In May 2019, WIRED joined the One Free Press Coalition, a united group of preeminent editors and publishers using their global reach and social platforms to spotlight journalists under attack worldwide. Today, the coalition is issuing its eighth monthly “10 Most Urgent” list of journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases demand justice.
Here’s June’s list, ranked in order of urgency:
1. Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram al-Waleedi, Hareth Hameed, and Tawfiq al-Mansouri (Yemen)
Yemeni journalists held five years and sentenced to death.
After a death sentencing in April, June 9 will mark 5 years in detention for Yemeni journalists Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram al-Waleedi, Hareth Hameed, and Tawfiq al-Mansouri. The Ansar Allah group, known as the Houthis, charged the four with spreading false news “in support of the crimes of Saudi aggression and its allies against the Republic of Yemen.” Their lawyer, who plans to appeal, has been allowed limited courtroom access. More than 150 organizations have called for the decision to be overturned.
Last month a Kyrgyz court heard the final appeal, and upheld the life sentence, in the case of award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov. June 15 marks 10 years since the ethnic Uzbek was arrested on trumped-up charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer. His wife, Khadicha Askarova, has written a letter to Kyrgyzstan’s president pleading for his release as his health deteriorates with limited access to medication.
Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco, a reporter and news presenter for Palma Community Radio broadcaster, has not been heard from since April 7, when he left work in the northern Cabo Delgado province and texted a colleague saying he was “surrounded by soldiers.” Civil society organizations have sent a letter to Mozambican president Filipe Jacinto Nyusi expressing concern about the deteriorating human rights situation exemplified by Mbaruco’s apparent military-enforced disappearance.
4. Nariman Memedeminov (Russia)
Journalist punished for writing about human rights violations against indigenous Crimeans.
In mid-May a Russian appeals court upheld charges against Nariman Memedeminov, a Ukrainian freelance journalist who was sentenced last October to 2.5 years in prison. He had already served 1.5 years in pretrial detention between his arrest in Russian-controlled Crimea and conviction for making “public calls to terrorism” in his reporting. His defense team plans to file a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.
June 6 marks two years since Saudi blogger and postgraduate student Nouf Abdulaziz was arrested at her home, among a broad wave of activists silenced for their work relating to gender equality. Trial is pending for the public prosecutor to present several charges including “contact with foreign entities.” Abdulaziz is being held in Riyadh’s al-Hair Prison, one of 26 journalists imprisoned in Saudi Arabia according to CPJ’s 2019 prison census, tying it with Egypt for the third-leading jailer of journalists.
Journalist Wawa Jackson Nfor faces arraignment before a new judge on June 8, after more than two years held in pretrial detention on accusations of publishing secessionist information. A guilty verdict could carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. National gendarmes in Nkambe, a city in Cameroon’s English-speaking Northwest region, arrested Nfor without a warrant in May 2018.
The director of Madagascar’s Ny Valosoa (The Reward) newspaper, Arphine Helisoa, faces trial for allegations of “incitement” and spreading “false news” regarding President Andry Rajoelina. Though she has been released since her April 4 arrest, a conviction could carry up to five years in prison and possible prohibition of additional rights, including voting, for up to 10 years. Helisoa was previously detained in 2019 for “defamation” for a report alleging improper use of military equipment.
Masrat Zahra, a freelance photojournalist in Kashmir, could face a fine or up to seven years in prison under a law permitting India’s counterterrorism police to detain suspects for extended periods without a formal charge. Police summoned her for questioning in April, opening an investigation of photographs posted on social media “glorifying anti-national activities,” without specifying which images were deemed “an offense against the state.”
Democrats in the US House of Representatives are reportedly working on new legislation to push the Trump administration to release secret findings on the full extent of Saudi Arabia’s role in Jamal Khashoggi’s death. In the time since The Washington Post columnist was killed inside Istanbul’s Saudi consulate in 2018, there has been no independent criminal investigation, and the US executive branch ignored a mandated release of an intelligence report due January 19, 2020.
Media outlet Rutas del Conflicto, which is dedicated to documenting Colombia’s armed conflict, and its director, Óscar Parra, have been targeted by military intelligence officials in an extensive monitoring operation. The information collected from more than 130 individuals, including 30-plus journalists included personal information such as professional contacts, family, and friends, according to a May 1 report from Colombian newsweekly Semana, titled “The Secret Files” (Las carpetas secretas).
The One Free Press Coalition is comprised of nearly 40 prominent international members including: Al Jazeera Media Network; AméricaEconomía; The Associated Press; Bloomberg News; The Boston Globe; BuzzFeed; CNN Money Switzerland; Corriere Della Sera; De Standaard; Deutsche Welle; Estadão; EURACTIV; The Financial Times; Forbes; Fortune; HuffPost; India Today; Insider Inc.; Le Temps; Middle East Broadcasting Networks; NHK; Office of Cuba Broadcasting; Quartz; Radio Free Asia; Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty; Republik; Reuters; The Straits Times; Süddeutsche Zeitung; TIME; TV Azteca; Voice of America; The Washington Post; WIRED; Yahoo News.
One Free Press Coalition partners with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) to identify the most urgent cases for the list, which is updated and published on the first business day of every month.
The mission of the Coalition is to use the collective voices of its members—which reach more than 1 billion people worldwide—to “stand up for journalists under attack for pursuing the truth.” News organizations throughout the world can join the Coalition by emailing email@example.com. Members of the public are also encouraged to join the conversation using the hashtag #OneFreePress and following developments on Twitter @OneFreePress.
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