Free press coalition sheds light on attacked journalists – December 2020

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In May 2019, WIRED has joined the One Free Press Coalition, a united group of leading editors and publishers using their global reach and social platforms to spotlight journalists under attack around the world. Today, the coalition is releasing its 22nd monthly list of the “10 most urgent” press freedom violations around the world. This iteration focuses on cases relating to Covid-19.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented 207 pandemic-related press freedom violations around the world, including imprisonment, physical assault, legal threats and harassment. Thousands of individuals and groups called the UN to free journalists imprisoned amid the current health crisis. At least two journalists, David Romero from Honduras and Mohamed Monir from Egypt, have died after being infected with the virus while in government detention. Azimjon Askarov died in prison in Kyrgyzstan as a result of what his family suspects to be Covid-19, despite being denied a test.

Here is the list for December, in order of urgency:

1. Ahmet Altan (turkey)

Senior journalist particularly vulnerable to coronavirus in prison.

Ahmet Altan, 70, has spent more than 1,500 days behind bars and, according to his lawyer, is surrounded by three neighboring cells showing positive signs of Covid-19. Former editor of the closed daily Side, Altan has been detained since September 2016. In 2018 a court sentenced Altan to life imprisonment, then in 2019 changed the sentence to 10.5 years. The retrial convicted him for “helping a organization without being a member ”during the failed coup attempt and purge in 2016.

2. Mahmoud Hussein Gomaa (Egypt)

Tactics prevent the release of jailed Egyptian journalists.

This December, Mohamed Hussein Gomaa will have spent four years behind bars – the longest pre-trial detention of all Egyptian journalists awaiting a hearing. Gomaa has worked with Al-Jazeera, including contributing to a documentary on conscription in Egypt. Government officials arrested him in 2016 and called the material fake in an attempt to “wreak havoc.” Gomaa was due to be released on probation in mid-2019, but his detention has been extended several times. Egyptian journalist Mohamad Ibrahim also endures this “revolving door policy”, according to which new charges are brought to keep people in pretrial detention, despite the release orders of the criminal court.

3. Mohammad Mosaed (Iran)

Tehran sentences journalist to prison for silencing government reporting.

Freelance journalist Mohammad Mosaed was arrested in 2019 over a post on Twitter, then published in early 2020, for arrested again in February and sentenced to nearly five years in prison. Mosaed has been charged with “colluding against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system” because of a tweet he posted during Iran’s internet shutdown last year and criticism of his government this year, including his lack of preparedness to respond to Covid-19. His sentence also includes a two-year ban from journalism activities and a two-year ban from using all communication devices.

4. Solafa Magdy | (Egypt)

Journalist suffering from medical negligence and inhumane conditions of detention.

Freelance journalist Solafa Magdy suffered willful medical negligence and inhumane conditions of detention, increasing her risk of contracting Covid-19 like her fellow Egyptian journalist Mohamed Monir, who died of coronavirus this summer while in pre-trial detention. Magdy was arrested in November 2019 for her coverage of immigration and human rights in Cairo. The district attorney’s office has filed additional charges against Magdy for the acts she allegedly committed while in pre-trial detention.

5. Zhang zhan (China)

Freelance journalist jailed for reporting on coronavirus, now on hunger strike.

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