Gianluca Costantini

Pen Portraits of Prisoners

Amnesty UK and Pen Eritrea


n September 18th, 2001, the Government of Eritrea announced that all non-Government newspapers had been closed down. Eleven journalists were arrested and, since then, have not been seen by family or friends. In the following years, even journalists working for the Eritrean Government have been ‘disappeared’. Eritrean journalists in exile set up PEN Eritrea to fight for the freedom to write and to campaign for the freedom of Eritrean journalists and writers. As part of that campaign, PEN Eritrea, working with the artist Gianluca Costantini, produced portraits of fifteen of the journalists. Amnesty International UK has been pleased to arrange the display of PEN’s portraits throughout the UK.


The media in Eritrea is operated by the Government. That is a problem not only for the imprisoned journalists but for all Eritreans. No dissent is allowed. No elections are held.

Religion is strictly controlled: only four religious groups are permitted to operate and these are controlled by the Government. Some Jehovah Witnesses have been in prison since 1993. More recently, thousands of evangelical Christians have been arrested.

All citizens between the ages of 18 and 50 are liable for indefinite national service. This involves not only military training and eduties but being assigned to work on road building, mining or any work in the almost totally state controlled economy. Women who are mothers are exempt and that puts pressure on women to have children before they are 18.

One result of the oppression is that large numbers of young people flee the country. It is estimated that about half a million have left the country; that is about 10% of the total population and a very large proportion of those under 30.

Please write to the President of Eritrea asking him to release all of the journalists who were arrested, imprisoned and ‘disappeared’ for carrying out their legitimate work.

Write to: President Isaias Afwerki, PO Box 257, Asmara, Eritrea. Please send copies of your letter to the Eritrean Ambassador in London: Ambassador Estifanos Habtemariam Ghebreyesus, Embassy of the State of Eritrea, 96 White Lion Street, LONDON N1 9PF

Don’t expect a reply but the Government of Eritrea will know that there are many people who support the journalists. Share this with your friends and contacts.


Eritrea / Pen Eritrea / Exhibitions