Where Is Dawit Isaak?

Dawit Isaak, the Eritrean-Swedish journalist and playwright, was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 today in Jakarta, Indonesia. Today is World Press Freedom Day, a global United Nations commemoration, and Isaak was not present for the UNESCO ceremony.

Dawit Isaak has been held prisoner in Eritrea since September 2001. His whereabouts and his condition are unknown.

In June 2016, in a rare interview with France’s RFI (Radio France Internationale), Eritrea’s Foreign Minister, Osman Saleh, spoke with RFI’s Anthony Lattier about Eritrea’s “political prisoners,” and he specifically revealed that Dawit Isaak is still alive.

It was the first official Eritrean acknowledgement that Isaak is alive since 2009, when the nation’s president, Isaias Afwerki, ominously told a Swedish journalist that Eritrea “knows what to do with” Isaak and others “of his kind.”
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Is Dawit Isaak Still Alive?

In a rare interview in June with France’s RFI (Radio France Internationale), Eritrea’s Foreign Minister, Osman Saleh, spoke with RFI’s Anthony Lattier about Eritrea’s “political prisoners,” and he specifically revealed that one who has been in prison since 2001, the journalist Dawit Isaak, is still alive.

It was the first official Eritrean acknowledgement of Isaak’s existence since 2009, when the nation’s president, Isaias Afwerki, ominously told a Swedish journalist that Eritrea “knows what to do with” Isaak. Osman Saleh told Lattier that Isaak “is alive, he’s alive” and that all of the nation’s “political prisoners” are alive and well. He rebuffed any suggestion that any independent agency verify this as a fact, however.
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Free Dawit Isaak

“We will not have any trial and we will not free him. We know how to handle his kind.”
Isaias Afwerki, President of Eritrea, speaking in 2009 about writer Dawit Isaak

The last time Amnesty International mentioned the case of the imprisoned Eritrean writer Dawit Isaak, it was in its 2011 annual report about Eritrea. Amnesty reported what it believed to be safe to report: that Isaak “remained in detention, allegedly in Eiraeiro Prison. He was reportedly in poor mental and physical health.”
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