CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Eritrea

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Last updated on 14.01.2020 at 09:44

Eritrea Overview

Few countries on Earth provide worse conditions for civic space than Eritrea. For well over a decade authorities in Eritrea have sustained one of the worst crackdowns on civil liberties ever documented.

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The Civic Space Developments

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Eritrea second on list of worst jailers of journalists in Africa

Eritrea second on list of worst jailers of journalists in Africa

Eritrea accuses Qatar of supporting opposition groups and encouraging anti-government protests in Eritrea, Berlin’s ambassador to Eritrea summoned over DW’s (Germany’s state-owned international broadcaster) media coverage of the country

Association

In late November 2019, Eritrea accused Qatar of planning to assassinate influential Eritrean leaders, adding that Qatar was supporting opposition groups and encouraging anti government protests in Eritrea. Qatar denied the allegations. Earlier in November, Eritrea announced it had uncovered evidence of a 2011 US plot to overthrow the government in Asmara. In a statement released by the ministry of information, the government also accused Israel of helping to demonise Eritrea in the eyes of the world although no evidence was provided to support its claims. These accusations were largely seen by critics as a means to drum up domestic support for the government, especially since the country made peace with neighbouring Ethiopia, long touted as a bogeyman by the despotic regime.

Expression

On 23rd October 2019, it was reported that the German Foreign Ministry defended the importance of press freedom after Berlin’s ambassador to Eritrea was summoned over DW’s (Germany’s state-owned international broadcaster) media coverage of the country. Eritrea accused the news outlet of engaging in an "unbridled smear campaign".Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Meskel criticised the way the country's peace process with neighbouring Ethiopia was portrayed and the reporting of the country's system of national service, which conscripts most citizens into the military and workforce indefinitely.

In December 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists released its list of worst jailers of journalists; Eritrea was the second worst in Africa, second only to Egypt. Of 39 journalists jailed in sub-Saharan Africa, the bulk remain in Eritrea, where most have not been heard from for nearly two decades.

Association in Eritrea

The brutality meted out by the Eritrean state means that no human rights organisations or activists are able to operate openly from within Eritrea.

The brutality meted out by the Eritrean state means that no human rights organisations or activists are able to operate openly from within Eritrea. Human rights organisations operating from outside Eritrea have described the country as ‘a big prison for its own people.’ People attempting to flee the country risk arrest and detention in one of Eritrea’s networks of secret detention centres across the country, in which detainees are kept in inhumane conditions and regularly tortured. As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, individual liberties are also denied through the continuing practice of forced and indefinite conscription into the armed forces, whereby conscripts are forced into harsh conditions, low pay and forced labour. A 2005 proclamation provides a regulatory framework for nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), but their activities are strictly limited to implementing relief and rehabilitation activities and those that seek to engage in other activities can be held criminally liable.

Peaceful Assembly in Eritrea

Eritrea’s constitution says that ‘all persons shall have the right to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peaceably.’ In practice, this right is completely denied...

Eritrea’s constitution says that ‘all persons shall have the right to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peaceably.’ In practice, this right is completely denied, and given the huge risks involved for protestors, most demonstrations against the state take place in other countries. Groups, including student unions, which were likely to stage protests against increasing repression, have been disbanded and their leaders arrested. Faced with the threat of attack, in 2013 and 2014 activists distributed posters calling for Eritreans to demonstrate their opposition to the state by staying at home and emptying the streets on Fridays.

Expression in Eritrea

For eight years, Eritrea has been ranked the worst country in the world on the World Press Freedom Index.

For eight years, Eritrea has been ranked the worst country in the world on the World Press Freedom Index. Human rights groups in the region report that at least 23 journalists are imprisoned in Eritrea, including Dawit Isaak and Seyoum Tshehaye, who have been held incommunicado since 2001; fifteen years later, their families do not know if they are still alive. The last foreign journalist was expelled from Eritrea in 2004, having reported on human rights issues. The government controls the only printing house in Eritrea and according to the International Telecommunications Union, less than 1% of people had access to the Internet in 2014. Despite the high risks, activists continue to try to circulate independent information, even distributing an underground newspaper in Asmara in 2013.