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In a time of 'Fake News Awards,' here are 11 real, imprisoned journalists
For days, President Trump had touted his “Fake News Awards,” for the allegedly most flawed reporting by the mainstream media. On Wednesday evening, they were finally announced.
While some immediately raised questions whether such practices amount to “Fake News” — especially if the criticism comes from a president who has made over 2,000 false or misleading statements without correcting them — others raised concerns over the message Trump sent out to the world by touting the list.
Will it embolden other world leaders to crack down on the press with even less scrutiny?
The number of jailed journalists in 2017 was already at a record-high, and organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) fear that things could get even worse this year.
In response to Trump’s announcement of the awards on Twitter, the NGO included the president in their list of “Press Oppressors” last week, alongside familiar names such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (73 imprisoned journalists last year), Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi (20 imprisoned journalists last year) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (41 imprisoned journalists last year).
Here are 11 of those imprisoned journalists, out of a database of 262 individuals, compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2017. You can read profiles of all 262 journalists here.
Detained in Feb. 2017, the Turkey-based correspondent with Germany’s Die Welt newspaper was jailed amid accusations of terrorism propaganda and incitement of hatred, even though his editors believe the arrest was politically motivated. More from CPJ:
German and Turkish leaders have made repeated public references to Yücel’s case. Erdoğan accused Yücel of being a spy and an “agent,” and said that he would ignore demands for the journalist’s release until Germany extradited “PKK terrorists” to Turkey. In an interview published in July, the president told Die Zeit that Yücel was a terrorist because he interviewed a leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.
Yücel has denied the accusations, and he has not yet been sentenced.
Arrested in August last year, the writer with Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper — known as one of the most Kremlin-critical outlets in the country — has been accused of having violated Russian immigration laws. He is set to be deported to Uzbekistan, where the openly gay Nurmatov could face torture. A previous asylum application on those grounds was rejected.
According to CPJ, Nurmatov has likely also faced torture in Russia:
The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, who visited Nurmatov in the detention center on August 5, 2017, reported that the journalist had bruises on his back, was unable to eat for three days, and has suffered from hypertension since the beating. (…) On August 4, according to human rights groups and media reports, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a preliminary injunction ordering Russia not to deport the journalist until the court reviews his case.
The former co-owner of the Eritrean newspaper Setit and a dual Swedish-Eritrean citizen was jailed in September 2001, as part of a crackdown on the freedom of the press. More from CPJ:
Eritrean authorities have given vague and conflicting statements about Dawit’s status over the years. When asked about Dawit’s crime in a May 2009 interview with Swedish freelance journalist Donald Boström, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki said, “I don’t know,” before asserting that the journalist had made “a big mistake,” without offering details. The president dismissed the issue of Dawit being tried, stating, “We will not have any trial and we will not free him.” Although Dawit has dual Eritrean and Swedish citizenship, Isaias said that since Dawit was Eritrean first, “the involvement of Sweden is irrelevant. The Swedish government has nothing to do with this.”
Dawit remains imprisoned.
The former journalist with the state-owned Iran newspaper was reportedly arrested in 2015. More from CPJ:
On March 26, 2016, Branch 28 of Tehran Revolutionary Court convicted Chitsaz of “assembly and collusion with the intent to disrupt national security” and “collaboration with a foreign government” and sentenced her to 10 years in prison. On April 29, the journalist’s mother told BBC Persian that her daughter had been held in solitary confinement in Evin prison for six months that and her interrogators had subjected her to physical abuse.
Her sentence was reduced to two years in 2016 and there were some reports of a possible imminent release late last year.
The freelance photojournalist in Bahrain was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014 on charges of “attacking” a police station two years earlier. Humaidan had attended protests there to report on unrest in the country for opposition media outlets. More from CPJ:
Humaidan is being held in Jaw Central Prison. Authorities limited family visits to the prison after an attempted jail break by some of the inmates in January 2017, a journalist familiar with the situation, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, told CPJ. For seven months, all visits were banned. Since September, Humaidan’s relatives have been allowed to visit, but he is denied physical contact with his wife and four-year-old son, the journalist who spoke with CPJ said.
Detained in 2016, this investigative journalist for Turkey’s opposition paper Cumhuriyet is facing charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda. More from CPJ:
Prosecutors questioned Şık about his tweets, three articles in Cumhuriyet, a public statement, and an interview, according to news reports. A court ruled that his case would be heard as part of the wider Cumhuriyet trial, which started in July 2017. According to an indictment released in April 2017, which lists the accusations in the Cumhuriyet case, Şık is charged with “helping an armed terrorist organization without being a member.”
In particularly dark irony, the organization he allegedly is helping is that of Fetullah Gülen, a U.S.-based cleric Turkey says was behind 2016 the coup attempt. In 2011 Şık was imprisoned for writing an expose critical of Gülen’s organization.
Daulat Jan Mathal
Imprisoned in Pakistan since Oct. 2016, the former editor-in-chief and publisher of several independent newspapers and websites faced scrutiny over his editorial stance months before his arrest. More from CPJ:
According to a local NGO worker, Mathal was arrested because the publications he edited supported national autonomy for the Gilgit-Baltistan region. Mathal is accused of “damaging the solidarity and integrity of Pakistan” by publishing anti-state materials that supported a local nationalist party, the Balawaristan National Front. Late in 2017, he was in state custody at the Gilgit district jail. No trial date had been set, and the journalist’s petition for bail had not been heard. Court officials had not responded to CPJ email requests for information as of late 2017.
Drukar Gyal (Druklo)
The Tibetan writer has been in a Chinese jail since 2015, and was sentenced to three years in prison in 2016. He is being held on charges such as the incitement of separatism. More from CPJ:
The court verdict cited Gyal’s posts on his blog and social media about this incident, his comments about religious freedom, and a repost of a news report about the Dalai Lama as evidence of “inciting separatism.”
A former technician with a Catholic radio station in the Democratic Republic of Congo called Radio Télévision Véritas, he and several colleagues — Johnny Kasongo, Musiko Kisiesia, and Jean Doudou Ndumba — were arrested in November last year. More from CPJ:
The four journalists were beaten and transported by government jeep to a holding cell at the local office of the national intelligence service (ANR), according to JED. As of December 1, 2017, the journalists were not charged and Ndumba had been released, according to Mervilde.
The Nigerien radio and TV news agency journalist was arrested and charged with using false nationality documents early last year. He was later sentenced to two years in jail. More from CPJ:
Amadou Boubacar Mossi, Alpha’s lawyer, multiple Nigerien journalists, and rights organizations maintain Alpha’s arrest was in retaliation for his journalism. “[Alpha] is nevertheless a journalist that everyone knows who, with his pen, never caressed the power in the direction of their hair,” Mossi said in French on April 4, 2017, according to RFI.
The Uzbek journalist was sentenced to over 12 years in prison in 2009, and human rights organizations say the reporter was physically and psychologically tortured, citing his lawyer. More from CPJ:
The journalist was arrested in his hometown, Tashkent, and placed in detention in Samarkand after a woman accused him of extorting US$10,000 from a businessman. Although the woman withdrew her accusation, saying she had been coerced, authorities refused to release the journalist, Saiid’s lawyer, Ruhiddin Komilov, told CPJ at the time. (…)
Saiid was charged with extortion and forgery. CPJ, along with several other international human rights and press freedom groups, determined the charges were fabricated in retaliation for his journalism. Before his arrest, Saiid reported on official abuses against farmers for the independent regional news website Voice of Freedom as well as for a number of local publications.
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