Aaron Berhane was a beloved leader of our centre’s Writers in Exile community and a valued member of PEN Canada’s Board of Directors before his untimely death, due to Covid-19, in May 2021. He fled Eritrea in 2002, following a draconian crackdown on the independent press. The following extract from his posthumously published memoir The Burden of Exile: A Banned Journalist’s Flight from Dictatorship, recounts his early days hiding from government agents in Asmara.
Dawit Isaak and his colleagues are the longest detained journalists in the world today. September 23, 2022 will mark 21 years of detention. Their cases and causes are not only heartbreaking and egregiously unjust, but emblematic of the global assault on media freedom by authoritarian regimes, which continues to intensify under the cover of a global pandemic of impunity.
The Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR), in partnership with an international coalition of leading NGOs, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), PEN International, Defend Defenders, and Mr. Isaak’s Swedish legal counsel, filed a complaint to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calling for accountability for the Eritrean government’s gross human rights violations against Dawit Isaak and his colleagues, the longest detained journalists in the world today, and their immediate and unconditional release.
Irwin Cotler writes to Dawit Isaak for PEN’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer