Evan Williams &
Undercover in Africa’s Secret State
Commissioned by Channel 4 & PBS Frontline with ARTE and SBS Dateline
“A hugely brave undercover documentary, producing a compelling piece of work. The risks taken by the reporters and the extraordinary bravery they showed is humbling. A really brilliant film, showing huge freelance commitment over many years.”
-Sony Impact Award for Current Affairs Jury
The investigation began with a simple question: Why were so many young Eritreans fleeing their country and making the life-threatening journey to try to reach Europe when Eritrea was not embroiled in war or natural disaster?
This film achieved what no investigative documentary had ever attempted before – to obtain verifiable video evidence from inside the Eritrean government’s system of repression that has driven more than half a million people from their country. A courageous Eritrean team of freelance cameramen had been trying to obtain and publish this type of proof, but lack of equipment, intelligence agents and extremely tight security had made it very dangerous and difficult.
Video evidence was vital because the Eritrean government has for years dismissed claims of systematic human rights abuses. Secretly shot video by the Eritrean team provides the first irrefutable evidence that the government and its military runs a system of mass detention for anyone trying to avoid mandatory military and national service or trying to flee the country. This is supported by interviews conducted with ex- prisoners, guards and a doctor, all of whom provided searing testimony about the inhumane conditions and use of torture and beatings.
Evan Williams has been a print, radio and television journalist for 30 years, now specialising in international TV current affairs programmes, documentaries and investigations. He has worked extensively as a Reporter/Producer for Channel 4’s award-winning international current affairs strand Unreported World, covering stories in Iraq, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Egypt, Jamaica, Pakistan, Myanmar, India and many others.
Undercover Team Member 1 is an Eritrean who has worked a freelance producer for a wide range of international media – from the New York Times to CBS, Al Jazeera and other media outlets – since fleeing repression in Eritrea 20 years ago. He was the lynchpin of the production, displaying professionalism, great skill with people in often difficult situations, journalistic rigour, creativity, great courage and dogged commitment over five years.
Undercover Team Member 2 is an Eritrean freelance cameraman who was coached and directed remotely to achieve the goal he had set himself – to expose the repressive system of mass incarceration in Eritrea. As a prison guard for several years, he took extraordinary personal risks, wearing a secret camera and going inside the jail he worked in to expose this repression. Had he been caught, he would have been tortured, faced years in jail and possible execution.
Undercover Team Member 3 is an Eritrean freelance journalist who started filming with a small camera.