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 22nd monthly “10 Most Urgent” list of press freedom abuses 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 globally, including imprisonment, physical attacks, legal threats, and harassment. Thousands of individuals and groups have called on the UN to release jailed journalists amid the ongoing health crisis. At least two journalists, David Romero of Honduras and Mohamed Monir of Egypt, died after being infected with the virus while in government custody. Azimjon Askarov died in prison in Kyrgyzstan from what his family suspects was Covid-19, though he was denied a test.
Here’s December’s list, ranked in order of urgency:
Senior journalist especially 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 displaying Covid-19 positive signs. Former chief editor for the shuttered daily Taraf, Altan has been detained since September 2016. In 2018, a court sentenced Altan to life in prison, then in 2019 changed the term to 10.5 years. The retrial convicted him of “aiding a [terrorist] organization without being a member” during the failed attempted coup and sweeping purge in 2016.
Tactics prevent imprisoned Egyptian journalists from being released.
This December, Mohamed Hussein Gomaa will have spent four years behind bars—the longest pre-trial detention of any Egyptian journalist currently awaiting a hearing. Gomaa worked with Al-Jazeera, including contributing to a documentary about conscription in Egypt. Government officials arrested him in 2016 and called the material false with aims of “spreading chaos.” Gomaa was due to be released on probation in mid-2019, but his detention has been repeatedly extended. Fellow Egyptian journalist Mohamad Ibrahim is also enduring this “revolving door policy,” where new charges are brought to keep individuals in pre-trial detention, despite release orders from criminal court.
Tehran sentences journalist to prison to silence reporting on government.
Freelance journalist Mohammad Mosaed was arrested in 2019 because of a post on Twitter, then released in early 2020, only to be re-arrested 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 released during Iran’s internet shutdown last year and his government criticism this year, including its lacking preparedness in responding to Covid-19. His sentence also carries a two-year ban on journalism activities and a two-year ban from using all communications devices.
Journalist enduring medical neglect and inhumane prison conditions.
Freelance reporter Solafa Magdy has suffered deliberate medical neglect and inhumane prison conditions, heightening her risk of contracting Covid-19 like fellow Egyptian journalist Mohamed Monir, who died from the 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 state prosecutor’s office has filed additional charges against Magdy for actions she allegedly committed while in pre-trial detention.
Independent journalist imprisoned for coronavirus reporting, now on hunger strike.