Eritrea’s foremost literary scholar and freedom of press advocate Professor Ghirmai Negash has been named the 2021 PEN Eritrea’s Freedom of Expression Award winner. The ceremony has been held virtually, Saturday September 18th, on the 20th anniversary of the ban of free press in Eritrea.
PEN Eritrea’s Freedom of Expression Award is a yearly award selected by a committee after active members submit their nominations. It is awarded to an individual or a group that made unique contribution in Eritrea’s freedom of expression or literature. In addition to a trophy, winners are awarded $1000.00
The award committee selected Professor Ghirmai for his persistent work that spans three decades in advocating the freedom of the press/writer and his unique contribution in Eritrean literature; both research and original work.
In his acceptance speech, Prof. Ghirmai dedicated the award to three Eritrean journalists who departed this year: Milkias Mehreteab, Aaron Berhane and Tesfagiorgis Habte. The monetary award would also be shared among the bereaved families.
Previous winners of the award are journalist Yirgalem Fissseha and Saleh “Gadi” Johar.
Author of seven books, Ghirmai Negash is the former president of African Literature Association (ALA), the inaugural president of PEN Eritrea and the current chair of African Studies Program of Ohio University.
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Below is the acceptance of speech in English and Tigrinya.
PEN Eritrea Freedom of Expression Award 2021: Acceptance Statement
By Ghirmai Negash, September 18, 2021
TO: PEN Eritrea
Your verdict to honor me as the recipient of this year’s “Pen Eritrea Annual Freedom of Expression Award” has humbled and overwhelmed me. It is with deep gratitude that I accept the honor. I must add that it is an emotional as sobering moment that PEN/Eritrea is giving me the award for my work on freedom of expression, as I am painfully aware that many of our courageous journalists nd writers are still languishing in Eritrea’s prisons, while some have paid the highest price of freedom with their lives.
In the past thirty years, I have made modest efforts through publication and activism to advance the cause of freedom of speech and human rights in Eritrea, and in Africa at large, and your recognition of my efforts with this prestigious award suggests that maybe I have succeeded in some degree. I sincerely hope that this is the case, and confirm to continue doing whatever I can to the advancement of freedom and justice in Eritrea, now and in the future.
As we gather today, we honor with profound sadness the memory of our three colleagues who died in exile this year; Milkeas Mihreteab, former editor of Qeste Debenna; Aron Berhane, former editor of Settit, and writer and journalist Tesfagiorgis Habte. Their loss came as a devastating shock to their bereaved families, and the community. But amidst the grief, their untimely death should also prompt us to never forget the remarkable work they did in defense of freedom of speech and human rights in Eritrea, as the true heroes of freedom that they were. In recognition of their work, I want therefore to dedicate this Award in their memory, and to donate the financial package that comes with it to be given to their families.
Again, I am humbled by the honor bestowed on me with this prestigious award, and I sincerely hope to continue doing my part in the unfinished work to bringing freedom, peace, and justice to our people and country.
ክቡራት ኣባላት ፐን ኤርትራን፡ ዕዱማትን፤
ተዓዋቲ ሓሳባትካ ምግላጽ ፐን ኤርትራ 2021 ኰይነ ምምራጸይ ልባዊ ምስጋናይ አቕርብ፡፡
ትርጉም ድርሰታዊ ናጽነትን ናይ ሓሳባትካ ምግላጽ መሰልን ረዚን ኢዩ’ሞ፡ ነዚ ስልማት ክቕበል እንከለኹ፡ ማዕረ’ቲ ርዝነቱ ዘለዎ ክብሪ’ውን ይስማዓኒ። ከምኡ’ውን፡ እዚ ሽልማት’ዚ ንዝኽርን ብስምን እቶም ነዚ መዓልቲ’ዚ ክርእዩ ዕድል ዘይረኹቡ’ሞ ምእንቲ’ዚ ሞያ እቲ ዝለዓለ መስዋእቲ ከፊሎም ኣብ ስንጭሮታት ዝበልዩ ዘለው እሱራት ኣሕዋተይ ዝቖመ ስለዝኾነ፡ ነዚ ሽልማት’ዚ ክቕበል እንከለኹ ዝተሓዋወሰ ስምዒት ይመጸኒ።
ኣብ ዝሓለፉ ሰላሳ ዓመታት ንናጽነት ደረስትን ፕረሰን፡ ብሓፈሽኡ ሓሳባትካ ናይ ምግላጽ መሰልን፡ ዝደፍኡ በበይኖም ኣስተዋጽኦታት ክገብር ጸኒሐ። ገለ ካብኣቶም ኣብ ኤርትራ ዘተኮሩ ክኾኑ እንከለው፡ ካልኦት ከኣ እንኮላይ ንኣፍሪቃ ዝዓመሙ’ዮም። ሕጂ ነዚ ስልማት’ዚ ምብቀዐይ ከኣ፡ እቲ ኣብ በበይኑ መድረኻት ብተናጽል ክገብሮ ዝጽናሕኩ መጠናዊ ኣስተዋጽኦ፡ ተዋህሊሉ ክርአ ዝኽእል ኣበርክቶ ዝገበረ ይመስል። እዚ ሕጂ ብማሕበር ኣሕዋት ፐን ኤርትራ ዝዋሃበኒ ዘሎ ክብሪ፡ ብናይ ዝሓለፈ ዘዛኒ ዘይኮነስ፡ ኣብ ምእላሽ ሓርነትን ምግላጽ ሓሳባትን ክገብሮ ዝግበኣኒ ቃልሲን ምጥባቕን ኣበርቲዐን ኣዕቲበን ክቕጽሎ ከም ዘሎኒ ዝቕስቅስ’ዩ።
እዚ መዓልቲ መርኣያ እምቢታ ንስቕታ ምዃኑ ምጥቃስ ኣገዳሲ ይመስለኒ። መንግስቲ ኤርትራ ንጋዜጣታት ብሕቲ ንክዕጸዋ ዝኣወጀሉ መዓልቲ፡ ማለት ዕለት 18 መስከረም 2001፡ ኣብ ኣስመራ ነይረ፡፡ እተን ጋዜጣታት ተዓጽየን ጋዜጠኛታት ክእሰሩን ክህደኑን ምስ ጀመሩ፡ ኣብ’ቲ ህዝቢ ዝሰፈነ ስንባደ፡ ፍርሕን፡ ጓሂን ይዝከረኒ፡፡ ኣብ ዝሰዓቡ 20 ዓመታት እቲ ኩነታት ፖለቲካን ሰብኣዊ መሰላትን ኣብ ኤርትራን እቲ ዞባ ብኩሉንተናኡን ካብ ሕማቕ ናብ ክፉእ ማዕቢሉ፡ ኣብ’ዚ ሰዓት’ዚ ጥይትን ጥምየትን ዝነገስሉ ክውንነት ተፈጢሩ ኣሎ፡፡
ብዛዕባ ሃለዋት እሱራት ኣብ ኤርትራ ዝርዝር ሓበሬታ ምርካብ ኣሸጋሪ’ዩ፡፡ እንተኾነ፡ ኣብዚ መዓልቲ’ዚ ብዛዕባ እቶም ቅድሚ 20 ዓመት ንምልኪን ጭቆናን እምቢታ ዘስምዑ ናይ “ሓሳብትካ ምግላጽ ጀጋኑ” ኣስተንቲንና ክንሓስብን ንኣብነታዊ ተዋፋይነቶም ብክብርን ኣድናቖትን ክንዝክሮ ግዴታና ኢዩ፡፡ ኣብ’ዚ ኣጋጣሚ’ዚ ነቶም ኣብ’ዚ ዓመት’ዚ ኣብ ስደት ዝኸሰርናዮም ብሉጻት ጋዜጠኛታት ክዝክር’ውን እደሊ። ንምስክር፡ ካብ ኣፍ ገበል ወጺኦም ከበቅዑ ኣብ ስደት ብሞት ንዝተፈልዩና፡ ዋና ኣሰናዳኢ ጋዜጣ ቀስተ-ደበና ነበር ሚልቂያስ ምሕረትኣብ፡ ዋና ኣሰናዳኢ ጋዜጣ ሰቲት ነበር ኣሮን ብርሃነ፡ ከምኡ’ውን ግዳይ ዘይሕጋዊ ኣርባዕተ ዓመት ማእሰርቲ ዝነበረ ጸሓፊን ጋዜጠኛን ተስፋጊዮርጊስ ሃብተ፡ ኣብ ናይ ሓርነትን ፍትሕን ቃልሲ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ንዝገበርዎ ኣበርክቶ እናሞጎስኩ ዘልኣለማዊ ክብሪ ክረኽቡ እምነ፡፡ ምእንቲ ክብሮም ከኣ፡ ነዚ ተዋሂቡኒ ዘሎ ሽልማት ፐን ኤርትራ ንዓቶም አውፍዮ ኣለኹ፡፡ እተን ዝዋሃባኒ ገንዘብ’ውን ነቶም ኣብ ሓዘን ዝርከቡ ስድራቤታት እዞም ሰለስተ ጋዜጠኛታት አበርክተን።
ደጊመ ነቲ ዝተዋህበኒ ክብርን ስልማትን ኣዝየ እናመስገንኩ፡ እቶም ብሕጂ ዝሰርሖም ዕዮታት ድማ ኣብ ምግላጽን ምጥባቕን ንስለ ሓርነት፡ ሰብኣዊ መሰል፡ ሰላምን ራህዋን ኣስተዋጽኦ ክህልዎም፡ ንሱ እንተዘይተኻኢሉ ከኣ ብእኡ ዓሊመ ክሰርሕ ምዃነይ ቃል እኣቱ።
ምስ ልዑል ምስጋና።