World Press Freedom Day: Journalists under attack amid pandemic

To mark World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, the One Free Press Coalition has called for the immediate release of all imprisoned journalists amid increasing threats to press freedom worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic.

Each month, the coalition, which comprises prominent news organisations and publishers, including Al Jazeera Media Network, brings to the public’s attention the 10 “most urgent” cases of journalists whose freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases are seeking justice.

Throughout the years, the campaign has highlighted the plight of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018, as well as Mahmoud Hussein, an Al Jazeera journalist who has been held without any formal charges in Egypt since December 2016.

At least half of the journalists on the latest list published on May 1 are currently behind bars and at heightened risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

1. Azimjon Askarov, Kyrgyzstan

On May 11, a Kyrgyz court is scheduled to hear the final appeal in the case of the award-winning ethnic Uzbek journalist Azimjon Askarov.

The journalist had been reporting on human rights when he was arrested in 2010 on trumped-up charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer, according to the coalition.

Askarov’s wife, Khadicha, recently wrote a letter to Kyrgyzstan’s president pleading for the journalist’s release, saying he is “absolutely innocent” and suffers from painful bone and joint inflammation.

2. Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram al-Waleedi, Hareth Hameed and Tawfiq al-Mansouri, Yemen

Four Yemeni journalists – Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram al-Waleedi, Hareth Hameed and Tawfiq al-Mansouri – were sentenced to death on April 4 on charges of spreading false news.

They have been held for nearly five years by the Houthis, a rebel movement at war with the internationally-recognised government that is backed by a Saudi-UAE-led military coalition.

Read more here.

3. Mahmoud al-Jaziri, Bahrain

Mahmoud al-Jaziri was moved to solitary confinement on April 8 as retaliation for an audio clip that surfaced on dissident-run media channel Bahrain Today3, according to the coalition. In the recording, he disputed reports that Bahraini authorities had taken measures to protect prisoners from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A reporter for the now-defunct independent newspaper Al-Wasat, the last of the country’s independent newspapers, al-Jaziri has been imprisoned since December 2015 on a 15-year sentence on charges of belonging to a “terrorist” group.

4. Solafa Magdy, Egypt

The overcrowding of Egyptian prisons, such as the one in al-Qanater housing Solafa Magdy, and inhumane conditions threaten to turn detention places into coronavirus clusters.

Magdy, a freelance multimedia journalist, and her husband have been jailed since November 2019 on charges of “membership of a banned group” and “spreading false news”.

She has endured medical neglect and even declined treatment for fear of contracting an infection in the facility’s unhygienic hospital, the coalition said.

 

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