Sweden presses Eritrean diplomats for journalist’s release

17May09

Dawit Isaakoriginally published: 5th May 2009

Eritrean-born journalist Dawit Isaak has been jailed and detained without trial since 2001, when Asmara banned independent newspapers in a crackdown on the media.

On Monday, the editors of four major papers in Sweden, where Isaak fled as a refugee in 1987, delivered a petition bearing 200-thousand Swedish signatures to the Eritrean embassy in Stockholm, calling for Isaak’s release.

Isaak was writing for an Eritrean paper at the time of his arrest, speaking out for greater press freedom in his country of birth. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) General Secretary Aidan White explains that advocacy groups are seeking to focus attention on the case to persuade Asmara to end its media crackdown and allow society to become more open to freedom of expression.

“We have a government here which appears to be immune to international pressure, absolutely resistant to notions of appeal for justice and fair play. And in this instance, we feel very strongly that Dawit Isaak is being used as an instrument of defiant foreign policy by the Eritrean authorities. But we hope very much that we can have a new dialogue with the Eritrean authorities in which it will be possible to discuss whether or not journalists and other people in civil society, people who are striving to promote a sense of democracy, should be able to express themselves.

So we in the IFJ have been working with our Swedish colleagues about whether or not we can visit Eritrea as a possibility for opening up a new dialogue,” he said.

Nine other journalists have also been unduly detained in Eritrean prisons, and world press groups estimate that at least four others have died there. White says Asmara’s detached lack of response to urgent inquiries about the jailings has prompted the journalism watchdog groups to seek international diplomatic intervention.

Read full article >

Related News:

200,000 Swedes back ‘Free Dawit Isaak’ campaign
3rd May 2009

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