ISSN 2330-717X

Eritrea: President Afewerki Cracking Down On Free Speech


Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki has denied that his country stifles freedom of speech, just days after media rights group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) identified Eritrea as the most censored country in the world.

In an interview with VOA’s English to Africa service Thursday in the capital, Asmara, President Isaias said his government is not interested in keeping people from expressing their views, but that he will do what is necessary to “protect national security” in the face of what he calls “external aggression” by those who take money from outside governments to create chaos and spread misinformation.

“This is not a matter of freedom of expression, this is a matter of sabotage — organized sabotage by individuals hired by intelligence agencies from outside,” said Isaias. “We’ve even ignored some of these individuals who have been working with foreign governments, taking money, providing distorted information about the reality here.”

In its annual survey, CPJ referred to the east African nation as “completely closed” to foreign journalists, saying only tightly controlled state media are allowed to operate there.

It also said journalists suspected of sending information outside the country have been thrown into prison without charges and are often held for extended periods of time without access to family or a lawyer.

In his wide ranging interview with VOA, Isaias said he has succeeded in building up Eritrea’s infrastructure and decreasing its reliance on foreign aid in the nearly 20 years since he came to power in the impoverished East African nation.

Regarding the disputed border between Eritrea and neighboring Ethiopia, Isaias denied any tension and said he wants to work in cooperation with Ethiopia to create new opportunities for people in both countries.

“There are no controversies there,” he said. “We look at it from a historical perspective. We aspire to — in solidarity with the people in Ethiopia — to create a new opportunity for both the people in Ethiopia and Eritrea and the region as a whole.”

Isaias, who has ruled Eritrea since 1993, said he is more interested in building up his country than embracing what he called the “so-called” tenets of democracy.


The VOA is the Voice of America

2 thoughts on “Eritrea: President Afewerki Cracking Down On Free Speech

  • May 20, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I believe, Eritrea is a great country, which needs praise, for its self reliance and minimized foreign aid and in particular , it gave its back to the US propaganda and attempt to ‘colonise the Dahlack Ilands for military purposes. No country has shown such bravery.Never bowing to the US pressure, is the hallmarks of Eritreans since the armed struggle.May God bless Eritrea and its people. I appreciate them.

  • May 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Eritrea was over ambitious in 1996 when it introduced the Press Proclamation. Its nascent press was hijacked by external interventions and internal sabotage. No single country has played a detrimental role in Eritrea’s development than the United States. As the record will show, the so-called “journalists” turned out to be turncoats and runaway defectors and coup makers turned “reformists” who were working to undermine Eritrea’s peace, stability and security. Eritrea has a long and illustrious media history and one that cannot be undermined by cheap propaganda and incessant endless campaigns by those who want to use “free press” to advance their own illicit agendas in the country. With the advent of the internet and with over a million Eritreans in the Diaspora to serve as the voice of the people of Eritrea, the truth will prevail. Those who worked so hard to stifle Eritrea’s voice for over 50 years, those who worked to prevent Eritrea’s voice from being heard in international foras and those who are working so hard to “isolate” Eritrea, prevent Eritrea from participating in regional and international forums, who are preventing Eritrea from defending herself at the UN Security Council do not have the legal or moral high ground to talk about the rights of the Eritrean people. CPJ and Reporters San Frontiers have long undermined their credibility and integrity as they are considered by all Eritreans (except those in their pay) as being enemies of the people.

    The rule of law will prevail over the law of the jungle and the Eritrean people will prevail over those who want to undo Eritrea’s independence and create havoc in the region.


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