From online trolling to death threats – the war to defend Eritrea's reputation
Daniel Mekonnen has been the target of online attacks from forces loyal to the Eritrean regime for over a decade, ranging from abusive emails to fully fledged death threats – one serious enough to warrant temporary police protection.
He says that the offensive started after he co-founded the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in 2004 – “the first diaspora-based youth movement to openly oppose the government”.
After living in exile for 12 years, the Eritrean lawyer and human rights activist has been marked as an “one of the major enemies” by the government because of his work exposing its brutality, he says.
The situation in Eritrea has been called into focus in recent months: in June, a UN investigation concluded that the government’s abuse of its citizens “may constitute crimes against humanity”, bringing the state’s secretive and totalitarian practices into the spotlight and drawing international criticism.
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Though governments from Moscow to London have been accused of using devious means to manufacture support online, testimonies from Eritrean activists suggest pro-regime accounts are pushing abuse to extreme lengths.
Mekonnen says the threats against him intensified when he openly called for the international criminal court to investigate the regime, led by president Isias Afwerki.
A Twitter account called @HagerEritrea, meaning the “state of Eritrea” in Tigrinya, denounced Mekonnen and called on him to “be hunted for justice”. A few days later he was called a “criminal” who would “heave [sic] price for the crimes he committed against humanity.” The account’s bio claims that “Eritrean policies are the best in Africa.”
The tweets – along with rumours of other dangers amongst his network – were interpreted as a serious threat to his safety by the UN inquiry team, and he was put under temporary police protection in June.
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Source: The Guardian 8 September 2015