(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter addressed to the minister of home affairs, RSF protested the arrest of eight journalists in Asmara. "We ask you to do everything in your power to ensure that the two journalists who are still detained are released immediately," urged Robert Ménard, the organisation's secretary-general. RSF called on Eritrean authorities to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression. "Eritrea is one of the only countries in Africa which has not made an international commitment to press freedom," added Ménard.
According to information collected by RSF, eight journalists from private newspapers were arrested in Asmara on 14 October 2000. Six of them were released on 18 October. Milkias Mihretab, editor of the private Tigrigna-language weekly "Keste Debena" (Rainbow), and Yusuf Mohamed Ali, from the weekly "Tsigenay", are still detained in a prison near Asmara. They are officially in jail for "national service reasons". The authorities want them to join the army and fight in the border conflict with Ethiopia. Sources in Asmara said that the eight journalists were arrested because of articles they published which were critical of the government.
The government in Asmara has often asked private newspapers not to publish "antipatriotic information" and some journalists claimed they were threatened after publishing news about the war with Ethiopia.