Africa’s North Korea: reporting from Eritrea, the land of no Journalists

By Conor Gaffey (Newsweek)
On September 18, 2001, as the world reeled from the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York and international attention focused on the United States, the president of a tiny African country decided journalists were no longer needed in his country.

Isaias Afwerki, the president of Eritrea— which borders Ethiopia and lies 20 miles across a strategic shipping canal from Yemen—announced that all independent media organizations were to cease activity. Private presses were shuttered and broadcasters closed down; journalists were rounded up and put in prison.

Fathi Osman collects an award on behalf of Radio Erena at the One World Media Awards in London on June 7. Radio Erena, based in Paris, is one of the only independent sources of information for people living in Eritrea.

The deplorable state of press freedom in the Horn of Africa country—Eritrea has been ranked bottom of Reporters Sans Frontieres’ (RSF) Press Freedom Index in eight out of the last nine years—has led to the country being dubbed Africa’s North Korea, in comparison with the East Asian totalitarian dictatorship.

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