Working as a journalist in Eritrean dictatorship

Working as a journalist in Eritrea is extremely difficult. The censorship is hard and it is hard to find reliable sources. So reporting is severely restricted. Today I would like to describe to you my job at that time, which was to cause great difficulties for me and my family.

My name is Sara Fishaye, I was born in Eritrea and worked there as a journalist. It is no secret that Eritrea is experiencing great problems in many areas. Our biggest problem is the lack of freedom, and with it the lack of press freedom. So all media are obliged to send only positive news from the country, no matter what field they are working in. This means we are forced to lie. We inform people wrong and many people then believe this state propaganda.

Those who write and criticize with their own head get a warning from the politicians, which forbids you to write and inform. But it rarely comes to that, because all texts or videos are checked beforehand by the Ministry of Information and their censorship. If there is a disadvantage for a politician or a criticism of the government’s course is included, publication is forbidden and prison sentences are threatened. So the press always writes in the sense of the government and mistakes of the policy are never mentioned.
Calls for the release of imprisoned journalists and reporters from Eritrea.

Photo: Zara Fishaye

Many of my colleagues are therefore currently in prison, the others have adapted out of fear. My colleagues and I have lied to our people for years, but that was against our thinking and our sense of proper journalism. In the end I asked myself: “Why am I in this world? What is my job if I don’t speak the truth?” Since then, I have promised myself that I would give people all the information I could, no matter what the consequences would be. I was aware of the risk involved.

A few months later, I was arrested. I stayed in prison for two months. I was threatened several times not to report critically again. Then I was transferred from the capital Asmara to a small town where nothing happened and I had no insight into the political events of the day. There I was to be brought back on government course in order to produce positive propaganda again. I had no more desire for this profession. But I was afraid what would happen to my son and the rest of my family in Asmara, from whom I had been separated. My son lived with my parents and I missed them all very much. It was a difficult time for me. I couldn’t continue rebelling for their protection.

So I decided to flee the country. It was a difficult and hard decision, which I doubted for a long time. I knew that my husband and parents would be questioned about me by the police. But since they did not know where I was, I thought they would leave them alone. In fact, my father and husband were arrested. My father was imprisoned for six months and my husband for two years. All because of me.

I know that my story is very tragic, but it represents the reality in Eritrea. Anyone who speaks out publicly against the dictatorship is imprisoned. If this person cannot be found, the family is taken into custody. After a long struggle, I now live in Germany with my husband and our children. We live here with more liberties and above all with a free press. With all my heart I am very grateful for this.

Zara Fishaye is a new author for our magazine.

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