Eritrea, 20 years of a silent press

Radio Erena: 17 September 2021

September 18, 2021, will mark the 20th anniversary of an unprecedented wave of arrests and the shutdown of all independent media outlets in Eritrea as part of the authoritarian turn taken by the regime of Isaias Afeworki. Radio Erena, an Eritrean station in exile based in Paris, has been fighting for 12 years the lack of press freedom imposed in Eritrea by the Asmara regime.

On September 11, 2001, the world capsized in fear after the terrible attacks on the United States. A week later, however, the fates of millions of Eritreans shifted as the Eritrean President ordered the arrest of dozens of intellectual figures and journalists across the country. Leader and hero of the independence war won against Ethiopia in 1993, Issaias Afworki was appointed head of the country to ensure the transition to an autonomous state. Yet in 2001 he was the target of an open letter from his former companions criticizing both of his handling of the war against Ethiopia, and of the delay in the election process and the adoption of a constitution. His answer was final. All independent outlets were shut down and journalists jailed while the President seized power over the country. Today, families and the international community alike remain without news from them despite never being tried.

Faced with one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world, many Eritreans flee the country every year. Among them, Biniam SIMON, former star presenter of Eritrean TV, and Amanuel GHIRMAI BAHTA, former radio journalist, founded Radio Erena, an Eritrean radio station in exile in Paris.

“When you are a journalist and you leave Eritrea, you only think of one thing, to bring the information there”, explained Biniam SIMON. Since 2009, despite attempts by the regime to intimidate and jam the airwaves, the radio broadcasts in Eritrea seven days a week using satellite and shortwaves. Showing unfailing dedication, at the cost of many sacrifices, in the hope of finally blowing a wind of freedom and democracy in Eritrea.