Fesshaye Yohannes

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Fesshaye Yohannes
Born c. 1955
Died unknown
Nationality Eritrean
Occupation journalist
Organization Setit
Awards International Press Freedom Award (2002)

Fesshaye Yohannes (born c. 1955, death year unknown)[1] was an Eritrean journalist who founded the weekly journal Setit and was a recipient of the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2002 International Press Freedom Award. Fesshaye was imprisoned without charges in September 2001, and died in government custody.[2]

Fesshaye became a journalist in the early 1990s, after Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia.[2] Previously, he had been a member of the guerrilla movement fighting for Eritrean independence in the Eritrean War of Independence. In 1994, he founded the weekly journal Setit, one of the country's first independent newspapers,[3] named for the only Eritrean river to have water all year.[4] Setit soon gained the largest circulation in Eritrea.[1] The journal covered difficult and controversial topics, including poverty, prostitution, and the lack of resources for handicapped veterans of the Eritrean independence movement.[2] In addition to his journalism, Fesshaye also worked as a playwright.[4]

Setit's coverage angered Eritrean authorities, and in May 2001, Fesshaye asked the Committee to Protect Journalists for help creating a journalists' union to increase the freedom of the press and provide protection for Eritrean journalists. In September 2001, one week after the September 11 attacks, the Eritrean government closed every independent media outlet in the country under the pretext of fighting terrorism, and arrested a large number of journalists.[2] The National Assembly stated that "the private newspapers by their wanton irresponsibility had provoked the anger of the people who demanded that they be closed and sighed with relief when they were temporarily suspended."[1] Fesshaye considered going into hiding, but decided that he could not abandon his fellow journalists.[2]

Fesshaye was arrested and imprisoned. In May 2002, he and nine other imprisoned journalists began a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment, and were transferred to a secret jail at an unknown location where they had no contact with the outside world. The date of Fesshaye's death is disputed. While some sources state that he died on January 11, 2007 following a prolonged illness, exiled opposition party leader Adhanom Gebremariam reported that Fesshaye was found dead in his cell on December 13, 2002.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Fred Hiatt (November 25, 2002). "Truth-Tellers in a Time of Terror". The Washington Post.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "In Eritrea, a prominent journalist dies in a secret government prison". New York: Committee to Protect Journalists. February 9, 2007. Archived from the original on September 22, 2012. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ Liz Harper. "2002 International Press Freedom Awardees". NewsHour. PBS. Archived from the original on September 22, 2012. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Gabriel Packard (November 13, 2002). "Three Embattled Journalists Win Awards". Inter Press Service  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved September 21, 2012.