Attacks on the Press
No independent press has operated in this Red Sea nation since a September 2001 government crackdown on dissent that led to the imprisonment of 11 leading journalists without charge or trial and the enforced closure of their publications. President Isaias Afewerki's administration consistently refused to account for the whereabouts, legal status, or health of the jailed journalists, or even confirm reports that some had died in custody. All of the journalists were held without access to their families or lawyers. The only media allowed to operate in the country were under the control of Information Minister Ali Abdu, who enforced rigid control of information and ideas through intimidation and imprisonment. Even state media journalists braved border guards' shoot-to-kill orders to escape the country. Government agents abroad harassed and intimidated media outlets established by exiled journalists. The government's egregious actions drew condemnation from the European Parliament in September 2011, the latest in a series of international censures.