Free the Press: The Shrinking Space for Media Worldwide

Free the Press logoJournalists are being silenced around the world. In too many places, they are imprisoned, attacked, intimidated, disappeared, exiled or murdered for trying to report the news or exercise their freedom of expression.

In the weeks leading up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the U.S. Department of State highlights emblematic threats to journalists while continuing to call on all governments to protect the universal human right to freedom of expression.

Day 1: Isaiah Diing Abraham Chan Awuol – South Sudan
Day 2: José Antonio Torres – Cuba
Day 3: Memetjan Abdulla – China
Day 4: Zhila Bani-Yaghoub – Iran
Day 5: Vladimir Goncharenko – Ukraine
Day 6: Salijon Abdurakhmanov – Uzbekistan
Day 7: Uthayan – Sri Lanka
Day 8: Janet Hinostroza, Martin Pallares, and Miguel Rivadaneira – Ecuador
Day 9: Eskinder Nega – Ethiopia
Day 10: Al-Nour Ahmed al-Nour – Sudan

Al-Nour Ahmed al-Nour - Sudan
Al-Nour Ahmed al-Nour 


Today’s Free the Press Campaign case comes from from Sudan, where Al-Nour Ahmed al-Nour, one of Sudan’s most prominent journalists and editor of al-Sahafa newspaper, was dismissed from his position by security forces.

Al-Nour was accused of insulting a member of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). After his removal, his name was stripped from the masthead. This case demonstrates the targeted intimidation and repression newspapers and journalists face in Sudan. The government has launched a campaign of censorship and reprisal against newspapers. Security services target newspapers and often ban distribution of entire editions to inflict financial losses as punishment for critical coverage. The deliberate constriction of the space for free political expression in Sudan does not serve the government’s interest, or those of the Sudanese people. We call on the government of Sudan to release all journalists imprisoned for criticisms of the government and to implement reforms that widen the space for freedom of expression, as well as protect this right.


Eskinder Nega - Ethiopia
Eskinder Nega 


The United States is deeply disappointed that Ethiopia’s Federal Supreme Court upheld the conviction and harsh sentencing of journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition politician Andualem Arege under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the penal code. Today’s decision further reinforces our serious concerns about Ethiopia’s politicized prosecution of those critical of the government and ruling party, including under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.

Janet Hinostroza, Martin Pallares, and Miguel Rivadan - Ecuador
Janet Hinostroza, Martin Pallares, and Miguel Rivadaneira


On Day Eight in our “Free the Press” campaign, we’d like to highlight three journalists from Ecuador.

The harsh personal attacks and attempts to discredit journalists such as Janet Hinostroza of Teleamazonas and columnist for national daily Hoy, Martin Pallares, multimedia editor for leading national daily El Comercio, and Miguel Rivadaneira, anchor for Ecuadoradio represent the challenges faced by private media in Ecuador, which operate in a climate of self-censorship.Read more...

The Inter-American Democratic Charter and other international agreements to which Ecuador is a party make clear that freedom of expression is an essential component of democracy.

A robust independent media is necessary to create a public discussion of ideas regarding rule of law.

We call on the government of Ecuador to uphold freedom of the press as a vital component of a democratic society and to ensure that journalists can operate without fear of threat or retribution.

Uthayan - Sri Lanka
Uthayan, a Tamil language newspaper 

Sri Lanka

On Day Seven, we highlighted the case of the Uthayan, a Tamil language newspaper in Sri Lanka.

Uthayan has seen its personnel beaten, newspaper shipments burned, equipment destroyed, and offices set ablaze in this last month alone.Read more...

The assault on a free press in Sri Lanka extends beyond Uthayan. The BBC Tamil language service has had its programs about Sri Lanka in the Human Rights Council censored. Reporters have been shot and murdered and a prominent political cartoonist has been missing for three years.

The United States calls on Sri Lankan authorities to demonstrate their commitment to rule of law and freedom of expression by conducting thorough investigations of all of the attacks and killings of journalists and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

We urge Sri Lankan authorities to protect freedom of expression.  The necessity of upholding this fundamental right was not only a component of the UNHRC resolution in Geneva this March, but it was a central recommendation of the Sri Lankan government’s own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.

Salijon Abdurakhmanov - Uzbekistan
Salijon Abdurakhmanov 


On Day Six in advance of World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd we raise the case of Salijon Abdurakhmanov, a journalist sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2008 in Uzbekistan on dubious drug charges.Read more...

Abdurakhmanov actively investigated corruption and advocated for farmers’ rights in economically depressed Karakalpakstan, and has recently been back in the news because prison authorities allegedly hid him from ICRC monitors who tried to visit him.

The United States recently raised this case with the government of Uzbekistan, and we call for Saliijon Abdurakhmanov’s release as we continue to reiterate our commitment to promoting freedom of expression, the U.S. calls on the government of Uzbekistan, and all governments, to protect the universal right to freedom of expression and allow journalists to operate freely and independently.

Vladimir Goncharenko: Ukraine
Vladimir Goncharenko 


On Day Five we are highlighting the murder of Vladimir Goncharenko, editor of the newspaper EKO Bezpeka (Environmental Security) and an environmental activist.Read more...

On July 27, 2012 Goncharenko held a press conference on his investigation that revealed the illegal dumping of 180 tons of dangerous chemical and radioactive industrial waste in the city of Kryviy Rih.

The city denied the allegations of illegal dumping. Four days later, unknown assailants beat Goncharenko so severely he was hospitalized and died.

The United States calls for a thorough investigation of Goncharenko’s murder in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.


Zhila Bani-Yaghoub - Iran
Zhila Bani-Yaghoub 


Zhila Bani-Yaghoub is editor of the “Focus on Iranian Women” website. She was summoned in November 2012 to begin serving a one-year sentence at Evin Prison on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “insulting the president” for articles she wrote during the 2009 presidential election.Read more...

Ms. Bani-Yaghboub was also banned from practicing journalism for 30 years. She had previously been tried and acquitted on similar charges three previous times since 2009.

Bani-Yaghboub won the 2009 Courage in Journalism prize from the International Women’s Media Foundation and the 2010 Freedom of Speech Award from Reporters Without Borders. Her husband, journalist Bahman Amou’i, was released on furlough in March 2013, after serving three years of a five-year prison term on similar charges.

As of December 2012, international NGOs estimated that Iran had jailed 45 journalists and has reportedly jailed dozens since.

Our Virtual Embassy Tehran page — has a “Faces of Iran” site that highlights the cases of dozens of individuals imprisoned in Iran for their political or religious beliefs; their status as a journalist, human rights, or women’s rights defender; their role as a student activist, or for simply exercising their universal human right to speak freely.

We call on the government of Iran to protect this fundamental human right for all its citizens and to support press freedom by releasing journalists unjustly imprisoned for their work.


Memetjan Abdulla - China
Memetjan Abdulla 


Day Three we highlight Memetjan Abdulla, the editor of the state-run China National Radio’s Uighur service.Read more...

Abdulla was detained in July 2009 for allegedly instigating ethnic rioting in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region via posts on the Uighur-language website Salkin. On April 1, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.Read more...

The exact charges against Abdulla were not disclosed, but U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on the sentence in December 2010, and, citing an unnamed witness at the trial, stated that Abdulla was targeted for talking to international journalists in Beijing about the riots, as well as translating articles on the website.

The United States calls on the government of China to release Memetjan Abudll and all other journalists wrongly imprisoned for their work.


José Antonio Torres - Cuba
José Antonio Torres 


On Day Two of our Free the Press Campaign, we continued our walk-up to World Press Freedom Day in Costa Rica next week, we’d like to highlight Jose Antonio Torres, a journalist for the official Granma newspaper in Cuba.Read more...

He was arrested in February 2011 after Granma published his report on the mismanagement of a public works project in Santiago, and subsequently sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of spying.

The United States calls on the Government of Cuba to release him.

Isaiah Diing Abraham Chan Awuol
Isaiah Diing Abraham Chan Awuol 

Juba, South Sudan

Isaiah Diing Abraham Chan Awuol, a journalist, was shot and killed in December 2012 outside of his home.

Civil Society and journalists in South Sudan continue to face intimidation and reprisals when their reporting is considered unflattering to the government.Read more...

The United States calls on South Sudanese authorities to demonstrate their commitment to rule of law and freedom of expression by conducting thorough investigations of all killings of journalists and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

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