Major news organizations across the world took a stand for press freedom on Friday by establishing a coalition that will publish a monthly “10 Most Urgent” list of journalists either under attack or being silenced.
The One Free Press Coalition, in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation, will use the collective editorial and social reach of participating news organizations to highlight journalists whose press freedoms are being threatened or whose cases still need justice. The coalition will publish the “10 Most Urgent” list on the first day of every month.
“Journalists around the world face unprecedented threats amid global efforts to undermine press freedom and the very idea of independent media. Journalists have been jailed at record levels over the past three years and the rate of murder has recently skyrocketed,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement. “The One Free Press Coalition can draw vital attention to 10 cases that demand justice and accountability, boosting awareness of the risks journalists take and ultimately increasing their safety.”
The coalition’s inaugural press members include The Associated Press, Euractiv, the Financial Times, Forbes, Reuters, Süddesutsche Zeitung, Time, Wired and Yahoo News. The coalition also includes us, HuffPost.
“In these turbulent times, independent journalism is more important than ever,” HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen said in a statement. “Holding power to account has never been more important, or freighted with greater risk.”
One of the press members, Reuters, has two of its own journalists on the inaugural list. Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are currently imprisoned in Myanmar under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act after their investigation into a security force massacre of Rohingya men and boys. Their appeal was rejected in January and a final appeal is pending.
Other journalists named on this first list include:
Maria Ressa, Rappler CEO (Philippines)
Investigators in the Philippines arrested Ressa in February over a cyber libel case the government filed against her. While they released her a day later, her news site Rappler now deals with separate retaliatory tax charges. Ressa has long been a target of President Rodrigo Duterte and has said she is resolved to hold the government accountable.
Eman Al Nafjan, Saudiwoman’s Weblog Founder (Saudi Arabia)
Al Nafjan was jailed in May 2018 after reporting on Saudi elections, human rights activists and women’s right to drive, which was banned in the country. She is one of more than a dozen Saudi journalists imprisoned, according to CPJ.
Claudia Duque, investigative reporter (Colombia)
Duque’s reporting has resulted in kidnapping, illegal surveillance, psychological torture and exile. Three Colombian security services officers were convicted in 2003 and 2004 of torturing Duque and her daughter. The defendants were free as of January this year.
Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, blogger (Mauritania)
The Mauritanian government arrested Mohamed in 2014 after his criticism of religion and the country’s caste system. He originally faced a death sentence for “blasphemy,” but the charges have been dropped, leaving him still in jail despite having already served his prison sentence.
Anna Nimiriano, Juba Monitor editor (South Sudan)
Nimiriano works to keep her co-workers at the Juba Monitor newspaper out of jail, but authorities have threatened her with arrest and previously ordered her to shut down the paper, one of the leading daily English newspapers in South Sudan.
Pelin Unker, reporter (Turkey)
Unker was imprisoned for insulting Turkey’s leader after writing a story as part of the 2017 Paradise Papers investigation. The story revealed offshore holdings of then-Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s family.
Thomas Awah Jr., Afrik 2 Radio correspondent and Aghem Messenger publisher (Cameroon)
Awah began serving a more than decade-long prison sentence in Cameroon in 2018 on anti-state and false news charges after interviewing protesters. CPJ has asked President Paul Biya to release Awah, who is reportedly critically ill, on humanitarian grounds.
Tran Thi Nga, journalist (Vietnam)
Nga was sentenced in 2017 to nine years in prison after a one-day trial in which she was accused of “spreading propaganda against the state.” She made several videos criticizing Vietnamese authorities on issues relating to the environment and government corruption.
Jamal Khashoggi, Washington Post columnist (Saudi Arabia)
Khashoggi made global headlines after his brutal murder late last year at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. There has been no independent United Nations criminal investigation despite intelligence officials’ findings that point to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in Khashoggi’s death.
The increased attacks and threats against journalists come at a time when leaders of several countries, including the United States, paint the press as the enemy of the people. U.S. President Donald Trump has refused to back down from his persistent attacks on the media, which have led to widespread public distrust in the news and the killing of people like Khashoggi and the five Capital Gazette journalists in Annapolis, Maryland.
“With the One Free Press Coalition, we are shining an enduring light from all corners of the globe on our fellow journalists who are being persecuted, punished or worse in the pursuit of truth,” Forbes Chief Content Officer Randall Lane, who initiated the coalition concept, said in a statement. “Together, our reach online and on social will signal solidarity for our colleagues and simultaneously tell those who threaten free speech that we are watching.”