqaleh until June 2000, when he was called up for military service, possibly because of his work as a journalist. A year later he returned to his job in Asmara , but was arrested and taken to the 'Track B' military prison in Asmara where he was secretly held for approximately six weeks. A few weeks after his release he was arrested again in late September as part of the Government's clamp-down on the independent press. He has been held incommunicado at an undisclosed location ever since.

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