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 eighth monthly “10 Most Urgent” list of journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases demand justice.
Here’s March 2020’s list, ranked in order of urgency:
1. Chen Qiushi (China)
Journalist missing as Chinese authorities stifle reporting on coronavirus outbreak.
Freelance video journalist Chen Qiushi has not been seen since February 6, when he told family he planned to report on a temporary hospital. On January 24, he traveled to the city of Wuhan in Hubei province from Beijing and began filming and reporting on the coronavirus health crisis, according to his posts on YouTube, noting local hospitals were short of resources and struggling to handle the number of patients who needed treatment. Later, China expelled three accredited Wall Street Journal journalists over an opinion headline relating to the crisis.
2. Daler Sharifov (Tajikistan)
Tajikistan silences independent media ahead of March 1 elections.
Daler Sharifov is ordered two months of pretrial detention since Tajik police raided the independent reporter’s home on January 28, confiscating a computer and books, and days later issuing a statement announcing charges of inciting ethnic, racial and religious hatred. The statement refers to “more than 200 articles and commentaries containing extremist content” he published between 2013 and 2019. CPJ calls this “a clear attempt to silence ahead of elections one of the few media critics that remain.” A guilty verdict could mean up to five years in prison.
3. Patricia Campos Mello (Brazil)
Politicians join in online sexual harassment to undermine journalist’s integrity.
A reporter for Brazil’s largest daily newspaper, Folha de S.Paulo, Patricia Campos Mello experiences ongoing harassment online in retaliation for her reporting. During a congressional hearing in Brasilia last month, an individual falsely accused Campos Mello of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for a “scoop.” Hundreds of Facebook and Twitter users, including the son of President Jair Bolsonaro, shared the allegations, many using sexual language. The allegations were later referenced by the president himself, whose 2018 presidential campaign backers distributed misinformation through WhatsApp to millions of Brazilians, Campos Mello reported.
4. Roohollah Zam (Iran)
Trial underway for anti-government journalist held in undisclosed location.
Intelligence agents of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps arrested Iranian journalist Roohollah Zam in October. Founder of anti-government Amad News, Zam had been living in France and, following his arrest in Baghdad, was extradited to Iran. He is accused of working with French, Israeli and U.S. intelligence agencies, amounting to 17 charges, including espionage and spreading false news, although the government has made his platforms almost completely inaccessible for more than two years. In February, at least three trial sessions were held in his case.
5. Agnes Ndirubusa and the team at Iwacu (Burundi)
Court delivers prison sentence and fines for Burundi’s only imprisoned journalists.
Following their October arrest, a Burundi court convicted four journalists on January 30 of attempting to undermine state security, fined them each $530, and sentenced them to two years and six months in prison. The four, who had been covering clashes in the country’s Bubanza Province and submitted their appeal on February 21, include Agnes Ndirubusa, head of the political desk at Iwacu, one of Burundi’s last independent outlets, and three colleagues: broadcast reporter Christine Kamikazi, English-language reporter Egide Harerimana and photojournalist Terence Mpozenzi.