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first_img Organisation News Appeal for helpBeyond the blunt instrument that strikes indiscriminately at opponents, lawyers and journalists in the country, numbers of human rights organisations like Reporters Without Borders continue to point the finger at this “ultra-repressive” state condemning the “hunt for journalists” which has become the distinguishing mark of the Asmara government. It is providing increasing financial and practical help to exiled Eritrean journalists. Since 2007, it has had to help some 16 journalists in exile in neighbouring Sudan or in Ethiopia with campaigns, putting out information or legal and administrative advice. While in Asmara, a sole ultranationalist party continues to deploy its inquisition against the press; Salam al-Eritri, G. and others battle on a daily basis against adversity and the constraints of their involuntary departure. “Anything could happen to us at any time”, they said in a recent message to Reporters Without Borders seeking the organisation’s help. In Sudan an insidious hunt continues with henchmen of the Eritrean regime prowling through Khartoum to track down those seen as traitors to their country and to bring them back. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is not mistaken when it recommends for obvious security reasons that countries that refuse them asylum should not send Eritrean citizens back to Asmara. April 28, 2009 – Updated on January 25, 2016 Reporters Without Borders supports Eritrean journalists who have suffered in crackdowns against freedom of expression activists Reporters Without Borders has for several years supported Eritrean journalists forced to flee brutal repression in their country. Salam al-Eritri is now a refugee in Ethiopia. Here he talks about the horrors of being a journalist in Eritrea. Asmara, capital of silence and no man’s land of press freedom … the description is barely an exaggeration. The chilling statistics are: the country’s prisons hold more journalists that are locked up anywhere else in Africa. At least 13 of them have been held for a long period. After China, Cuba and Burma, Eritrea is the world’s fourth largest prison for journalists. For the regime any pretext will do to shut away journalists who are viewed as a gang of troublemakers. “Any journalist who refuses to accept the orders of the government and who dares to express his opinion is sent to a prison in an unknown place”, said Salam al-Eritri, who owes his own deliverance to a swift escape from the country. After working for five years for the public channel Eri TV, he was sacked for “dissidence” after which things were set in motion for the authorities to hunt him down. Now he is making a film of his experiences: “I left everything to save my life”. “Daily torture and then death” Salam al-Eritri now lives in Ethiopia after narrowly escaping an attempted kidnapping orchestrated by agents of the Eritrean embassy in Ryadh, Saudi Arabia, where he first went at the end of 1997. His country’s authorities have a regular practice in these matters and the journalist had no doubt of the fate that awaited him if the abduction had succeeded: “It is daily torture and then death”, he said, recalling the fate of four colleagues who did not share his luck. After several years in detention their remains were returned to their families without any explanation.  “I can’t even bear to think about what tortures they had inflicted on them”, said one of his colleagues, Berekhet G., an Eritrean journalist who keeps a record of his journalist friends who died in prison or of whom there has been no news since they fell into the hands of the country’s security services. The accounts given by Salam and Berekhet reflect the disaster that has struck thousands of Eritreans, who according to UN estimates, leave their country illegally every year. While permission to leave has become very hard to obtain, only men over 54 and women over 47 can ask for it, Eritrean border guards are ordered to use real bullets to shoot those the authorities call “traitors” and “fugitives”. RSF_en Help by sharing this informationlast_img read more