Eritrea: Reported Deaths of Three Imprisoned Journalists


English PEN is deeply concerned by unconfirmed reports that Yusuf Mohamed Ali, editor-in-chief of Tsigenay; Seyoum Tsehaye a freelance journalist; and Dawit Habtemichael, deputy editor and co-founder of Meqaleh, have died in the prison. It is urging the Eritrean authorities to comment on these reports and to provide assurances of the prisoners’ well being. Should the reports prove to be founded, PEN urges the Ethiopian authorities to immediately undertake a full investigation into their deaths, and bring those responsible to justice.

Following September 2001 protests in Eritrea in which people called for democratic reforms, the Eritrean government has imprisoned a large number of dissident politicians, religious leaders, and journalists. It also ordered the closure of all independent newspapers, leaving only the state newspaper Hadas Eritrea to continue publication.

The three journalists referred to above are among fourteen reportedly arrested in 2001, initially held incommunicado at a police station in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, before being transferred to a detention centre. Little has been heard from them since, apart from a report that nine among them had undergone a hunger strike in April 2002 in protest at their detention. As of today, five years later, no charges have been presented against them, nor have they been brought to trial.

PEN has received disturbing as yet unconfirmed reports in recent days that journalists Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Seyoum Tsehaye (or Fsehaye), and Dawit Habtemichael, have died as a consequence of the harsh conditions and lack of medical attention in prison.

Please send appeals to the Eritrean authorities:

  • Seeking comment on the reports of the deaths and confirmation about the wellbeing of the journalists Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Seyoum Tsehaye, and Dawit Habtemichael, as well all other journalists currently detained;

  • Should the reports be founded, calling for a full and impartial investigation into the deaths and for any person found responsible to be brought to justice;

  • Calling upon the Eritrean government to free all writers and journalist detained without charge, as this runs counter to Article 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Eritrea has acceded.

Appeals to:

President of Eritrea

Isaias Afewerki

State of Eritrea

P.O. Box 257



As there is no direct fax or email, it may be most effective to write to the Eritrean representative in your country, asking him or her to forward your letter to the President. The representative in the UK is:

His Excellency Mr Negassi Sengal Ghebrezghi

96 White Lion St

London N1 9PF 

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