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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 18:35 GMT 19:35 UK
More journalists arrested in Eritrea
President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea
Mr Afewerki - arrested journalists and former colleagues
By Alex Last in Asmara

At least seven journalists who had worked for the independent newspapers in Eritrea have been arrested since Sunday, according to diplomatic sources.

They include some of Eritrea's best-respected journalists and editors.

Beach scene in Eritrea
Public reaction to the arrests has been muted
Three other journalists have reported that security officers have visited their homes while they were out and they expect to be arrested shortly.

Some of those journalists who have not yet been picked up have been making last minute financial arrangements for their families in case they are detained.

No official confirmation

There has been no official confirmation of the reported detentions.

Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebremeskel said he did not know personally about the arrests but he said it was probably a result of them not having permission to be away from national service.

A literacy class in Eritrea
The next generation of journalists may have second thoughts
However one of those detained, photographer Seyoum Fsehaye, is an independence war veteran and so is exempt from national service.

Some of the journalists who said they expect to be arrested are also former liberation fighters.

The editor of Tsegenay, Yusuf Mohammed Ali, has been excused national service because he was too old.

Identity checks

All the others detained have said they had the right paperwork.

Mr Yemane denied that it was unusual that all were picked up at their homes early in the morning, instead of being caught during one of the regular identity checks for those absent from the army without leave.

In fact, they had all been working quite publicly throughout Eritrea.

Journalists have been detained in Eritrea before and again national service violations were cited but in most cases the journalists were released when it was clear that they had permission.

The situation this time is different, not least because the private press has been completely closed, but also because of recent reports that two journalists, including the editor in chief of Keste Debna, Milkias Mehretab, have escaped to Sudan fearing arrest,

See also:

21 Sep 01 | Africa
Concern over Eritrea detainees
19 Sep 01 | Africa
More reformists held in Eritrea
18 Sep 01 | Africa
Eritrea silences critics
31 May 01 | Africa
Dissent surfaces in Eritrea
11 Nov 99 | Africa
Fall of the Wall echoes in Africa
17 Apr 01 | Africa
Eritrean minister speaks out
30 Oct 00 | Africa
Eritrea confronts the future
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