Over the past several days, protests and riots have erupted across the United States and beyond in response to the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25—the latest high-profile example of the countless black Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of police throughout history.
Videos and reports of violent policing of demonstrators have flooded news coverage and social media. Civilians and journalists have been arrested and attacked. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic persists, yet many across the world have determined that their duties as citizens or as reporters are too important to stay home. Many wear masks as they navigate crowded streets. Those who find themselves in police custody for their involvement face a greater risk of transmitting or contracting the coronavirus.
The events of the past week in the U.S. are just one example of journalists attempting to hold those in power accountable for human rights violations, gender inequality, corruption, incompetence, and more. Too often, individuals find themselves harassed, detained, or in the worst cases, killed for their efforts.
To call attention to this mistreatment, Fortune is part of a collective of media organizations that copublishes a monthly ranked list of the 10 most urgent press freedom cases. The lists are compiled by the One Free Press Coalition in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF). (You can read last month’s list here.)
Yemeni journalists held five years and sentenced to death.
After 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.
Life sentence upheld in case of journalist jailed 10 years and in worsening health.
Last month a Kyrgyz court heard the final appeal and upheld a life sentence in the case of award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov. June 15 will mark 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 Askarov’s release as his health deteriorates with limited access to medication.
Reporter missing for nearly two months.
Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco, a reporter and news presenter for Palma Community Radio, 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 two and a half years in prison. He had already served one and a half 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 with the European Court of Human Rights.
Writer imprisoned two years for writing on women’s rights.
June 6 will mark 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. In a pending trial the public prosecutor will 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.
Court date set for journalist held in pretrial detention for two years.
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.
Trial threatens imprisonment and revocation of journalist’s rights.
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.
8. Masrat Zahra (India)
Police investigate, harass, and intimidate photojournalist for images posted to Facebook.
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.”
Calls persist for investigation into journalist’s high-profile, brazen murder.
Democrats in the U.S. 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 U.S. executive branch ignored the mandated release of an intelligence report due Jan. 19, 2020.
Government obtained personal information from dozens of national and international journalists.
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 on more than 130 individuals, 30-plus journalists among them, included personal information about their professional contacts, family, and friends, according to a May 1 report from Colombian newsweekly Semana titled “Las carpetas secretas” (“The Secret Files”).
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