Director-General alarmed by media situation in Eritrea following the death of three journalists held in a prison camp since 2001

The Director-General of UNESCO today voiced grave concern over the death of three Eritrean journalists who had been kept in a prison camp for more than a decade. She urged the authorities to respect journalists’ fundamental rights to freedom of expression and free those detained over issues related to these rights.

“I deplore the detention of journalists in Eritrea, whose only offense is that they tried to exercise the inalienable human right of freedom of expression. I call on the Eritrean authorities to free all such prisoners.

“Reports of the recent deaths of Dawit Habtemichael, Mattewos Habteab, and Wedi Itay in a prison camp where they had been languishing since 2001 is a matter of utmost concern”, she continued. “Journalists must be able to perform their duties and keep the public informed without fearing for their lives.

“Ensuring a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers is a prerequisite for peace, democracy and the rule of law”, the Director-General concluded.

Dawit Habtemichael, Mattewos Habteab, and Wedi Itay are reported to have been arrested separately in 2001 and to have been kept in prison camp where they endured inhumane conditions since then. 


            Media contact: Sylvie Coudray, s.coudray(at), +33 (0)1 45 68 42 12


UNESCO is the United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to “further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.” To realize this the Organization is requested to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image…”