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 24th monthly “10 Most Urgent” list of journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases demand justice. This iteration focuses on elections and protests as a catalyst for violence against journalists.
Countries in which the number of jailed journalists rose significantly in 2020 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. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) maintains safety advice for journalists covering elections as well as civil disorder.
Here’s February’s list, ranked in order of urgency:
1. Mohamad Mosaed (Iran)
Investigative reporter fleeing detention and fearing deportation.
In January, freelance economic journalist Mohamed Mosaed was detained by Turkish border police. He had fled Iran following a summons to begin serving his jail sentence in two days’ time. The sentence amounts to nearly five years in prison, a two-year ban on journalism activities, and a two-year ban on using all communications devices. Mosaed had been arrested in 2019 for posting on Twitter during an internet shutdown that authorities had implemented in response to anti-government protests. He was released, then arrested again in 2020 after he criticized the government’s lack of preparedness for responding to Covid-19 and parliamentary elections. His charges include “colluding against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system.” Turkish officials have assured his lawyer that he will not face deportation.
2. Kasirye Saif-Ilah Ashraf (Uganda)
Reporter assaulted by police twice while covering opposition political events.
Security officers assaulted at least 10 journalists covering opposition events leading up to the country’s presidential election in mid-January. Weeks after Kasirye Saif-Ilah Ashraf was hospitalized due to police holding his mouth open and pepper spraying him, police fired a projectile that hit the Ghetto Media reporter in the head and cracked his skull. Kasiyre remains hospitalized. Greater Masaka Regional Police Commander Enoch Abaine, accused of firing the projectile at Kasirye and at least one other journalist, claimed that no journalist had been intentionally targeted during the incident. He said that authorities are investigating allegations that journalists had been injured at the event.
Uighur journalist Gulmire Imin has spent more than 10 years behind bars, serving a life sentence on charges of separatism, leaking state secrets, and organizing an illegal demonstration. She was one of several administrators of Uighur-language web forums who were arrested after the July 2009 riots in Urumqi, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Authorities accused Imin of being an organizer of demonstrations and of using the Uighur-language website to distribute information about the event. Imin was also accused of leaking state secrets by phone to her husband, who lives in Norway. China is the leading jailer of journalists, with 47 behind bars in 2020.
4. Ahmed Ismail Hassan (Bahrain)
Videographer killed by unknown suspects nine years ago.
March marks nine years since Ahmed Ismail Hassan, a Bahraini videographer, was shot after filming a pro-reform protest. Riot police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets, then unknown assailants in a vehicle began firing live ammunition at the protesters. Hassan, 22, was shot and died at the hospital. His death was the third media fatality in Bahrain since the start of the uprising. The other two individuals died while in custody in 2011. Questions remain in all three cases.