Swedish-Eritrean Journalist, Dawit Isaak, Spends 5,000th Day in Prison

Today, 2 June marks the 5,000th day that Dawit Isaak a Swedish- Eritrean journalist has spent behind bars. He was arrested on 23 September 2001 less then a week before Eritrean authorities withdrew the publishing licences of eight independent newspapers effectively silencing all independent media in the country.

Dawit Isaak worked for the newspaper ”Setit” which was also closed down and he along with nine other journalists were arrested. He has effectively disappeared into the prison system in Eritrea and all contact with the outside world has effectively ceased. The authorities have even refused to tell whether he and the other journalists are in fact alive.

Civil Rights Defenders calls for the immediate release of Dawit Isaak and all journalists who have been put in prison for merely exercising their rights to freedom of speech. The international community but especially government representatives in Sweden should up diplomatic pressure to have Dawit released or at least know his status says Mesfin Negash, Director of the East and Horn of Africa at Civil Rights Defenders.

The imprisonment of journalists in Eritrea is part of a wider crack down on civil society which has also seen several members of the political elite including the group knows as G15 also incarcerated. The conditions of prisons in Eritrea are abysmal and number in the hundreds. Thousands of political prisoners are behind bars and most of the prisons are unknown as they form a camp like system of detention centre according to witnesses.