Eritrea | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Eritrea

Eritrea

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

91

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

39

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

24

Eritrean law guarantees freedom of speech and of the press. But since a government ban on independent and private media was imposed in September 2001, Eritrea remains one of the harshest environments worldwide for the press and is the leading jailer of journalists in Africa. Following the government's ban, an unknown number of government critics were detained, including many journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 16 journalists are still in prison and many are being held incommunicado in undisclosed locations. Most of the jailed journalists have been incarcerated for over three years, and despite Eritrean legal guarantees, they were never formally charged. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that two journalists were sent into the military as a punitive measure for their professional work.

The 1996 press law prohibits the establishment of private broadcast media outlets and foreign ownership of media and requires all newspapers and journalists to be licensed. It also stipulates that publications be submitted for government approval prior to release and prohibits reprinting articles from banned publications. Local journalists are continually harassed, detained, and threatened. Authorities allegedly arrested a local correspondent for Deutsche Welle in September. However, on December 31 a Voice of America correspondent, arrested in July 2003, was released. Most foreign media workers have left the country. In September, the government expelled Jonah Fisher, a reporter for the BBC and Reuters, who at the time was the only foreign journalist left in Eritrea.

There is currently no independent or privately owned press. Three newspapers, one television station, and one radio station are all under state control. The government occasionally banned the import of foreign publications into Eritrea during the year. Authorities attempted to restrict even the limited Internet use that exists in the country by threatening to close all Internet cafes and confine Internet access to libraries and schools. Official statements are discouraging for the future of press freedom in Eritrea. The president and senior government officials continued in 2004 to accuse the jailed journalists of espionage and acting as "agents of the enemy" during Eritrea's war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000. In a published report by Fisher, the expelled BBC journalist, President Isaias Afewerki dismissed the concept of a free press.