News / Africa

Eritrea President Denies Stifling Free Speech

Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki (File)
Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki (File)
VOA News
Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki has denied that his country stifles freedom of speech, just days after media rights group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) identified Eritrea as the most censored country in the world.

Listen to VOA's interview with President Isaias



In an interview with VOA's English to Africa service Thursday in the capital, Asmara, President Isaias said his government is not interested in keeping people from expressing their views, but that he will do what is necessary to "protect national security" in the face of what he calls "external aggression" by those who take money from outside governments to create chaos and spread misinformation.

"This is not a matter of freedom of expression, this is a matter of sabotage -- organized sabotage by individuals hired by intelligence agencies from outside," said Isaias. "We've even ignored some of these individuals who have been working with foreign governments, taking money, providing distorted information about the reality here."

In its annual survey, CPJ referred to the east African nation as "completely closed" to foreign journalists, saying only tightly controlled state media are allowed to operate there.

It also said journalists suspected of sending information outside the country have been thrown into prison without charges and are often held for extended periods of time without access to family or a lawyer.

In his wide ranging interview with VOA, Isaias said he has succeeded in building up Eritrea's infrastructure and decreasing its reliance on foreign aid in the nearly 20 years since he came to power in the impoverished East African nation.

Regarding the disputed border between Eritrea and neighboring Ethiopia, Isaias denied any tension and said he wants to work in cooperation with Ethiopia to create new opportunities for people in both countries.

"There are no controversies there," he said. "We look at it from a historical perspective. We aspire to -- in solidarity with the people in Ethiopia -- to create a new opportunity for both the people in Ethiopia and Eritrea and the region as a whole."

Isaias, who has ruled Eritrea since 1993, said he is more interested in building up his country than embracing what he called the "so-called" tenets of democracy.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Anonymous
May 19, 2012 11:32 PM
Excellenet views on IGAD and Regional cooperation in the Horn and East Africa.

To speak on behalf of the people of Eritrea, he needs to implelemt the 1997 constitution and get elected democratically by the people of Eritrea in a fair and transparent multiparty contest

by: jon from: maryland
May 19, 2012 7:58 PM
very nice interview with smart answers by isaias. good job issayas!

by: tafesse from: usa
May 19, 2012 1:07 PM
Sad to hear president Isayas reiterating his outdated position of no dialogue with Ethiopia.He does not seem to be aware of the fact that the world is even talking to Taliban.He sounds determined to limp his old way down to his political demise.

by: swedish eritrean from: sweden
May 19, 2012 12:02 AM
optimist,, that is what free press means

by: Eritrean from: USA
May 18, 2012 7:22 PM
Mr. president Isaias my hats off to you i salute you,you have never compromised your prinsipless.We Eritreans sleep well knowing you will never sell us to the highest bidder.Thanks for being yourself & protecting our dignity.All the way with you brother.

by: Eritrean from: EU
May 18, 2012 7:15 PM
Dear VOA

Still another nonsense interview with the brutal dictator of Eritrea. The excuse for the problem in the Horn of Africa is not coming from other parts or countries but it starts from the president himself. The unelected presesident cannot govern even the small country except by military force, Eritrea is being governed under a total control of the ex-fighters who are loyal to the Isaias. They are govern the country in un humane way. I am not asking here 'democracy', it is unthinkable in Eritrea. But HUMANE WAY. When there is no right of speech, no right of association and so on in Eritrea, this man cannot say he is the real president of the coutry. He is not a LEADER, he is a RULER.
I wish all the best for the VOA journalist and when you are back to your office, I expect you to give your TRUE witness about Eritrea. If there is a psibility also to come to the 'Straight Talk Africa show, I am sure Shaka (the program hoster) would be happy to challenge the present situation in Eritrea.


by: Ambesa from: Sweden
May 18, 2012 5:26 PM
My god this Man was right from the start!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O12tdvyPOyY&feature=relmfu

by: Tedros Asmelash from: London, UK
May 18, 2012 4:31 PM
The Dictator is at it again..boring as usual. Just go. Nobody is interested to hear what you have to say. Shame on you VOA for letting him run his mouth like that instead of asking him tough questions like why is he holding the country hostage, the 3000+ young people who are fleeing their country risking their life, all the political prisoners and journalists who are dying in an underground prisons all over the country. Mr Journalist, watch AlJeezera's Jane Datton Interviewing him and learn.

by: pessimist
May 18, 2012 3:34 PM
Correction: BBC's Peter Biles not VOA's.

by: Pessimist from: USA
May 18, 2012 3:25 PM
How are VOA reporters managing to speak to a President who has been rumored dead? How old is that picture? And what happened to the tell-tale signs of liver disease on his face? And above all, if he's indeed alive, when did his throat disease [esophageal cancer?] that VOA's Peter Biles expertly detected and tweeted about in late April go away?
Comments page of 2
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs