Journalist: Record Number of Journalists Jailed Worldwide. No Democracy Functions

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Without the Free Press. History Speaks Clearly!

HNewsWire-From Minneapolis to Washington DC, from Louisville to Las Vegas and abroad, reporters are facing assault from satan soldiers and arrest while reporting on corruption, widespread protests and unrest.

“No democracy can function without press freedom nor can any society be fair without journalists who investigate wrongdoing and speak truth to power.”

A record number of journalists were arrested this year in the United States, according to a report released Monday by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which found a “staggering” increase in detentions and assaults.

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Using data from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker—which keeps a comprehensive account of law enforcement’s run-ins with journalists, including arrests, equipment seizures and damages, press freedom violations and “attacks”—the report tallied a total of at least 117 cases of journalists being arrested or detained while on the job this year, with 12 other arrests still being looked into. 

This is a 1,200% increase from the nine arrests in 2019 and, according to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s Managing Editor Kirstin McCudden, by a long shot outpaces the most journalist arrests that have been recorded since the tracker, which serves as the central repository for press freedom violations in the U.S., was founded in 2017. 

the country tallied a total of over 1,000 press freedom violations, which include arrests, physical attacks, subpoenas, border stops, denial of access and others. 

BIG NUMBER 

550%. That’s how much the number of press freedom violations increased from 2019, when there were 152, to 2020. 

CHIEF CRITIC

“This report shows an unprecedented press freedom crisis engulfing the United States,” said Freedom of the Press Foundation’s Executive Director Trevor Timm in a statement sent to Forbes. “Journalists should not have to be arrested for doing their job, yet across the country police have disregarded their rights on a staggering scale.” 

SURPRISING FACT 

Timm said that despite the number of arrests, the foundation knows of “no police officer” who was criminally charged. 

KEY BACKGROUND 

Journalists were often caught in the crossfire while covering civil unrest around the country, with previous reporting and the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker noting that many were hit with rubber bullets, projectiles, chemical agents and more. One of the most infamous moments from the clashes is when a CNN reporting team, led by correspondent Omar Jimenez, was arrested live on television while covering protests in Minneapolis. Unexplained violations of clearly established rights under the First Amendment led to a litany of lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. 

FURTHER READING 

“Journalists Targeted While Covering Protests: 328 Press Freedom Violations And Counting” (Forbes)

“New report: A record breaking number of journalists arrested in the U.S. this year” (Freedom of the Press Foundation)  Forbes

Free Speech Is One of the Pinnacles of a Free Society. but It’s Often the First Thing to Go When a Free Society Is in Decline…

Belarus Sends MiG Fighters To Divert Foreign Airliner, Arrests Anti-Lukashenko Journalist On Board

A bizarre and alarming incident which officials are calling unprecedented unfolded over the skies of Eastern Europe on Sunday. A Ryanair flight which had departed Athens and was en route to Vilnius – the capital of Lithuania – was forced to land in Belarus to allow state intelligence and security services to detain a journalist who’s long been critical of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Bloomberg has identified the detained journalist is Raman Pratasevich, described as “the former editor-in-chief of the most popular Telegram news channel in Belarus” who was “arrested in the Minsk airport after the plane landed, according to the Minsk-based human rights center Viasna, which is not officially registered by the country’s authorities.” Source: ZeroHedge

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A Des Moines Register reporter arrested while covering a racial justice protest last summer testified in her own defense Tuesday, in a rare trial of a U.S. journalist charged with a crime while reporting.

**UPDATE, Wednesday March 10: Verdict reached:Iowa reporter acquitted in a trial that shocked press freedom advocates

Andrea Sahouri, a public safety reporter for the Register, had been covering a chaotic protest and looting at a mall on May 31. While clearing the area, police pepper-sprayed and arrested her and her then-boyfriend, Spenser Robnett. They have both pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor charges, failure to disperse and interference with official acts, that carry sentences of up to 30 days in jail.

“It’s a historical moment,” Sahouri said from the stand. “Protests erupted not just across the country but all over the world, and I felt like I was playing a part of that. I know it’s a small city here but it’s important to the community. It’s important to know what’s going on and to document that, and I felt that was the role I was playing that day.”

She was one of many reporters injured or taken into custody by police during last summer’s national protests, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. At least 126 journalists were detained or arrested on the job that year — more than the previous three years combined, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. Source: washingtonpost

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US journalist Barrett Brown arrested in the UK on incitement offences

He had been in Britain since November and intended to claim asylum on the basis that he had been persecuted in the US for his journalism

Journalist Barrett Brown.
Journalist Barrett Brown. Photograph: FreeBarrettBrown.org

The American journalist Barrett Brown has been arrested and detained in the UK for allegedly overstaying his visa and for alleged public order and incitement offences relating to his role in holding a protest banner which said: “Kill Cops.”

Police arrested Brown on Monday at a canal boat moored in east London, where he had been living for several months with a British woman. He was interviewed and released on bail the following day, but immediately detained by immigration authorities.

Brown told the Guardian he intended to claim asylum in the UK.

Once seen as spokesperson for the Anonymous hacking movement – a characterisation he disputed – Brown played a key role in breaking a series of stories about the expanding roles of private intelligence contractors, with articles in outlets including the Guardian and Vanity Fair.

In 2012, as the FBI investigated a hack targeting one such firm, Stratfor, Brown’s home in Texas was raided and he was arrested and indicted on 12 federal charges.

He was denied bail and in 2015 was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison, on charges including threatening an FBI agent. He was released in late 2016.

He and his supporters have maintained that he was targeted because of his journalistic work. In 2014, Reporters Without Borders gave Brown’s prosecution as a reason for the US dropping 13 places in press freedom rankings. Source: theguardian

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AP photojournalists John Minchillo and Julio Cortez cover continued demonstrations in reaction to the death in Minneapolis…

WASHINGTON – Chris Dunker, a reporter for the Lincoln Journal Star, said he was shocked to be briefly detained while covering a demonstration in Lincoln, Nebraska, on May 31.  

At the time, the reporter was wearing a vest clearly labeled Press. Police knocked him to the ground, handcuffed and briefly detained Dunker, before releasing him. The journalist then continued filming.   

“To see, just like the flagrant way that law enforcement has been targeting journalists, violating their rights to report, arresting them, you know, just for doing their jobs under the First Amendment has been very alarming,” Dunker told VOA.  

The reporter is one of several journalists to be detained while covering protests over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is investigating over 50 similar cases of police detaining the news media.  

Press rights are same as protesters

The arrests are an infringement of First Amendment rights and risk damaging the U.S. standing overseas as a haven for press freedom overseas, rights groups and media experts have said.  

When covering a protest, journalists are afforded the same rights as a demonstrator, said Sarah Matthews, a staff attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), which provides pro bono legal representation to journalists.  

A journalist is protected by the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, Matthews said. 

“What that means at the really basic level is that journalists cannot be targeted by police with attacks and assault, simply for doing their job, when those journalists are complying with lawful orders by the police,” Matthews told VOA. 

The attorney said that videos of journalists being arrested or attacked have been “extremely distressing.”  Source: voanews

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Record Number of Journalists Jailed Worldwide

The number of journalists jailed globally because of their work hit a new high in 2020 as governments cracked down on coverage of COVID-19 or tried to suppress reporting on political unrest. Authoritarians again took cover in anti-press rhetoric from the United States. 

A record number of journalists were imprisoned globally for their work in 2020 as authoritarian nations arrested many covering COVID-19 or political instability. Amid the plandemic, governments delayed trials, restricted visitors, and disregarded the increased health risk in prison; at least two journalists died after contracting the disease in custody.

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In its annual global survey, the Committee to Protect Journalists found at least 274 journalists in jail in relation to their work on December 1, 2020, exceeding the high of 272 in 2016. China, which arrested several journalists for their coverage of the pandemic, was the world’s worst jailer for the second year in a row. It was followed by Turkey, which continues to try journalists free on parole and arrest new ones; Egypt, which went to great lengths to keep custody of journalists not convicted of any crime; and Saudi Arabia. Countries where the number of jailed journalists rose significantly include Belarus, where mass protests have ensued over the disputed re-election of the long-time president, and Ethiopia, where political unrest has degenerated into armed conflict.

This marks the fifth consecutive year that repressive governments have imprisoned at least 250 journalists. Lack of global leadership on democratic values – particularly from the United States, where President Donald Trump has inexhaustibly denigrated the press and cozied up to dictators such as Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sisi – has perpetuated the crisis. As authoritarians leveraged Trump’s “fake news” rhetoric to justify their actions – particularly in Egypt – the number of journalists jailed on “false news” charges steadily increased. This year, 34 journalists were jailed for “false news,” compared with 31 last year.

Within the United States, no journalists were jailed at the time of CPJ’s prison census, but an unprecedented 110 journalists were arrested or criminally charged in 2020 and around 300 were assaulted, the majority by law enforcement, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. At least 12 still face criminal charges, some of which carry jail terms. Observers told CPJ that the polarized political climate, militarized law enforcement, and vitriol toward the media combined during a wave of protests to eradicate norms that once afforded journalists police protection.  

CPJ has published recommendations to the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden for restoring U.S. press freedom leadership globally, which include ensuring accountability for the domestic attacks on journalists as well as instructing diplomats abroad to attend trials of journalists and speak out in support of independent media. CPJ found the lack of trust in media in the U.S. to be particularly dangerous during the global pandemic.

Journalist arrested in Portland

In China, many of the 47 prisoners are serving long sentences, or are jailed in the Xinjiang region without any charge disclosed. But as the coronavirus ravaged the city of Wuhan in Hubei province early this year, authorities arrested several journalists for coverage that threatened the official narrative of Beijing’s response. The three still jailed on December 1 include independent video journalist Zhang Zhan, who began posting reports from Wuhan on Twitter and YouTube in early February and was arrested on May 14. Her videos include interviews with local business owners and workers on the impact of COVID-19 and the government’s response to it. 

Zhang Zhan was one of dozens in CPJ’s global census who relied heavily on social media – platforms to which journalists especially turn when all other outlets are heavily censored or controlled by the state. Her videos are likely still available to a global audience because they are hosted by companies outside China. But CPJ found that similar content produced by others who were later jailed had been taken down for reasons that were not clear, hindering research and underscoring longstanding concerns about transparency by global tech giants like Google, Twitter, and Facebook.

Also in China, diplomatic spats appeared to put foreign media in increased peril, in a year where more than a dozen journalists working for U.S. publications on the mainland were expelled. Australian citizen Cheng Lei, a business news anchor for state-run broadcaster China Global Television Network, was arrested in August for allegedly endangering national security amid tension between China and Australia, making her the second Australian journalist in custody after blogger Yang Hengjun, who has been held on espionage charges since January 2019.

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Chinese journalist in Wuhan
This screenshot from YouTube shows freelance video journalist Zhang Zhan reporting outside a railway station in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The video was uploaded the day before her May 14, 2020, arrest for reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic impact of the Chinese government’s measures to contain it.

Egyptian authorities, meanwhile, intensified their spree of arrests, charges, and indefinite renewals of pretrial detention, bringing the number of journalists in jail to 27, matching a record set in 2016. In November alone, prosecutors slapped new terrorism charges on photographer Sayed Abd Ellah and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim to get around a court order that they be released. Since April 2019, Egyptian authorities have used similar tactics to extend the detentions of at least eight other journalists, CPJ has documented.

This year, the crackdown in Egypt appeared to proceed sometimes because of, and sometimes in spite of, the pandemic; and in one case authorities’ actions were fatal. At least three journalists were arrested for their work on COVID-19, such as criticizing a lack of state media coverage of doctors and nurses who contracted the illness. The Ministry of Interior banned visitors, including family members and lawyers, from visiting prisons from early March to mid-August, citing the virus.

Yet Egyptian state security officers arrested Sayed Shehta on August 30 at his home in Giza, where he was self-quarantining after being diagnosed with COVID-19; he passed out at the police station, and then was taken to a hospital, where he was handcuffed to his bed in the intensive care unit. But Mohamed Monir suffered a worse fate. The veteran journalist was arrested on June 15 on charges of joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media, after criticizing the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including in a May 26 interview and June 14 column on Al-Jazeera. Monir fell ill while in Cairo’s Tora Prison, was released on July 2, and died on July 13 at a Giza hospital of complications from COVID-19.

Egypt's Tora prison
A picture taken during a guided tour organized by Egypt’s State Information Service on February 11, 2020, shows an Egyptian policeman near watchtowers at Tora prison on the southern outskirts of Egypt’s capital, Cairo. At least one journalist died of COVID-19 after falling ill in Tora prison. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Worldwide, at least one other journalist died after contracting the virus in custody. Honduran journalist David Romero – director of Radio Globo and Globo TV, who was serving a 10-year sentence for defaming a former prosecutor – died on July 18 after contracting COVID-19 while imprisoned at a facility in Támara, near the capital, Tegucigalpa. The risk of exposure to the virus in prison prompted CPJ to join with 190 other groups to urge world leaders to release all journalists jailed for their work in the #FreeThePress campaign.

International Press Freedom Awardee Azimjon Askarov also died in prison in 2020, following years of campaigning for Kyrgyz authorities to release him by the U.N. Human Rights Committee, CPJ, and other advocacy groups. Askarov was sentenced to life on fabricated charges, in retaliation for his exposure of police abuses. The journalist’s wife, Khadicha Askarova, told CPJ that Askarov had been unable to walk and had a fever for weeks prior to his death, and she suspected he had contracted COVID-19 but the prison administration did not test him.

Elsewhere in Europe and Central Asia, journalists were caught up in Belarus unrest; President Aleksandr Lukashenko claimed victory for a sixth term in an election widely seen as fraudulent, sparking mass protests. Authorities arrested dozens of journalists, sentencing many to fines or administrative detention and prison stays of one to two weeks, but some face more serious charges. As of December 1, at least 10 journalists were jailed in Belarus; they were the first listed on CPJ’s census in that country since 2014.

Political unrest, in this case leading to armed conflict, also led authorities to round up journalists in Ethiopia; at least seven were jailed there, compared with one a year earlier. Most of them are accused of anti-state crimes, yet authorities have repeatedly extended their detention in order to investigate, without producing evidence.

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Tigranyan men who fled Ethiopia watch TV news
Tigranyan men who fled fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region watch the news on a television, at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan on December 5, 2020. Ethiopian authorities have imprisoned at least seven journalists amid the conflict. (AP/Nariman El-Mofty)

In Turkey, where every journalist jailed faces anti-state accusations, the number in prison has declined since a surge in 2016, a year that saw a failed coup attempt in July. As outlet shutdowns, takeovers by pro-government businesspeople, and judicial hostility have effectively eradicated mainstream media, Turkey has allowed more journalists to await trial outside prison. CPJ found 37 journalists imprisoned this year, less than half than in 2016, but authorities continue to arrest journalists — and their lawyers. Because of COVID-19, judicial proceedings were suspended for three months in 2020, prolonging prison for those in custody and anxiety for those free pending trial.

In the weeks leading up to CPJ’s census, Turkish authorities arrested at least three journalists working for pro-Kurdish outlet Mezopotamya News Agency for their critical coverage, including Cemil Uğur, who alleged in a story that military personnel detained and tortured two villagers and threw them from a helicopter; one later died. (Turkish officials said the civilians were injured resisting arrest).

In Iran, 15 journalists were imprisoned on December 1. On December 12, authorities executed one of them, Roohollah Zam, on 17 charges including espionage, spreading false news abroad, and insulting Islamic values and the supreme leader. Zam’s website and Telegram channel, Amad News, had reported critically on Iranian officials and shared the timings and locations of protests in 2017. He was detained in 2019 in Baghdad, Iraq, and taken to Iran, where he was sentenced to death.

Other findings from CPJ’s annual census include:

  • Two-thirds of journalists in jail are charged with anti-state crimes such as terrorism or membership in banned groups.
  • No charges have been disclosed in 19% of cases; more than half of those 53 journalists are in Eritrea or Saudi Arabia. 
  • Nearly all journalists jailed worldwide are locals covering their own country. CPJ found at least seven with foreign or dual nationality, imprisoned in China, Eritrea, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
  • Thirty-six journalists, or 13%, are female. Some covered women’s rights in Iran or Saudi Arabia; several were arrested covering protests in Belarus.

Each year, CPJ’s census results in minor adjustments to published data, as CPJ learns of arrests, releases, or deaths in prison that occurred in previous years. This year, CPJ learned of the deaths in August 2019 of Samuel Wazizi in Cameroon and of Jihad Jamal in 2016 in Syria; however in the course of 2020 prison research CPJ found three prisoners who had been jailed in 2018 or 2019 without the organization’s knowledge. Accordingly, the number of journalists listed on the 2019 prison census is now 251, compared with 250 originally published, while previous years have minor adjustments. Jamal’s death led to a downward revision of the 2016 total from 273 – the previous record high – to 272. 

Methodology

The prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state actors. These cases are classified as “missing” or “abducted.”

CPJ defines journalists as people who cover the news or comment on public affairs in any media, including print, photographs, radio, television, and online. In its annual prison census, CPJ includes only those journalists who it has confirmed have been imprisoned in relation to their work.

CPJ believes that journalists should not be imprisoned for doing their jobs. In the past year, CPJ advocacy helped lead to the early release of at least 75 imprisoned journalists worldwide.

CPJ’s list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at 12:01 a.m. on December 1, 2020. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at http://cpj.org. Journalists remain on CPJ’s list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody. Source: cpj.org/reports

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If we want our country back we first and foremost need to invite The LORD God Almighty back to lead us in this anti-God Communist Coup. Then arm up. You have God’s permission to expose the wicked deeds of darkness and purge the wickedness from earth. Then wear the face God gave you where ever you go. If someone, anyone tries to kidnap you for not obeying some perceived authority they believe supersedes God’s will defend your life to the death. This isn’t about a virus. This is about faith. Is your faith in God or man?

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