Exiled Eritrean journalist dies in Germany

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One of Eritrea's best-known journalists, Solomon Abera, who was forced into exile in 2005 by Asmara's harsh media policies, has died in Germany aged 43, an international watchdog said Saturday.

"The name Solomon Abera will forever be etched in the collective memory of Eritrea's press corps," the Washington-based Committee to Protect Journalists said.

Abera was a reporter and presenter with state broadcasters Dimtsi Hafash, Eri-TV and Radio Zara from 1991. On September 18, 2001 he was obliged to announce the government's closure of all independent media in the Horn of Africa country.

The crackdown was accompanied by the imprisonment of critics of the regime of Issaias Afeworki.

"There was nothing to be done," Abera wrote in a blog on the 10th anniversary of the closure.

"As far as the government was concerned, we were no better than those imprisoned, and it sent a clear message to all of us: 'You too will get it -- if you say anything!'"

Since leaving the country Abera worked for independent websites on Eritrea, a country which "is as bad as it gets" when it comes to press freedom, according to The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Eritrea 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.

Last month WAN-IFRA honoured Swedish-Eritrean journalist and author Dawit Isaak, jailed in Eritrea for the past decade, with its 50th anniversary Golden Pen of Freedom award.

© 2011 AFP

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