Moon of the South has received intimidating and threatening emails from people – probably hitmen or spies – supposedly working for the oppressive government of Eritrea about an article published on April 4.
In the article, the award-winning author quoted a report by Le Journal de Brazza, http://journaldebrazza.com/article.php?aid=2876, which alleged that weapons used by Seleka rebels of the Central African Republic were supplied by Eritrea and may have transited by Chad on permission of Deby.
But, instead of attacking the first source that published the story, some unknown citizens of Eritrea, the state media and their government have reacted fiercely to the article, calling it false and fabricated, and insulting the author.
A copy of the ‘childish and gloomy’ statement A defamation that knows no bound, which was issued by the Eritrean ministry of foreign affairs and sent directly to the newsroom, labelled Moon of the South an ‘obscure’ publication, whose ‘reporter, a certain Issa Sikiti da Silva, does not even appear to know the geography of the region’.
But then, this is the tactic of the Eritrean government, which does not only tolerate press liberties and freedom of expression, but also has jailed countless journalists more than any country in Africa.
Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) described Eritrea as Africa’s biggest prison. The RSF World Press Freedom Index 2012-2013 ranked Eritrea in last place, 179th, for the sixth successive year.
RSF said: “No journalists were killed but some were left to die, which amounts to the same thing. With at least 30 behind bars, it is Africa’s biggest prison for journalists. Of 11 incarcerated since 2001, seven have died as a result of prison conditions or have killed themselves.
“Since the independent media were abolished more than 10 years ago, there are no independent Eritrean news outlets, other than outside the country, and terror prevails.”
Eritrea is being ruled by iron-fist President Isaias Afewerki. A U.N. Monitoring Group report on Somalia and Eritrea said in July 2010 that it had proof that that Asmara was supporting al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants in Somalia. But Eritrea continues to deny it.
Had this article or the April 4 article been published in Asmara or any other city in that country, the reporter would have been detained and jailed by now and left to die, and the publication disbanded and banned for life.
In one virulent email, one Eritrean ‘hitman’, Filmon Zerai, said: “Failure to provide such evidence will lead me to lodge an official complaint to your senior and further up the hierarchy including taking legal measures if necessary.”
Another ‘spy’, Sophia Tesfamariam, said in another email: “These are very serious allegations and cannot and will not be taken lightly. Please provide the following: article mentioned in this report-if it exists and provide sources for your information.”
Moon of the South says it will not be intimidated by any government of this world, or by their spies or hitmen, whether in Eritrea, DRC, Angola, South Africa, US, UK, Senegal, France or elsewhere.
The media, as society’s watchdog, should be free and left alone to do their job.
Photo: Eritrea’s leader, President Isaias Afewerki.