He believes a price must be paid for Eritrea’s independence. Basic freedoms were officially “suspended” more than 10 years ago, after ruling party dissidents started pressing for more democracy. Any hint of opposition is seen as a threat to “national security.” The privately-owned media no longer exist. There are just state media whose content is worthy of the Soviet era.
Ruled with an iron hand by a small ultra-nationalist clique centred on Afeworki, this Red Sea country has been transformed in just a few years into a vast open prison, Africa’s biggest jail for the media. Around 30 journalists are currently being held in prisons, undergrounds cells or metal containers.
Four of them have died as a result of the extremely cruel conditions or committed suicide. Others have just disappeared. And others flee the country illegally, at risk to their lives. But when President Afeworki is asked about the imprisoned journalists, as he was by Al-Jazeera in May 2008, he replies: “There were never any. There aren’t any. You have been misinformed.”