New York, May 27, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for a thorough investigation into a May 9 attack on an Eritrean expatriate journalist by supporters of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki at a public event in eastern Texas. The event was advertised locally in printed fliers, and on the pro-government Dehai.org Web site as a “Public Seminar for all Eritreans in Houston and Environs.” Tedros Menghistu Wondefrash, publisher and editor of Selam, a Tigrinyan-language, monthly newsletter printed in Houston, was attacked when he tried to attend, he told CPJ.
and online flier called for Eritreans to attend the seminar to affirm their
opposition to sanctions imposed in December 2009 by the United Nations Security
Council with the support of the Obama administration over accusations that Eritrea has been backing Islamist insurgents in Somalia. The
event featured speaker Sophia Tesfamariam, a Washington-based Eritrean
expatriate who describes herself as a “humanitarian activist” on her Facebook
page, and lists one affiliation: “Eritrean Government.” An Eritrean Embassy
official in Washington
who did not identify herself on the phone told CPJ that Tesfamariam does not
work at the embassy, but that she would pass on CPJ’s request for an interview.
Tesfamariam did not return the call to CPJ.
A Houston police spokesman
confirmed to CPJ that police have an open investigation into the incident. So
far no arrests have been made.
pleased to learn that the attack is under investigation,” said CPJ Executive
Director Joel Simon. “We hope that it will be given priority because not only
was Tedros Menghistu Wondefrash badly hurt, the attackers also made a direct assault
on press freedom in this country.”
The event in Houston was scheduled to
begin at noon on May 9 in a room at the Crown Reception Hall. Before it began,
the organizers saw Menghistu, who was well-known among the group for his
critical reporting on the Eritrean government, and urged the crowd to force the
journalist to leave the room, witnesses and Menghistu told CPJ.
a group of up to a dozen assailants punched and scratched him, breaking his
eyeglasses and stealing his notebook and tape recorder. Menghistu said he later
went to a hospital emergency room after suffering abrasions on his face and
head and injuring his neck. The attackers returned his broken eyeglasses and
notebook but not his tape recorder as Houston
police arrived on the scene and briefly interviewed Menghistu and others, he
told CPJ. Menghistu said he is still seeking medical treatment for his neck