Help Support and #FreeThePress in 2017
In December 2016, the Committee to Protect Journalists counted 259 journalists imprisoned worldwide. On January 25th and 26th, we hope you will join our effort to #FreeThePress and support CPJ.
Journalists and others imprisoned for “crimes” like exercising free speech have said that communication from the outside world is a vital form of support. As a Chinese activist once put it:
“When letters and cards arrive at the prison like snowflakes, the prison knows that a lot of people are paying attention to these prisoners.”
With input from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the following group of organizations are holding postcard-writing and social media campaigns to highlight the situations of seven imprisoned journalists. We hope you’ll join us by lending your support on social media.
Ethiopian journalists work in some of Africa’s most restrictive conditions. Of the 16 journalists imprisoned there in December, two have spent a decade behind bars.
Darsema Sori, Radio Bilal
Darsema and a colleague at the faith-based Radio Bilal were arrested in early 2015 and charged with 18 other defendants for allegedly inciting extremist ideology and planning to overthrow the government. Darsema is senior editor at the radio station, which extensively covered the Muslim community’s protests of a number of government actions – including the closing of Ethiopia’s only Muslim college.
A year ago, there were no journalists imprisoned in the Americas. But this December, CPJ identified journalists jailed for their work in Cuba, Panama and Venezuela.
Braulio Jatar Alonso, Reporte Confidencial
Jatar was arrested in September a day after he wrote about protestors who greeted President Marduro with jeers and by banging pots and pans. Authorities claimed he was found with thousands of dollars in cash to be used for a “terror attack.” A legal rights lawyer charged that authorities planted the money and arrested Jatar, who is also a lawyer and political activist, for posting videos of the protest on his site.
China has ranked among the world’s worst jailers of journalists for years; 38 were in prison in December, as Beijing deepened its crackdown on coverage of protests and human rights abuses.
Ilham Tohti, Uighurbiz
Tohti is a Uighur scholar, writer and blogger who was arrested in early 2014. Authorities closed his website, which published articles on social issues in Chinese and Uighur. Tohti was sentenced to life in prison for promoting Uighur separatism on his website. He denied the charges, and his sentence was protested by the U.S. State Department, the European Union, and human rights organizations.
One of the riskiest areas for journalists in India is the Bastar region in the state of Chhattisgarh, epicenter of the conflict between Maoists and security forces. Pressures come from both sides in the conflict and are most severe for those reporting there full-time.
Santoch Yadav, freelance
Yadav, a freelancer in the Bastar region, reports for several local dailies, often on allegations of human rights abuses by police against tribal communities. In 2015 he was arrested and charged with rioting, criminal conspiracy, attempted murder, and supporting and aiding terrorist groups. His colleagues said the charges were fabrications brought in retaliation for Yadav’s human rights reporting.
Following the failed coup attempt of summer 2016, the Turkish government intensified its media crackdown, shutting more than 100 news outlets and arresting dozens of journalists. The 81 imprisoned in Turkey in December accounted for nearly a third of the global total of imprisoned journalists.
Musa Kart, Cumhuriyet
Cartoonist Musa Kart was one of 12 staff and board members of Cumhuriyet, Turkey’s oldest newspaper, detained in October. An official statement said they were suspected of producing propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and for what the government calls the Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization (FETÖ), two rival groups the government labels terrorist organizations. No date is set for Kart’s trial.
CPJ’s December census marked the first time in eight years that Iran was not among the five countries with the largest imprisoned journalist populations. But eight journalists remained jailed in December, two of them arrested in 2016.
Issa Saharkhiz, freelance
Saharkhiz has been imprisoned three times in seven years. His most recent arrest was in 2015, which led to his conviction for “insulting the Supreme Leader” and a three-year prison sentence, later reduced to 21 months. Saharkhiz is a prominent journalist who contributed to the opposition website Rooz Online. He still faces charges of “insulting the head of the judiciary.”
Egypt had the third-largest population of imprisoned journalists – a total of 25 – in CPJ’s 2016 census, after Turkey and China.
Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Shawkan), freelance
Freelance photographer Abou Zeid was detained in 2013 while covering clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. After more than two years of pretrial detention, he was charged with weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder, and attempted murder. His trial was ongoing in late 2016, In November, he was honored in absentia with CPJ’s International Press Award.