10 urgent cases of journalism under attack

Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, journalists around the world were regularly threatened in the exercise of their work. From the dangers of reporting in conflict zones to retaliatory measures inflicted by corrupt leaders, these professionals risk their lives to reveal the truth.

The health crisis that has spread throughout 2020 has added a layer of difficulty. Journalists around the world have fought harder to obtain and disclose information about authorities’ response to the coronavirus, and prison conditions increase the risk of imprisoned journalists contracting the coronavirus.

At least 207 press freedom violations in 2020 linked to the pandemic, according to a study by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). These included arrests in China, where journalists such as Zhang Zhan documented Wuhan’s early efforts to contain the coronavirus. A record 274 journalists were in jail as of December 1, with China having more than any other country, finds CPJ. In late December, a Chinese court sentenced Zhang to four years in prison, Reuters reports.

In addition to pandemic-related activity, many attacks on the press stem from anti-state rhetoric and coverage of protests. In December, Iran executed Roohollah Zam after officials characterized his coverage of the 2017 protests as espionage, spreading fake news abroad and insulting Islamic values ​​and the supreme leader. CPJ counted at least 30 journalists killed in 2020, up from 10 in 2019.

The One Free Press Coalition acts as a voice on behalf of journalists who are being silenced and cases awaiting justice. Each month Forbes publishes a list of the 10 most urgent press freedom cases, in unison with 34 other news outlets, including Yahoo News, Wired and Al Jazeera Media Network.

Introducing the 23rd monthly list of the 10 Most Urgent, illustrating “the year of freedom of the press”.

1. Zhang Zhang (China)

Impacts of the COVID-19 crackdown. Zhang Zhan, a freelance journalist who had been reporting from Wuhan on Twitter and YouTube since early February, disappeared on May 14, a day after posting a video criticizing the government’s countermeasures to contain the coronavirus. Shanghai issued a notice saying that Zhang had been arrested and detained for “inciting quarrels and causing trouble”. She reportedly went on a hunger strike for seven months, was force-fed through a feeding tube and kept under physical restraint 24/7. China is the top jailer of journalists, according to CPJ, with 47 journalists behind bars. In two separate cases, journalists Chen Qiushi and Li Zehua disappeared after reporting on Covid-19 from Wuhan and reappeared months later.

2. Solafa Magdy (Egypt)

Impact of the anti-press rhetoric of “fake news”. In 2020, Egypt led countries to jail journalists for false information in 2020. This includes Solafa Magdy, a freelance journalist who spent more than a year behind bars. Since his arrest in November 2019 for covering immigration and human rights in Cairo, prosecutors have filed additional charges for crimes allegedly committed while in pretrial detention. She was charged with belonging to a banned group and spreading false news. Magdy’s health suffered behind bars due to willful medical negligence and inhumane prison conditions. Fellow Egyptian journalist Mohamed Monir died of Covid-19, having contracted it while in pre-trial detention.

3. Katsiaryna Barysevich (Belarus)

Covering protests is a growing danger. Belarus is a new addition to CPJ’s prison census, with 10 journalists behind bars as of December 1, up from zero in 2019. Belarusian police routinely arrest and charge journalists covering anti-government protests with ‘participating in unauthorized gatherings’ and convictions. to short stays in prison or fines. Katsiaryna Barysevich, who was arrested in November 2020 on suspicion of breaching medical secrecy with ‘serious consequences’ in a story about a man’s death at a protest, faces criminal charges carrying up to three years in prison. Barysevich is a correspondent for the independent news site Tut.by and covered nationwide protests that erupted after the August 9 presidential election.

4. Dindar Karatas (Turkey)

Anti-state accusations remain common around the world. Kurdish journalist Dindar Karataş was arrested and his equipment confiscated in November in the eastern city of Van. Suspected of being a member of a terrorist organization, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), he was questioned about his reporting and imprisoned pending trial. Karataş worked as a reporter for the pro-Kurdish news agency Mezopotamya, covering a range of sensitive topics such as allegations of torture by state agents, prisoners’ rights and the Kurdish question. A lawyer from Karataş told prosecutors that his client wrote more than a hundred stories on different topics for Mezopotamya during the time he worked there, and picking 10-15 stories and calling them terrorist propaganda is not enough for an accusation.

5. Jose Abelardo Liz (Colombia)

Persistent impunity. CPJ’s Impunity Index showed that in eight out of ten cases, killers of journalists are released. On August 13, José Abelardo Liz was shot and killed during a two-day military campaign to evict members of the Nasa indigenous group from lands near the town of Corinto in western Colombia. Liz, 34, was a member of the indigenous group Nasa and hosted a daily news and culture show, “El Sabor de la Tarde”. A Nasa community spokesperson said soldiers “fired indiscriminately” at Nasa civilians and shot Liz in the chest. To date, the investigation has not progressed.

6. Maria Elena Ferral (Mexico)

A dangerous year in Mexico. At least five journalists have died in Mexico in 2020. Two unidentified men on motorbikes shot Maria Elena Ferral at least three times on March 30 as she left a local notary’s office in the town of Papantla, Mexico. State of Veracruz. She was rushed to hospital and died during the operation. Ferral was correspondent for Xalapa’s Diary newspaper and also co-founded El Quinto Poder, a local news website. Veracruz state authorities issued arrest warrants for at least 11 people allegedly involved in the murder and arrested 6 of the suspects in the weeks that followed. Ferral’s daughter said her mother’s life was in danger because of her writing about the murders of several Gutiérrez Zamora mayoral candidates.

seven. Luis Alonzo Almendares (Honduras)

Local journalists bear the brunt of the threats. Around 96% of journalists killed in 2020 were local reporters. Freelancer Luis Alonzo Almendares was shot three times by two unidentified men on a motorcycle in September in Comayagua. As the shooters fled, bystanders took the journalist to a local hospital, and he died the next morning. Almendares had posted his local news on his Facebook page, where he identified himself as “The voice of the Comayaguans”. It had more than 40,000 subscribers and frequently reported allegations of corruption and mismanagement by local authorities. In mid-October, a police spokesperson said evidence was being analyzed, a hypothesis for the case was still being developed and there had been no arrest. There has been no progress in the investigation.

8. Malalai Maiwand (Afghanistan)

Local journalists bear the brunt of the threats. Malalai Maiwand, a journalist with Enikass radio and television in Nangarhar and a women’s rights and civil society activist, and her driver were killed in December when unidentified gunmen opened fire on her vehicle. She was on her way to work in Jalalabad, the provincial capital. Earlier in the year, Maiwand had mentioned receiving threats, and she had previously spoken about the challenges of being a female journalist in Afghanistan. His killing came after representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban militant group recently agreed on a framework to advance peace talks in Qatar.

9. Raif Badawi (Saudi Arabia)

Threats to online journalists. Raif Badawi is a prominent blogger known for advocating secularism and a local liberal governance system in Saudi Arabia. In 2006, he founded an online discussion forum called “Saudi Liberals” which by 2008 had over 1,000 registered members who regularly discussed religion and politics. For his support of free discussion of liberal values, he was sentenced in 2012 to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (approximately US$267,000) and a travel ban. and media activities for ten years to begin after his release. In January 2015, 50 out of 1,000 lashes were performed in a single public session. He faced medical issues behind bars. He briefly went on a hunger strike in August 2020, citing a lack of protection in prison, after another inmate attacked him.

ten. Arzu Geybulla (Azerbaijan/Turkey)

Online harassment is an unrelenting threat. Azerbaijani journalist Arzu Geybulla, who currently lives in Turkey, has been the target of an online harassment campaign via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook following the publication of an opinion piece accusing her of disrespecting victims /martyrs of the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict. Geybulla is a columnist and writer, with a particular focus on digital authoritarianism and its implications for human rights and press freedom in Azerbaijan. Before this incident, she had detailed in 2016 having received several death threats and numerous messages threatening her safety and that of her family. His home address was published online, along with threats of rape and physical violence.

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