World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


Thirty-one IFEX members call on authorities to disclose whereabouts of journalist Dawit Isaak

Thirty-one IFEX members call on authorities to disclose whereabouts of journalist Dawit Isaak

Article ID:

14149

In conjunction with 30 International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) members, WAN-IFRA has instigated a joint appeal to President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea calling for the immediate release of journalist Dawit Isaak and all imprisoned journalists held in the country.

Free Dawit Isaak

A journalist with dual Eritrean-Swedish citizenship, Dawit Isaak is one of the founders of Eritrea’s first independent newspaper, Setit, and is currently one member of a group of reformist political prisoners who have been detained without charge or trial for the past 10 years.

In May of 2001, a group of 15 cabinet members (prominent reformist politicians later dubbed the G-15), published an open letter to the government demanding democratic reform, and a thorough investigation of the events leading up to Eritrea’s recurring war with Ethiopia. The letter was published by the free press, most notably by Mr Isaak’s paper, which also went on to publish a series of similar open letters to president Isaias Afewerki demanding sweeping democratic reforms. The government acted in swift retaliation following the published demands, and by September, had effectively suspended all civil liberties in Eritrea.

On 23 September, all private press outlets in the country were officially shut down, and 11 of the G-15 politicians were arrested, along with Dawit Isaak and 13 other newspaper owners, editors and journalists. To date, none have been formally charged or tried, and Mr Isaak and the other journalists and politicians imprisoned with him have all been branded as traitors, accused of receiving financial aid from abroad, an act of criminal treason according to Eritrean press laws. According to reports, four of the journalists that were detained in 2001 have since died in prison.

 

His Excellency Issayas Afewerki 
President of the State of Eritrea 
Office of the President 
P.O. Box 257, Asmara 
Eritrea 
c/o: Eritrean Embassy in the United States, Washington, D.C. 
Fax: +1 202 319 1304 
E-mail: embassyeritrea@embassyeritrea.org 

14 November 2011 


Your Excellency, 

We, the undersigned 31 members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), are writing to you to call for the immediate release of journalist, writer and playwright Dawit Isaak, and all other journalists held in captivity in Eritrea.

Mr. Isaak, one of the founders of Eritrea's first independent newspaper, "Setit", was awarded the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) 2011 Golden Pen of Freedom. 

During October 2011, rumours of Mr. Isaak's death circulated among the world's press and social media. This includes an article published in the Swedish online newspaper "The Local" that appeared on 27 October, citing "credible sources from Eritrea's opposition movement as indicating that Mr. Isaak is no longer in the Eira Eiro prison because he has died". 

We would be grateful if you could confirm whether Mr. Isaak continues to be held in Eira Eiro prison or whether in fact he has died in custody. 

We respectfully remind you that Mr. Isaak is a journalist with dual Swedish-Eritrean citizenship who has been detained without charge or trial since his arrest in 2001. His whereabouts continue to be veiled in secrecy. This is an extremely distressing time for Mr. Isaak's family, friends and colleagues and we urge you to confirm if he is alive. 

If this is indeed the case, we respectfully call on you to: 

  • ensure that the authorities provide information on Mr. Isaak's whereabouts and his health condition; 
  • allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit him; 
  • immediately release him, and all journalists imprisoned for their writing, from custody. 


We are looking forward to your prompt reply. 

 

Yours sincerely, 

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information 
ARTICLE 19 
Association of Caribbean Media Workers 
Association of Independent Electronic Media
Bahrain Center for Human Rights 
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression 
Cartoonists Rights Network International 
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility 
Committee to Protect Journalists 
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights 
Ethiopian Freepress Journalists' Association 
Freedom House 
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda 
Index on Censorship 
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information 
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela 
International Federation of Journalists 
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance 
Media Foundation for West Africa 
Media Institute of Southern Africa 
Media Rights Agenda 
National Union of Somali Journalists 
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création 
Pacific Islands News Association 
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms 
PEN Canada 
Public Association "Journalists" 
Reporters Without Borders
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers 
Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2011-11-15 11:37

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A journalist with dual Eritrean-Swedish citizenship, Dawit Isaak is one of the founders of Eritrea's first independent newspaper, Setit, and is currently one member of a group of reformist political prisoners who have been detained without charge or trial for the past nine years.

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2011-01-13 18:04

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2011-01-13 18:20

The Golden Pen of Freedom is WAN-IFRA's annual award recognising individuals or organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom. Read more ...

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...

The African Press Network (RAP21) is a digital network that supports a strong independent press throughout Africa by sharing, distributing and exchanging information between newspaper publishers, editors, journalists and human rights advocates. Read more ...