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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 13:48 GMT
Jailed Eritrean wins media prize
Eritrean president
Mr Afewerki has been criticised for the media crackdown
A jailed Eritrean reporter has been named journalist of the year by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

Seyoum Tsehaye has not been allowed a visit from his family or lawyer during his six years in prison, RWB says.

He is one of 15 journalists being held in secret locations since 2001 when all non-government media groups were shut.

The organisation urged the European Union to prevent Eritrea going to this weekend's African summit in Portugal because of restrictions on the media.

The Paris-based group asked why Europe had not raised as many objections to President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea as it had to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Eritrea was ranked bottom on overall press freedom this year by the pressure group behind North Korea and Turkmenistan.

'Persona non grata'

According to RWB, after Eritrea gained independence in 1993, Mr Seyoum became head of national television and then of the radio, before resigning in protest over the authoritarian direction taken by the president.

One cannot carry on making an issue about Mugabe's presence or absence and yet ignore the question of Eritrea
Reporters Without Borders

He went on to work for the private press before being arrested in September 2001, along with other journalists and government critics.

"The panel of judges sought to highlight not only the case of this brave journalist held in Eritrea's appalling jails... but also the catastrophic state of press freedom in this small Horn of Africa country," RWB said in a statement.

It said four journalists had died in Eritrean prisons in recent years.

The group also urged the EU to declare Mr Isaias and his aides "persona non grata" in Lisbon.

"One cannot carry on making an issue about Mugabe's presence or absence and yet ignore the question of Eritrea," it said.

The UK accuses Mr Mugabe of rigging elections and human rights abuses and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is not attending the summit, as Mr Mugabe has been invited despite his EU travel ban.

"This summit offers an opportunity for Europe to finally shed its indifference and announce that its tolerance has reached the limit," RWB said.

"Solidarity with political prisoners requires that those responsible for the tragedy taking place behind closed doors in Eritrea since 2001 should at the very least be barred from European territory."

2006 'deadly year for reporters'
01 Feb 07 |  Special Reports

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