Eritrea arrests dozens of journalists in crackdown-RSF – Reuters

March 6th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

Eritrea has arrested up to 54 journalists in a crackdown on media in the Red Sea state, the press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Friday.

The Paris-based body also asked the European Union not to hand over 122 million euros worth of aid due to worsening conditions for political prisoners.

“The authorities on 22 February 2009 ordered a raid on the premises of Radio Bana, a small station in the heart of the capital that puts out educational programmes under the sponsorship of the Education Ministry. Its entire staff of around 50 journalists were arrested,” RSF said.

Asmara routinely denies claims by foreign rights groups, accusing them of working for foreign intelligence services to undermine the government of President Isaias Afwerki.

“Once again the EU is preparing to support the Eritrean regime when the country has shown no progress in respect for freedoms, quite the contrary,” the press freedom group said.

The media body said some of the journalists had been released without specifying how many. It did not say where it had received the information on the arrests and no independent confirmation was available.

The Paris-based group said that Asmara had arrested four other journalists in another incident. “It is not known where they are being held.”

The organisation has listed Eritrea below North Korea as the world’s worst violator of press freedom.

Dozens of journalists have been arrested and newspapers closed down since a crackdown on media and opposition in 2001, following a 1998-2000 border war with neighbouring Ethiopia.

Eritrea’s Ministry of Information says foreign media are pawns of western powers and lauds what it says is the fairness of its own government-controlled press. (Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Philippa Fletcher)

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