CPJ, 73 media and rights group urge seven Asian countries to release jailed journalists
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CPJ, 73 media and rights group urge seven Asian countries to release jailed journalists

The letter was sent to the heads of state of China, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, the Philippines, and Myanmar.

By NL Team

Published on :

The Committee to Protect Journalists, along with 73 signatories, sent a letter to the heads of state of seven Asian countries, urging their respective governments to release all jailed journalists amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

The letter was addressed to the prime minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen; the Chinese president, Xi Jinping; the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi; the state counsellor of Myanmar, Aung Sun Suu Kyi; the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan; the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte; and the president of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong.

The other signatories include media and human rights foundations like the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, Cambodian Center for Independent Media, Kashmir Working Journalists Association, and Amnesty International India.

The letter said: "Given that a staggering number of these imprisoned journalists are held in jails across the Asian continent, we are reiterating that call to your respective countries at this time of grave public health concern. According to CPJ’s most recent annual prison census conducted on December 1, 2019, there were at least 63 journalists in prisons in Asia, including 48 in China, 12 in Vietnam, two in India, and one in Myanmar."

The letter added that for journalists jailed in countries affected by the pandemic, "freedom is now a matter of life and death". It comes at a time when several journalists in India have been arrested during the pandemic, from Chhattisgarh to Kashmir to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Here is the letter in full.

Your Excellencies,

We the 74 undersigned media, press freedom, and human rights organizations are writing to call on your respective governments to release all jailed journalists amid the sweeping COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 30, the Committee to Protect Journalists began a campaign called #FreeThePress, launching a petition and publishing an open letter to world leaders urging the immediate release of all journalists imprisoned for their work. Given that a staggering number of these imprisoned journalists are held in jails across the Asian continent, we are reiterating that call to your respective countries at this time of grave public health concern.

According to CPJ’s most recent annual prison census conducted on December 1, 2019, there were at least 63 journalists in prisons in Asia, including 48 in China, 12 in Vietnam, two in India, and one in Myanmar.

As of March 31, at least five journalists have been released, four in China and one in Vietnam, according to CPJ research. However, at least five more journalists have been arrested since December 1, including Sovann Rithy in Cambodia, Chen Jiaping in China, Gautam Navlakha in India, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in Pakistan, and Frenchiemae Cumpio in the Philippines.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees everyone the right to freedom of opinion and expression without interference and the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

According to the World Health Organization, “People deprived of their liberty, and those living or working in enclosed environments in their close proximity, are likely to be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease than the general population.”

For journalists jailed in countries affected by the virus, freedom is now a matter of life and death. Imprisoned journalists have no control over their surroundings, cannot choose to isolate, and are often denied necessary medical care.

Many of these journalists have been held in detention without trial for lengthy periods and are suffering from ill health exacerbated by underlying health conditions and overcrowded prisons, where they have contracted malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases.

We urge you to release every jailed journalist in your respective countries and to protect the free press and the free flow of information at this crucial time. Journalism must not carry a death sentence.

Sincerely,

Afghan Journalists Safety Committee

AGHS Legal Aid Cell

Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom

Alliance of Independent Journalists Indonesia

Americans for Kashmir

Amnesty International India

ARTICLE 19

Cambodian Center for Independent Media

Cambodian Journalists Alliance

Centre of Media Persons for Change, Chennai - India

CGNet Swara - India

Civil Rights Defenders

Coalition for Women in Journalism

Committee to Protect Journalists

Committee Against Assault on Journalists - India

Dhaka Tribune

Digital Rights Foundation

Federation of Nepali Journalists

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand

Freedom of Expression Myanmar

Free Media Movement

Freedom Forum

Freedom Network - Pakistan

Free Speech Collective - India

Hong Kong Free Press

Human Rights in China

Hyderabad Journalists Federation - India

Hyderabad Working Journalists Federation - India

Hyderabad Union of Working Journalists - India

Impulse Model Press Lab - India

Imphal Free Press - India

Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam

Indian Federation of Working Journalists

Indian Journalists Union

INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre

Internet Freedom Foundation - India

Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society - India

Jansandesh Times - India

Journalists Union of Assam

Kashmir Working Journalists Association - India

Kashmir Times - India

Kerala Union of Working Journalists - India

Local Press Hong Kong

Malaysiakini

Media Action Nepal

Mumbai Press Club - India

Mumbai Patrakar Sangh - India

Nai Baat

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

National Union of Journalists Peninsular Malaysia

New Bloom Magazine

New Naratif

Network of Women in Media India

Overseas Press Club of Cambodia

Pakistan Press Foundation

Park Center for Independent Media, Ithaca College

People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights - India

People's Union for Civil Liberties - India

PEN Delhi - India

PEN Myanmar

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

Press Association - India

Radio Free Asia

Siasat Daily - India

South Asia Free Media Association - Sri Lanka

South Asian Journalists Association

South Asia Women in Media, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association

Tamil Nadu Women Journalists Association - India

Talk Journalism, India

Telangana State Union of Working Journalists - India

Telangana Urdu Working Journalists Union - India

The 88 Project

The Irrawaddy

The Lede - India

The Reporter, Taiwan

Weiquanwang

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