The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has this week launched a #FreeThePress campaign calling for the unconditional release of all journalists jailed worldwide to ensure their safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The CPJ has said that, for the past four years, its annual census has found a record high number of journalists in jail because of their work — at least 250. The World Health Organization has said prisoners are particularly vulnerable to the virus, as self-isolation in jail is impossible, and prisoners are routinely denied medical treatment.
To coincide with the launch of the campaign, CPJ has published a petition and an open letter to world leaders demanding the immediate release of imprisoned journalists. The campaign will feature video messages from formerly imprisoned journalists, it has said.
Joel Simon, CPJ’s Executive Director said that world leaders must act now to release jailed journalists.
He added: “CPJ has long held the view that jailing journalists for what they publish, broadcast, or write is a violation of international law but our current appeal is of a humanitarian nature. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly through prisons. We urge world leaders to take quick and decisive action to free all journalists behind bars, as a matter of life and death.”
The campaign, which will culminate on World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2020, comes after numerous reports that regimes worldwide are using the Covid-19 pandemic to clamp down on press freedoms. The Society of Editors has written to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab outlining the importance of governments worldwide working alongside the media to tackle the virus.
Amnesty International calls on Turkey to release jailed journalists
Amnesty International has called on the Turkish government to urgently release imprisoned journalists, human rights defenders and others, now at risk of Covid-19, in prison.
The human rights organisation has urged the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release journalists who have been charged or convicted simply for exercising their rights.
It said: “Thousands of people are behind bars for simply exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Now they are also faced with an unprecedented risk to their health. According to its commitments under international human rights law, Turkey is under a clear obligation to take necessary measures to ensure the right to health of all prisoners without discrimination.”