Jailed Eritrean journalist wins press freedom award

The jailed Eritrean-born journalist, Dawit Isaak, has won the Golden Pen of Freedom Award for 2011.

Mr Isaak, who has dual Eritrean-Swedish citizenship, was one of the founders of Eritrea’s first independent newspapers, Setit.

He was detained without charge in 2001 in Eritrea after his paper published letters demanding democratic reforms.

The World Association of Newspapers said Mr Dawit was an inspiration to media around the world.

Eritrea is the only African country to have no privately owned news media.

The government closed the private press in 2001 for “endangering national security”.

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“Mr Isaak has faced enormous hardships, yet his commitment to press freedom and human rights has never diminished,” the awards body said.

“It takes courage for a journalist to work and not compromise under such circumstances, and Mr Isaak serves as an inspiration to press people everywhere.”

According to WAN, Mr Isaak, 45, fled his country in 1987 during the war for independence.

He went to Sweden where we worked for many years as a cleaner and eventually became a Swedish citizen.

He returned to Eritrea in the 1990s and founded the newspaper Setit, which gained a reputation for investigative reporting.

The paper often focused on allegations of abuse of power by the government.

Mr Isaak was arrested nine years ago with 13 other newspaper owners, editors and journalists.

He has never been formally charged with any crime, WAN says.

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