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Thirty-three IFEX members condemn continued persecution of imprisoned journalists

(IFJ/NUSOJ/IFEX) - 31 May 2011 - Free expression advocates from around the world gathered this week in Beirut, Lebanon, at the 16th IFEX General Meeting. Thirty-three IFEX members signed on to the following letter to the President of Eritrea:

His Excellency Issayas Afewerki
President of Eritrea
Office of the President
Asmara, Eritrea

We, the undersigned members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) attending the 16th General Meeting and Strategy Conference, condemn the continued detention of journalists and dissidents in Eritrea under inhumane and appalling conditions.

Around 30 journalists are currently detained; some are held in metal containers or underground cells in Adi Abeito military prison, in Eiraeiro prison, in the Dahlak archipelago and in several other detention centres around the country.

The detained journalists are held without charges and forced to endure terrible conditions such as extended periods in the sun and denial of medication. Their families have been denied information about the journalists and they are not allowed phone calls or visits from family members and colleagues.

The Eritrean government has refused to disclose any information and in the absence of precise statistics, it has always been difficult to know how many are in jail and how many have died. But it is clear that Eritrea is one of the worst jailers of journalists in the world, on par with China and Iran.

One of the imprisoned journalists is Dawit Isaak, who in October 2010 received the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers' (WAN-IFRA) 2011 Golden Pen of Freedom, WAN-IFRA's annual award that recognises individuals or organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to the defense and promotion of press freedom. He was incarcerated on 23 September 2001.

Without international attention, Eritrea will continue to use cruel detention to suppress journalists, independent media and freedom of expression.

We therefore call on the Eritrean government to:

* Reveal the whereabouts of the journalists as well as the circumstances of journalists who died in prison;
* Immediately free all detained journalists;
* Restore media freedom and allow the independent media to operate and report from Eritrea.

National Union of Somali Journalists
International Federation of Journalists
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen/Alliance of Independent Journalists
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia
Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala - CERIGUA
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Free Media Movement
Globe International Center
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Index on Censorship
Maharat Foundation
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Media Watch
Mizzima News
Norwegian PEN
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión - OLA
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
PEN International
West African Journalists Association

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