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.”