Dawit Isaak awarded ‘Golden Pen’ honour

Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak, jailed in Eritrea for the past decade, was honoured by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) on Thursday.

Dawit Isaak awarded 'Golden Pen' honour

The 50th anniversary “Golden Pen of Freedom” award was presented to Isaak’s brother Esaias during the opening ceremony of the World Newspaper Congress and

World Editors Forum Thursday in Vienna.

“This award is an excellent opportunity to increase global awareness of Dawit’s case and adds to the growing international pressure on the Eritrean authorities to provide information on his health and whereabouts,” he said.

The award “breaks the Eritrean government’s attempts to create a wall of silence around Dawit and all other imprisoned journalists.”

Isaak fled to Sweden, where he obtained citizenship, in 1987 during Eritrea’s struggle against Ethiopia which eventually led to independence in 1993. He returned in 2001 and co-founded a newspaper, Setit.

But the same year, the government closed Setit, along with all of the country’s independent press, suspended civil liberties and jailed numerous journalists, including Isaak, WAN-IFRA said.

The diabetic journalist is believed to be in the infamous Eiraeiro prison near Asmara, where a number of other prisoners are known to have died of maltreatment or to have committed suicide.

Eritrea “is as bad as it gets” when it comes to press freedom, WAN-IFRA said, and has ranked at the very bottom of Reporters Without Borders’ “World Press Freedom Index”, for the past few years, below North Korea, Iran and Myanmar.

In a Swedish interview in 2009, the country’s President Isaias Afewerki made it clear that Isaak’s status as a dual citizen of Sweden was of little consequence, WAN-IFRA added.

“We will not have any trial and we will not free him,” it quoted him as saying. “We know how to handle his kind.”

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Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for ‘torture and kidnapping’

Sweden's chapter of Reporters Without Borders has filed a complaint accusing Eritrea's regime of human rights abuses over the imprisonment of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak in 2001.

Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for 'torture and kidnapping'
A sign from a September 2011 demonstration for Dawit Isaak's release
The complaint was directed at Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and seven other high ranking political leaders, including Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed.
Handed over to Swedish police by RSF and Isaak's brother, the complaint accused them of “crimes against humanity, enforced disappearance, torture and kidnapping”.
It was also signed by human rights advocates like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
On September 23, 2001, Isaak was arrested shortly after the Eritrean newspaper he founded, Setit, published articles demanding political reforms.   
According to RSF, he and his colleagues detained at the same time are now the journalists who have been imprisoned the longest in the world.
Isaak had fled to Sweden in 1987 during Eritrea's struggle against Ethiopia which eventually led to independence in 1993. He returned in 2001 to help shape the media landscape.
RSF ranks Eritrea as the world's third most repressive country when it comes to press freedom, behind North Korea and Turkmenistan.
Similar complaints have been filed before, including in 2014 when a new law took effect in Sweden enabling the prosecution for such crimes even if committed elsewhere in the world.
The prosecutor-general at the time concluded that while there were grounds to suspect a crime and open an investigation, doing so “would diminish the possibility that Dawit Isaak would be freed.”
Bjorn Tunback, coordinator for RSF Sweden's work on the Dawit Isaak case, said they hoped this time would be different after Foreign Minister Ann Linde last year said that despite repeated calls for Isaak's release “no clear changes are yet to be noted in Eritrea.”
Tunback said the minister's statements indicated that diplomatic channels had been exhausted.
“Diplomacy has its course, but when that doesn't lead anywhere, there is also the legal route,” Tunback told AFP.
“The law is there to protect individuals… and that is what we're testing now.”