Underground blogger from Asmara observes strenuous efforts to annihilate collective memory

Asmara Public Library, Pavoni Social Centre, Institute of Religious Studies (IRS) of the Catholics in Villagio Genio (Asmara), the Saint Mary Orthodox Library of Paradizo (Kidane Mihret), City Library (the former British Council), Ministry’s Library at Trade and Industry Office, NUEYS Library, Books Hub at the NUEW Headquarters Office, Ministry Education Library (near Adulis Junior and Secondary School), among others are the renowned references homes for researchers, academicians and at large to the public in the Asmara.

Despite the diverse services they offer that goes from presenting various manuscripts and original sources, they are also known for shelving important documents. Mesmerizing to me, however, all have been lost one important documents: collections of the private newspapers that have on print circulation between the second half of 1997 till their final ban in September 2001. Government security agencies ordered the replacement of the private newspapers by Haddas Ertra (Tigrigna daily newspaper),’ Eritrea Profile (English newspaper that publishes twice a week),’ and ‘Eritrea Al Hadisa’ (the Arabic version).’

Trudging to Pavoni Social Center Library in Asmara is, undoubtedly, visiting one of the country’s honored and well-enriched documentation centers. By the time I approached the librarian, he assured me of the private newspapers unavailability. Why? He refrained from telling me the truth and asked me if I have any paper from the Ministry that I was working for! In fact, I visited 11 libraries in the city. All have been enforced from not having any of these private newspapers versions on their shelves!

Hence, even if one want to access any versions of these private newspapers from the Research and Documentation Center (RDC) of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), one needs a special safety-conduct paper from high officials; in addition to this, preparing the proposal in the way that satiates the officials, clearing any predicaments for guaranteeing copy rights, among others are, yet, despairing factors and manifests the nature of a dictatorial regime who silences the voices of jailed journalists even through their past published articles.

But thanks for efforts of individual initiatives at a small scale and their archives at American Library of Congress, nothing will remain buried in the oceans of oblivion. For sure, since liberation starts with having free minding and free press accessing, resorting into shelving-out all these private newspapers from libraries are just testimonies of how oppression in Eritrea are at their acme point. In fact, the jailed journalists who made those documents will remain remembered for their incomparable efforts!

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‘Abgesa Yoseli Daed’ is a penname of an underground blogger based in Asmara, Eritrea. In accordance with PEN Eritrea’s guidelines, his identity has been kept in confidentiality for his personal safety.

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