17 journalists have been killed so far in 2012 and there are currently 179 journalists imprisoned around the world.
These numbers only begin to describe the risks faced by journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and others who dare bring to light uncomfortable truths that powerful interests would prefer to conceal. Most of those detained or killed were reporting on human rights failings in their country.
Today on World Press Freedom Day (May 3), here is a brief look at five countries where people risk much in the service of truth:
1. China: The escape from house arrest of blind activist Chen Guangchen put the spotlight on China’s deplorable human rights record this week. But the list of those jailed in China for calling attention to human rights is a long one. Journalist Shi Tao continues to serve 10 years in prison for sending an email describing government efforts to censor the media. Filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen has been imprisoned since 2008 for speaking out about Tibetan human rights through his filmmaking.
2. Ethiopia: In Ethiopia, news outlets are monitored closely by security agents, and freedom of expression has been criminalized. Journalists there are prosecuted and sentenced to long prison terms for covering issues that the government finds objectionable. Increasingly, the government has used anti-terrorism charges against journalists, as it did with imprisoned Woubshet Taye and Reyot Alemu.
3. Honduras: Writers and human rights defenders in Honduras have been threatened, attacked or killed because of their work. In 2012 alone, numerous journalists in Honduras have received threats, including Dina Meza. In April, she received text messages and phone calls threatening her with sexual violence. But Dina Meza refuses to back down saying “I have the obligation to make the truth known.”
4. Sri Lanka: Many people died in Sri Lanka’s long civil war, and journalists covering the war and its aftermath have also fallen victim to killings, imprisonment and enforced disappearance. Government officials have used state-controlled media to assail the country’s journalists as “traitors.” Journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, whose work was critical of the government, went missing after leaving work one day in 2010. His wife told the BBC that “he was abducted by people who did not like the truth.”
5. Turkmenistan: Radio Free Europe correspondent Olgusapar Muradova was arrested in Turkmenistan in 2006 for reporting about the country’s human rights record. Months later, she was dead, apparently the result of injuries she suffered in prison. Her colleagues Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadzhiev remain imprisoned, and the government of Turkmenistan continues to clamp down on independent voices.
These are just a few of the countries in which journalists face tremendous risks for carrying out their professional duties. For information on other countries, see the Committee to Protect Journalist’s new list of the 10 most censored countries, and check out the U.S. State Department’s current focus on endangered journalists.
Those who dare risk so much to speak truth to power deserve our support. Please take action today through Amnesty’s World Press Freedom action.
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