August 9, 2020

Press Freedom

Press Freedom Update May 1

The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership has been rolling out a week-long advertising campaign to highlight journalists around the world who are detained or persecuted for their work. The ads will run through Sunday, May 3 on Press Freedom Day. The campaign has covered Austin Tice, Claudia Duque of Colombia, Azimjon Askarov of Kyrgyzstan, Solafa Magdy of Egypt and Iwacu journalists of Burundi. “The journalists spotlighted in this ad campaign are facing murder threats, detention and lifetime prison sentences simply for doing their jobs – reporting the truth and holding the powerful to account,” said Frederick J. Ryan Jr., publisher and CEO of The Post. “In a time when freedom of information is more important than ever, we must ensure that journalists can freely report the news without fear of persecution.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and 73 other media, press freedom, and human rights groups sent a letter urging governments across Asia to release jailed journalists amid the dangers of COVID-19 in incarceration. The CPJ’s most recent annual prison census conducted on Dec. 1 last year showed that at least 63 journalists were imprisoned in Asia, including 48 in China, 12 in Vietnam, two in India, and one in Myanmar. Five more have been arrested since then, including Sovann Rithy in Cambodia, Chen Jiaping in China, Gautam Navlakha in India, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in Pakistan, and Frenchiemae Cumpio in the Philippines. “We urge you to release every jailed journalist in your respective countries and to protect the free press and the free flow of information at this crucial time,” the letter read. “Journalism must not carry a death sentence.”

Journalists covering the COVID-19 epidemic in Kazakhstan have been subjected to interrogation, prosecution and violation of the confidentiality of their sources in connection with their reporting, according to a report from Reporters Without Borders (RWB). Victims include Zaure Mirzakhodjayeva, a journalist and blogger in the southern city of Shymkent, who was summoned and questioned by the police for seven hours on April 23 over a Facebook post. He is now under investigation for spreading false information, a common charge used by repressive regimes to quash sensitive reporting.

Police in Sierra Leone arrested and charged journalist Fayia Amara Fayia for assault after a group of at least 10 soldiers attacked Fayia, who works for the Standard Times newspaper, On April hitting him with guns and kicking him, according to the journalist, who spoke to the CPJ, as well as a statement by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists.

Germany started a trial on April 23 for Anwar Raslan, a former Syrian general intelligence officer who had a key role in President Bashar al-Assad’s jailing and torturing of thousands of people, including journalists. Raslan is accused of crimes against humanity between March 2011 and September 2012, when he was in charge of investigations at the Al-Khateeb general intelligence detention centre in Damascus, also known as “Branch 251.” Plaintiffs against him include two journalists: Amer Matar and Hussein Ghrer. Matar was arrested twice in 2011 in connection with his work, Matar was tortured during interrogation and was accused of “spreading false news” and “undermining the nation’s morale.” Ghrer was arrested in 2012 while at the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in Damascus and was jailed for nine months in solitary confinement.