Eritrean News Summary
Complied by Barry Hillenbrand
Divisions within Eritrean Diaspora
Battles within the Eritrean community here in the U.S. and in Europe are deepening. Some Eritreans complain that they are under pressure by agents of the Eritrean government to send money back to Eritrea to support the regime in Asmara. They also claim that these agents of the government generate support for demonstrations against United Nations sanctions against Asmara.
Those in the Diaspora who are opposed to the government of President Isaias Afwerki have recently held counter demonstations in the U.S. and Europe. [For more see: http://www.afrol.com/articles/36196]
Forced Military Service
One of the continuing sources of discontent in Eritrea is that students are forced into military service directly from secondary school. For many the military service is never ending. This service is frequently mentioned as the reason many young men flee Eritrea. [For a good NYTimes story on those who flee see: http://nyti.ms/c24Nxp] In May the United Nations Human Right Commission issued a report examining the conditions at the Sawa Military Camp where 12th grade students are frequently sent. It’s scary reading. [For the full report see: http://bit.ly/cOqvuP]
Eritrea has lots of problems with its neighbors. Ethiopia and Eritrea are facing off over their long-term border dispute. But Eritrea also has had problems with Djibouti which broke out into some pitched battles in 2008. In a surprise move, however, Eritrea announced that it had agreed to Qatar’s mediation efforts to resolve their festering border dispute with Djibouti. [For more details see: http://bit.ly/d7mouS]
Opps. Dead Last on that list. Again.
Each year Reporters without Borders publishes its Freedom of the Press list that ranks the world’s press, from best to worst, in this category. On the recently published list Finland is number one. Although China works harder and spends more money on controlling the media — including the Internet — than anyone, the People’s Republic is not the world’s worst offender when it comes to media oppression. That honor — or dishonor — goes to Eritrea which comes in as 178. North Korea is runner up for worst at 177. China is 171. Ethiopia places slightly better than Eritrea at 139, nestled between Turkey and Russia.
Says the Reporters without Borders report:
Eritrea (178th) is at the very bottom of the world ranking for the fourth year running. At least 30 journalists and four media contributors are held incommunicado in the most appalling conditions, without right to a trial and without any information emerging about their situation. Journalists employed by the state media — the only kind of media tolerated — have to choose between obeying the information ministry’s orders or trying to flee the country. The foreign media are not welcome. “
[For more see: http://bit.ly/bE35Z1)
Isaias Afwerki interview
President Isaias of Eritrea is not your typical autocrat. While he and his party have very tight control over the country, he does not lock himself up in the Presidential Palace with no contract with the outside world in the style of, say, North Korean leaders. No, Isaias, oddly enough, sits down for press interviews with visiting — but carefully selected — foreign journalists. Recently a Swedish journalist, Donald Bostrom, visited Asmara and talked with Isaias, and then conducted a call-in radio-style interview with questions from what seem to be common folks in Sweden. While the machine translation by Google is a bit dicey, the answers are rather interesting because, despite everything, Isaias is a very interesting and intelligent man. [You can read the interview at: http://bit.ly/bSjKwl]