2011 prison census: 179 journalists jailed worldwide


Click on a country name to see summaries of individual cases.


Medium

You need to upgrade your Flash Player

Charges

You need to upgrade your Flash Player

Freelance / Staff

You need to upgrade your Flash Player
You need to upgrade your Flash Player

2013

2010

Azerbaijan: 1

Avaz Zeynally, Khural

Imprisoned: October 28, 2011

Authorities in Baku arrested Zeynally on bribery and extortion charges stemming from a complaint filed by Gyular Akhmedova, a member of parliament. Akhmedova alleged that the editor had tried to extort 10,000 manat (US$12,700) from her in an August encounter, news reports said. A Nasimi District Court judge ordered that Zeynally be held in pretrial detention for three months, the independent Caucasus news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. He faced up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

Zeynally denied the charges and described a much different encounter with Akhmedova. In September, Zeynally reported in Khural that Akhmedova had offered him money in exchange for his paper's loyalty to authorities. He said he had refused the offer.

Emin Huseynov, director of the Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, told CPJ that Zeynally's paper had criticized President Ilham Aliyev's repressive policies toward independent journalists and opposition activists. Before his arrest, Zeynally had published two commentaries in Khural that were especially critical of the administration. In the first, the editor disparaged comments made by Aliyev in a mid-October Al-Jazeera interview that painted a glowing picture of the country's development. In the second commentary, Zeynally accused the government of retaliatory prosecution against his newspaper, Huseynov told CPJ.

On October 19, the same day Akhmedova filed her complaint, court officers in Baku raided Khural's newsroom and confiscated all of its reporting equipment. The raid stemmed from a 2010 defamation lawsuit filed by two presidential administration officials over a story alleging corruption. Court officers said Zeynally had failed to pay 15,000 manat (US$19,000) in damages that a Baku court had imposed in the case earlier in 2011, Kavkazsky Uzel reported. Khural's website continued to operate, but the print edition ceased following Zeynally’s imprisonment and the police raid.

^ Show all country summaries

Bahrain: 1

Abduljalil Alsingace, freelance

Imprisoned: March 17, 2011

Alsingace, a journalistic blogger and human rights defender, was among a number of high-profile government critics arrested in March as the government renewed its crackdown on dissent.

In June, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for “plotting to topple the monarchy.” In all, 21 bloggers, human rights activists, and members of the political opposition were found guilty on similar charges and handed lengthy sentences. (Ali Abdel Imam, another journalistic blogger, was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was in hiding in late year.)

On his blog, Al-Faseela (Sapling), Alsingace wrote critically about human rights violations, sectarian discrimination, and repression of the political opposition. He also monitored human rights for the Shiite-dominated opposition Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy.

Alsingace had been arrested on antistate conspiracy charges in August 2010 as part of widespread reprisals against political dissidents. He was released in February 2011 as part of a government effort to appease a then-nascent protest movement.

^ Show all country summaries

Burma: 12

Ne Min (Win Shwe), freelance

Imprisoned: February 2004

Ne Min, a lawyer and a former stringer for the BBC, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on May 7, 2004. He was charged with illegally passing information to “anti-government” organizations operating in border areas, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma, a prisoner aid group based in Thailand.

It was the second time that Burma’s military government had imprisoned the well-known journalist, also known as Win Shwe, on charges related to disseminating information to news sources outside Burma. In 1989, a military tribunal sentenced Ne Min to 14 years of hard labor for “spreading false news and rumors to the BBC to fan further disturbances in the country” and “possession of documents including anti-government literature, which he planned to send to the BBC,” according to official radio reports. He served nine years at Rangoon’s Insein Prison before being released in 1998.

Exiled Burmese journalists told CPJ that Ne Min had provided news to political groups and exile-run news publications before his second arrest in February 2004.

Win Maw, Democratic Voice of Burma

Imprisoned: November 27, 2007

Military intelligence agents arrested Win Maw, an undercover reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma, an Oslo-based Burmese exile news organization, in a Rangoon tea shop shortly after he had visited an Internet café. He is serving a 17-year jail sentence on various charges related to his news reporting.

Authorities accused him of acting as the “mastermind” of DVB’s in-country news coverage of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a series of Buddhist monk-led protests against the government that was put down by lethal military force, according to DVB.

The front man for the well-known pop band Shwe Thanzin (Golden Melody), Win Maw started reporting for DVB in 2003, a year after he was released from a seven-year prison sentence for composing pro-democracy songs, according to DVB. His video reports often focused on the activities of opposition groups, including the 88 Generation Students group.

After being arrested in November 2007, Win Maw was sentenced in closed-court proceedings on November 11, 2008, to seven years in prison for penal code violations stemming from the possession of video and recording equipment, and the Immigration Act violations related to crossing the Burmese border without a valid passport.

In March 2009, he was sentenced to an additional 10 years for violations of the Electronics Act after police raided his house while he was in detention and uncovered a computer disk with information destined for DVB, the news organizations said. The charges also related to his sending letters to DVB from an Internet café. The 11 months he spent in prison awaiting trial were not counted toward his sentence, according to the Canadian human rights group Centre for Law and Democracy.

Win Maw was being held at the remote Thandwe Prison in Arakan state, nearly 600 miles from his Rangoon-based family. Family members said police had tortured him during interrogations and denied him adequate medical attention after breaking his nose, according to DVB.

Win Maw received the 2010 Kenji Nagai Memorial Award, an honor bestowed on Burmese journalists in memory of the Japanese photojournalist shot and killed by Burmese troops while covering the 2007 Saffron Revolution. The award was created by APF, a Japanese video news agency, and the Burma Media Association, an exile-run press freedom group.

Nay Phone Latt (Nay Myo Kyaw), freelance

Imprisoned: January 29, 2008

Nay Phone Latt, also known as Nay Myo Kyaw, wrote a blog and owned three Internet cafés in Rangoon. He was arrested under the 1950 Emergency Provision Act on national security-related charges, according to news reports. His blog posts provided breaking news updates on the military’s crackdown on the 2007 Saffron Revolution, and the reports were cited by a number of international news outlets, including the BBC. He also served as a youth member of the opposition National League for Democracy party, according to Reuters.

In July 2008, a court formally charged Nay Phone Latt with causing public offense and violating video and electronic laws when he posted caricatures of ruling generals on his blog, Reuters reported.

During closed judicial proceedings at Insein Prison on November 10, 2008, Nay Phone Latt was sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison, according to the Burma Media Association, a press freedom advocacy group, and news reports. He was transferred from Insein to Pa-an Prison in Karen state in late 2008, news reports said. The Rangoon Divisional Court later reduced the prison sentence to 12 years on appeal.

In 2010, he was honored with the prestigious PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award for his creative and courageous blog postings. At the New York ceremony honoring him, chairwoman Tina Brown read a statement that Nay Phone Latt managed to dispatch from prison: “This award is dedicated to all writing hands which are tightly restricted by the unfairness and are strongly eager for the freedom to write, all over the world.”

Zaw Thet Htwe, freelance

Imprisoned: June 13, 2008

Police arrested Rangoon-based freelance journalist Zaw Thet Htwe in the town of Minbu, where he was visiting his mother, Agence France-Presse reported. The sportswriter had been working with comedian-blogger Maung Thura in delivering aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis and videotaping the relief effort.

The journalist, who formerly edited the popular sports newspaper First Eleven, was indicted in a closed tribunal on August 7, 2008, and tried along with Maung Thura and two activists, AFP reported. The group faced multiple charges, including violating the Video and Electronics acts, disrupting public order, and engaging in unlawful association, news reports said. The Electronics Act allows for harsh prison sentences for anyone who uses electronic media to send information outside the country without government approval.

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma said police officials confiscated a computer and cell phone during a raid on Zaw Thet Htwe’s Rangoon home.

In November 2008, Zaw Thet Htwe was sentenced to a total of 19 years in prison, according to the exile-run Mizzima news agency. The Rangoon Divisional Court later reduced the term to 11 years, Mizzima reported. The journalist was serving his sentence in Taunggyi Prison in Shan state, nearly 400 miles from his home and family. Maung Thura, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison, was freed in an October 2011 amnesty of political prisoners.

Zaw Thet Htwe had been arrested before, in 2003, and given the death sentence for plotting to overthrow the government, news reports said. The sentence was later commuted to three years in prison, according to the exile-run news website The Irrawaddy. AFP reported that his 2003 arrest was related to a story about a misappropriated sports grant.

Thant Zin Aung, freelance

Imprisoned: June 13, 2008

Thant Zin Aung, an independent video journalist from Rangoon, was arrested as he was about to board a flight to Thailand with video footage showing the destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma. He was tried alongside journalists Maung Thura and Zaw Thet Htwe.

The trial, conducted inside Insein Prison, led to prison sentences in November 2008 that totaled 18 years. The sentence was reduced to 10 years on appeal. In 2011, Thant Zin Aung was being held in Pa-an Prison in the eastern state of Karen.

Thant Zin Aung was sentenced under the Television and Video Law, which prohibits copying or distributing video that is not approved by government censors, and the Electronics Act, which sets broad prohibitions against using technology for perceived “antistate” reasons.

Zaw Tun (Win Oo), freelance

Imprisoned: June 18, 2009

Zaw Tun, a freelance journalist and former chief reporter for the magazine The News Watch, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment after being arrested in June 2009, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma. At Bahan Township Court, he was charged with obstructing a public servant.

A security officer found Zaw Tun, also known as Win Oo, near the home of the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was then under house arrest. The officer arrested the journalist for purportedly responding impolitely to questions. In 2011, Zaw Tun was being held in Insein Prison.

Ngwe Soe Lin (Tun Kyaw), Democratic Voice of Burma

Imprisoned: June 26, 2009

Ngwe Soe Lin, an undercover video journalist with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was arrested after leaving an Internet café in the Tamwe Township of Rangoon, according to DVB. Before the journalist’s conviction, DVB had publicly referred to him only as “T.”

Ngwe Soe Lin was one of two cameramen who took video footage of children orphaned by the 2008 Cyclone Nargis disaster for a documentary titled, “Orphans of the Burmese Cyclone.” The film was recognized with a Rory Peck Award for best documentary in November 2009. DVB said that another video journalist, identified only as “Zoro,” went into hiding after Ngwe Soe Lin’s arrest.

On January 27, 2010, a special military court attached to Rangoon’s Insein Prison sentenced Ngwe Soe Lin, also known as Tun Kyaw, to 13 years in prison for sending video footage outside of the country to DVB in violation of the Electronics Act, and for attending a 2008 DVB training session in Thailand in violation of the Immigration Act, according to DVB.

The trial was closed to the public and no court documents of his conviction have been released, according to the Canada-based human rights group Centre for Law and Democracy. In 2011, Ngwe Soe Lin was being held in Lashio Prison.

Hla Hla Win, Democratic Voice of Burma
Myint Naing, freelance

Imprisoned: September 11, 2009

Hla Hla Win, an undercover reporter with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was arrested while on a reporting assignment in Pakokku Township, Magwe Division, where she had conducted interviews with Buddhist monks in a local monastery. Her assistant, Myint Naing, was also arrested, according to the independent Asian Human Rights Commission.

Hla Hla Win was working on a story for the second anniversary of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, in which Buddhist monk-led protests were put down by lethal military force, according to her DVB editors. In October 2009, a Pakokku Township court sentenced Hla Hla Win and Myint Naing to seven years in prison each on charges of using an illegally imported motorcycle in violation of the Import/Export Act, and not registering as guests in Pakokku in violation of the Cities Act.

After being interrogated in prison, Hla Hla Win was sentenced to an additional 20 years in prison on December 30, 2009, on charges of violating the Television and Video Act and Electronics Act. Myint Naing was sentenced to an additional 25 years under the Electronics Act, the Asian Human Rights Commission said. The act allows for harsh prison sentences for anyone who uses electronic media to send information outside the country without government approval.

Hla Hla Win first joined DVB as an undercover reporter in December 2008. According to her editors, she played an active role in covering issues considered sensitive to the government, including local reaction to the controversial 2009 trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma said that Hla Hla Win was not provided legal representation during the trial. The court refused to hear her appeal in April 2010, and her family members publicly disowned her because of her activities, the association said. She has been transferred to Katha Prison, which the Canadian human rights group Centre for Law and Democracy characterized as a labor prison.

In 2010, Hla Hla Win received the Kenji Nagai Memorial Award, an honor bestowed on Burmese journalists in memory of the Japanese photojournalist shot and killed by Burmese troops while covering the 2007 Saffron Revolution. The award was created by APF, a Japanese video news agency, and the Burma Media Association, an exile-run press freedom group.

An initial report that the media assistant Myint Naing was among those released in an October 2011 government amnesty proved not to be true.

Nyi Nyi Tun, Kandarawaddy

Imprisoned: October 14, 2009

A court attached to Rangoon’s Insein Prison sentenced Nyi Nyi Tun, editor of the Kandarawaddy, a news journal based in Karenni state, to 13 years in prison in October 2010, a year after his initial detention.

The court found Nyi Nyi Tun guilty of several antistate crimes, including violations of the Unlawful Association, Immigration, and Wireless acts, according to Mizzima, a Burmese exile-run news agency, and the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Nyi Nyi Tun was initially detained on terrorism charges in October 2009, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma, a Thailand-based advocacy organization. Authorities originally tried to connect him to a series of bomb blasts in Rangoon, but apparently dropped the allegations.

Nyi Nyi Tun told his family members that he had been tortured during his interrogation, Mizzima reported. The reported torture lasted for six days and included sodomy and repeated kicks to the head and face, according to the assistance association. Nyi Nyi Tun suffers from partial paralysis. He was among a group of 15 prisoners who staged a hunger strike in October 2011 to protest their continued detention.

After his arrest in 2009, Burmese authorities shut down Kandarawaddy, a local-language journal that operated out of the Kayah special region near the country’s eastern border, according to the Burma Media Association, a press freedom advocacy group.

Sithu Zeya, Democratic Voice of Burma

Imprisoned: April 15, 2010

Sithu Zeya, a video journalist with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was arrested while covering a grenade attack that left 10 dead and hundreds injured during the annual Buddhist New Year water festival in Rangoon, according to DVB. He was sentenced on two separate occasions to a total of 18 years in prison for his reporting activities.

On December 21, 2010, he was sentenced to eight years in prison under the Immigration and Unlawful Association acts on charges of illegally crossing the border and having ties to DVB.

DVB editors said Sithu Zeya was near the crowded area where the blast occurred and started filming the aftermath as authorities began to arrive on the scene. Authorities seized his laptop computer, video camera, and MP3 player, according to DVB. A police official, Khin Yi, said at a May 6, 2010, press conference that Sithu Zeya had been arrested for taking video footage of the attack.

On September 14, 2011, he was sentenced to an additional 10 years in prison under the Electronics Act. A Rangoon court ruled that his online activities threatened to “damage the tranquility and unity in the government,” according to international press reports.

His mother, Yee Yee Tint, told DVB after a prison visit in May 2010 that the journalist had been denied food and that the beatings he suffered during police interrogations had left him with a constant ringing in his ear. The Canada-based Centre for Law and Democracy said he was tortured in a variety of ways, including beatings on the soles of his feet, being hung upside down, and being forced to maintain stress positions. 

DVB Deputy Editor Khin Maung Win told CPJ that Sithu Zeya had been forced to reveal under torture that his father, Maung Maung Zeya, also served as an undercover DVB reporter. (Maung Maung Zeya was arrested two days later.) The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma reported that Sithu Zeya was placed in an isolation cell in January 2011 for failing to comply with prison regulations. He was taken out of the isolation cell every 15 minutes and forced to repeatedly squat and crawl as punishment, the assistance association said.

Both of his convictions were based solely on his forced confessions, without any independent corroborating evidence, the Centre for Law and Democracy said.

Maung Maung Zeya (Thargyi Zeya), Democratic Voice of Burma

Imprisoned: April 17, 2010

Maung Maung Zeya, an undercover reporter with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), was taken into custody two days after his son and fellow DVB journalist, Sithu Zeya, was arrested for filming the aftermath of a fatal bomb attack during a Buddhist New Year celebration, according to DVB. At the time of his arrest, authorities confiscated many of his personal belongings, claiming they were tools for illegal activities bought with funds supplied by illegal outside organizations, according to the Canada-based Centre for Law and Democracy. 

Maung Maung Zeya, also known as Thargyi Zeya, was sentenced on February 6, 2011, to 13 years under the Unlawful Association Act, Electronics Transactions Law, and Immigration Act. He was being held in 2011 in remote Hsipaw Prison, away from his son in Insein Prison and his Rangoon-based family, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma.

Maung Maung Zeya was first detained and interrogated at the Bahan Township police station in Rangoon and transferred on June 14, 2010, to Insein Prison. Maung Maung Zeya told a legal adviser that he was drugged during the initial days of his detention, according to the Centre for Law and Democracy.

DVB editors said Maung Maung Zeya was a senior member of its undercover team in Burma and was responsible for operational management, including assigning stories to other DVB journalists. DVB Deputy Editor Khin Maung Win told CPJ that authorities had offered to free Maung Maung Zeya if he divulged the names of other undercover DVB reporters.

^ Show all country summaries

Burundi: 1

Hassan Ruvakiki, Radio Bonesha

Imprisoned: November 28, 2011

National Intelligence Service agents arrested Ruvakiki, a reporter for the private broadcaster Radio Bonesha, as he covered a press conference in the capital, Bujumbura, during the Summit of Heads of States of the East African Community, according to local journalists.

Ruvakiki was held without access to legal counsel for two days before intelligence service spokesman Télésphore Bigiriman confirmed his arrest in an interview with Agence France-Presse, according to news reports. The journalist was interrogated about alleged interactions with the head of a rebel group, he told AFP. The arrest came amid a government clampdown on coverage of the group.

Radio Publique Africaine, another independent station, had recently aired an interview with Pierre Claver Kabirigi, a former police officer who claimed to head the newly formed rebel group Front for the Restoration of Democracy–Abanyagihugu, according to news reports. Other independent news outlets picked up the interview, prompting the government-controlled media regulatory agency to issue a directive forbidding coverage that “can undermine the security of the population,” according to news reports.

On November 30, a judge charged Ruvakiki with “participating in acts of terrorism,” according to news reports. Local journalists told CPJ they believed the charges against Ruvakiki were intended to intimidate critical news media. Ruvakiki was also a local correspondent for the Swahili service of the French government-funded Radio France Internationale.

^ Show all country summaries

China: 27

Huang Jinqiu (Qing Shuijun, Huang Jin), freelance

Imprisoned: September 13, 2003

Huang, a columnist for the U.S.-based website Boxun News, was arrested in Jiangsu province, and his family was not notified of his arrest for more than three months. On September 27, 2004, the Changzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him to 12 years in prison on charges of “subversion of state authority,” along with four years’ deprivation of political rights. The sentence was unusually harsh and appeared linked to his intention to form an opposition party.

Huang worked as a writer and editor in his native Shandong province, as well as in Guangdong province, before leaving China in 2000 to study journalism at the Central Academy of Art in Malaysia. While he was overseas, he began writing political commentary for Boxun News under the penname Qing Shuijun. He also wrote articles on arts and entertainment under the name Huang Jin. Huang’s writings reportedly caught the attention of the government in 2001. He told a friend that authorities had contacted his family to warn them about his writings, according to Boxun News.

In January 2003, Huang wrote in his online column that he intended to form a new opposition party, the China Patriot Democracy Party. When he returned to China in August 2003, he eluded public security agents just long enough to visit his family in Shandong province. In the last article he posted on Boxun News, titled “Me and My Public Security Friends,” he described being followed and harassed by security agents.

Huang’s appeal was rejected in December 2004. He was given a 22-month sentence reduction in July 2007, according to the U.S.-based prisoner advocacy group Dui Hua Foundation. The journalist, who suffered from arthritis, was serving his term in Pukou Prison in Jiangsu province. Boxun News reported in 2010 that he had been refused a request for bail on medical grounds.

Kong Youping, freelance

Imprisoned: December 13, 2003

Kong, an essayist and poet, was arrested in Anshan, Liaoning province. A former trade union official, he had written online articles that supported democratic reforms, appealed for the release of then-imprisoned Internet writer Liu Di, and called for a reversal of the government’s “counterrevolutionary” ruling on the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989.

Kong’s essays included an appeal to democracy activists in China that stated, “In order to work well for democracy, we need a well-organized, strong, powerful, and effective organization. Otherwise, a mainland democracy movement will accomplish nothing.” Several of his articles and poems were posted on the Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) website.

In 1998, Kong served time in prison after he became a member of the Liaoning province branch of the China Democracy Party (CDP), an opposition party. In 2004, he was tried on subversion charges along with co-defendant Ning Xianhua, who was accused of being vice chairman of the CDP branch in Liaoning, according to the U.S.-based advocacy organization Human Rights in China and court documents obtained by the U.S.-based Dui Hua Foundation. On September 16, 2004, the Shenyang Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Kong to 15 years in prison, plus four years’ deprivation of political rights. His sentence was reduced to 10 years on appeal, according to the Independent Chinese PEN Center.

Kong suffered from hypertension and was imprisoned in the city of Lingyuan, far from his family. The group reported that his eyesight was deteriorating. Ning, who received a 12-year sentence, was released ahead of schedule on December 15, 2010, according to Radio Free Asia.

Shi Tao, freelance

Imprisoned: November 24, 2004

Shi, former editorial director of the Changsha-based newspaper Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Trade News), was detained near his home in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, in November 2004.

He was formally charged with “providing state secrets to foreigners” by sending an email on his Yahoo account to the U.S.-based editor of the website Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum). In the email, sent anonymously in April 2004, Shi transmitted notes from the local propaganda department’s recent instructions to his newspaper. The directives prescribed coverage of the outlawed Falun Gong and the anniversary of the military crackdown on demonstrators at Tiananmen Square. The National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets retroactively certified the contents of the e-mail as classified, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

On April 27, 2005, the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court found Shi guilty and sentenced him to a 10-year prison term. In June of that year, the Hunan Province High People’s Court rejected his appeal without granting a hearing.

Court documents in the case revealed that Yahoo had supplied information to Chinese authorities that helped them identify Shi as the sender of the email. Yahoo’s participation in the identification of Shi and other jailed dissidents raised questions about the role that international Internet companies play in the repression of online speech in China and elsewhere.

In November 2005, CPJ honored Shi with its annual International Press Freedom Award for his courage in defending the ideals of free expression. In November 2007, members of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs rebuked Yahoo executives for their role in the case and for wrongly testifying in earlier hearings that the company did not know the Chinese government’s intentions when it sought Shi’s account information.

Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft later joined with human rights organizations, academics, and investors to form the Global Network Initiative, which adopted a set of principles to protect online privacy and free expression in October 2008.

Human Rights Watch awarded Shi a Hellman/Hammett grant for persecuted writers in October 2009.

Zheng Yichun, freelance

Imprisoned: December 3, 2004

Zheng, a former professor, was a regular contributor to overseas news websites, including the U.S.-based Epoch Times, which is affiliated with the banned religious movement Falun Gong. He wrote a series of editorials that directly criticized the Communist Party and its control of the media.

Because of police warnings, Zheng’s family remained silent about his detention in Yingkou, Liaoning province, until state media reported that he had been arrested on suspicion of inciting subversion. Zheng was initially tried by the Yingkou Intermediate People’s Court on April 26, 2005. No verdict was announced and, on July 21, he was tried again on the same charges. As in the April 26 trial, proceedings lasted just three hours. Though officially “open” to the public, the courtroom was closed to all observers except close family members and government officials. Zheng’s supporters and a journalist were prevented from entering, according to a local source.

Prosecutors cited dozens of articles written by the journalist and listed the titles of several essays in which he called for political reform, increased capitalism in China, and an end to the practice of imprisoning writers. On September 20, 2005, the court sentenced Zheng to seven years in prison, to be followed by three years’ deprivation of political rights.

Sources familiar with the case believe that Zheng’s harsh sentence may be linked to Chinese leaders’ objections to the Epoch Times series “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party,” which called the Chinese Communist Party an “evil cult” with a “history of killings” and predicted its demise.

Zheng is diabetic, and his health declined after his imprisonment. After his first appeal was rejected, he intended to pursue an appeal in a higher court, but his defense lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, was himself imprisoned in August 2006. Zheng’s family was unable to find another lawyer willing to take the case.

In summer 2008, prison authorities at Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning informed Zheng’s family that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage and received urgent treatment in prison. However, no lawyer would agree to represent Zheng in an appeal for medical parole, according to Zheng Xiaochun, the journalist’s brother, who spoke with CPJ by telephone.

Yang Tongyan (Yang Tianshui), freelance

Imprisoned: December 23, 2005

Yang, commonly known by his penname, Yang Tianshui, was detained along with a friend in Nanjing, eastern China. He was tried on charges of “subverting state authority,” and on May 17, 2006, the Zhenjiang Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

Yang was a well-known writer and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. He was a frequent contributor to U.S.-based websites banned in China, including Boxun News and Epoch Times. He often wrote critically about the ruling Communist Party, and he advocated for the release of jailed Internet writers.

According to the verdict in Yang’s case, which was translated into English by the U.S.-based Dui Hua Foundation, the harsh sentence against him was related to a fictitious online election, established by overseas Chinese citizens, for a “democratic Chinese transitional government.” His colleagues say that without his prior knowledge, he was elected to the leadership of the fictional government. He later wrote an article in Epoch Times in support of the model.

Prosecutors also accused Yang of transferring money from overseas to Wang Wenjiang, who had been convicted of endangering state security. Yang’s defense lawyer argued that this money was humanitarian assistance to the family of a jailed dissident and should not have constituted a criminal act.

Believing that the proceedings were fundamentally unjust, Yang did not appeal. He had already spent 10 years in prison for his opposition to the military crackdown on demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

In June 2008, Shandong provincial authorities refused to renew the law license of Yang’s lawyer, press freedom advocate Li Jianqiang. In 2008, the PEN American Center announced that Yang was a recipient of the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.

Qi Chonghuai, freelance

Imprisoned: June 25, 2007

Qi and a colleague, Ma Shiping, criticized a local official in Shandong province in an article published June 8, 2007, on the website of the U.S.-based Epoch Times, according to Qi’s lawyer, Li Xiongbing. On June 14, the two posted photographs on Xinhua news agency’s anticorruption Web forum showing a luxurious government building in the city of Tengzhou.

Police in Tengzhou detained Ma on June 16 on charges of carrying a false press card. Qi, a journalist of 13 years, was arrested in his home in Jinan, the provincial capital, more than a week later, and charged with fraud and extortion, Li said. Qi was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison on May 13, 2008.

Qi was accused of taking money from local officials while reporting several stories, a charge he denied. The people from whom he was accused of extorting money were local officials threatened by his reporting, Li said. Qi told his lawyer and his wife, Jiao Xia, that police beat him during questioning on August 13, 2007, and again during a break in his trial. Qi was being held in Tengzhou Prison, a four-hour trip from his family’s home, which limited visits.

Ma, a freelance photographer, was sentenced in late 2007 to one and a half years in prison. He was released in 2009, according to Jiao Xia.

Qi was scheduled for release in 2011. In May, local authorities informed Qi that the court had received new evidence against him. On June 9, less than three weeks before the end of his term, a Shandong provincial court sentenced him to another eight years in jail, according to the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights in China and Radio Free Asia.

Human Rights in China, citing an online article by defense lawyer Li Xiaoyuan, said the court tried Qi on a new count of stealing advertising revenue from a former employer, China Security Produce News. The journalist’s supporters speculated that the new charge came in reprisal for Qi’s statements to his jailers that he would continue reporting after his release, according to The New York Times.

Dhondup Wangchen, Filming for Tibet

Imprisoned: March 26, 2008

Police in Tongde, Qinghai province, arrested Wangchen, a Tibetan documentary filmmaker, shortly after he sent footage filmed in Tibet to colleagues, according to the production company, Filming for Tibet. A 25-minute film titled “Jigdrel” (Leaving Fear Behind) was produced from the tapes. Wangchen’s assistant, Jigme Gyatso, was also arrested, once in March 2008 and again in March 2009, after speaking out about his treatment in prison, Filming for Tibet said.

Filming for Tibet was founded in Switzerland by Gyaljong Tsetrin, a relative of Wangchen, who left Tibet in 2002 but maintained contact with people there. Tsetrin told CPJ that he had spoken to Wangchen on March 25, 2008, but that he had lost contact after that. He learned of the detention only later, after speaking by telephone with relatives.

Filming for the documentary was completed shortly before peaceful protests against Chinese rule of Tibet deteriorated into riots in Lhasa and in Tibetan areas of China in March 2008. The filmmakers had gone to Tibet to ask ordinary people about their lives under Chinese rule in the run-up to the Olympics.

The arrests were first publicized when the documentary was screened in August 2008 before a small group of foreign reporters in a hotel room in Beijing on August 6. A second screening was interrupted by hotel management, according to Reuters.

Officials in Xining, Qinghai province, charged the filmmaker with inciting separatism and replaced the Tibetan’s own lawyer with a government appointee in July 2009, according to international reports.

On December 28, 2009, the Xining Intermediate People’s Court in Qinghai sentenced Wangchen to six years' imprisonment on subversion charges, according to a statement issued by his family.

Wangchen was born in Qinghai but moved to Lhasa as a young man, according to his published biography. He had recently relocated with his wife, Lhamo Tso, and four children to Dharamsala, India, before returning to Tibet to begin filming, according to a report published in October 2008 by the South China Morning Post. Lhamo Tso told Radio Netherlands Worldwide in 2011 that her husband was working extremely long hours in prison and had contracted hepatitis B.

Tsetrin told CPJ that Wangchen’s assistant, Gyatso, was arrested on March 23, 2008. Gyatso, released on October 15, 2008, later described having been brutally beaten by interrogators during his seven months in detention, according to Filming for Tibet. The Dharamsala-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported that Gyatso was rearrested in March 2009 and released the next month.

Liu Xiaobo, freelance

Imprisoned: December 8, 2008

Liu, a longtime advocate for political reform and the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was imprisoned for “inciting subversion” through his writing.

Liu was an author of Charter 08, a document promoting universal values, human rights, and democratic reform in China, and was among its 300 original signatories. He was detained in Beijing shortly before the charter was officially released, according to international news reports.

Liu was formally charged with subversion in June 2009, and he was tried in the Beijing Number 1 Intermediate Court in December of that year. Diplomats from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Sweden were denied access to the trial, the BBC reported. On December 25, 2009, the court convicted Liu of “inciting subversion” and sentenced him to 11 years in prison and two years’ deprivation of political rights.

The verdict cited several articles Liu had posted on overseas websites, including the BBC’s Chinese-language site and the U.S.-based websites Epoch Times and Observe China, all of which had criticized Communist Party rule. Six articles were named—including pieces headlined, “So the Chinese people only deserve ‘one-party participatory democracy?’” and “Changing the regime by changing society”—as evidence that Liu had incited subversion. Liu’s income was generated by his writing, his wife told the court.

The court verdict cited Liu’s authorship and distribution of Charter 08 as further evidence of subversion. The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court upheld the verdict in February 2010.

In October 2010, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded Liu its 2010 Peace Prize “for his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” His wife, Liu Xia, was kept under tight surveillance following the award, according to international news reports.

Liu was allowed to attend a memorial service for his father in September 2011, international news reports said.

Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang, Chomei

Imprisoned: February 26, 2009

Public security officials arrested Kunchok Tsephel, an online writer, in Gannan, a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the south of Gansu province, according to Tibetan rights groups. Kunchok Tsephel ran the Tibetan cultural issues website Chomei, according to the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. Kate Saunders, U.K. communications director for the International Campaign for Tibet, told CPJ by telephone from New Delhi that she learned of his arrest from two sources.

The detention appeared to be part of a wave of arrests of writers and intellectuals in advance of the 50th anniversary of the March 1959 uprising preceding the Dalai Lama’s departure from Tibet. The 2008 anniversary had provoked ethnic rioting in Tibetan areas, and foreign reporters were barred from the region.

In November 2009, a Gannan court sentenced Kunchok Tsephel to 15 years in prison for disclosing state secrets, according to The Associated Press.

Kunga Tsayang (Gang-Nyi), freelance

Imprisoned: March 17, 2009

The Public Security Bureau arrested Kunga Tsayang during a late-night raid, according to the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, which said it had received the information from several sources.

An environmental activist and photographer who also wrote online articles under the penname Gang-Nyi (Sun of Snowland), Tsayang maintained his own website titled Zindris (Jottings) and contributed to others. He wrote several essays on politics in Tibet, including “Who Is the Real Instigator of Protests?” according to the New York-based advocacy group Students for a Free Tibet.

Kunga Tsayang was convicted of revealing state secrets and sentenced in November 2010 to five years in prison, according to the center. Sentencing was imposed during a closed-court proceeding in the Tibetan area of Gannan, Gansu province.

A number of Tibetans, including journalists, were arrested around the March 10 anniversary of the failed uprising in 1959 that prompted the Dalai Lama’s departure from Tibet. Security measures were heightened in the region in the aftermath of ethnic rioting in March 2008.

Tan Zuoren, freelance

Imprisoned: March 28, 2009

Tan, an environmentalist and activist, had been investigating the deaths of schoolchildren killed in the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province when he was detained in Chengdu. Tan, believing that shoddy school construction contributed to the high death toll, had intended to publish the results of his investigation ahead of the first anniversary of the earthquake, according to international news reports.

His supporters believe Tan was detained because of his investigation, although the formal charges did not cite his earthquake reporting. Instead, he was charged with “inciting subversion” for writings posted on overseas websites that criticized the military crackdown on demonstrators at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

In particular, authorities cited “1989: A Witness to the Final Beauty,” a firsthand account of the Tiananmen crackdown published on overseas websites in 2007, according to court documents. Several witnesses, including the prominent artist Ai Weiwei, were detained and blocked from testifying on Tan’s behalf at his August 2009 trial.

On February 9, 2010, Tan was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, according to international news reports. On June 9, 2010, the Sichuan Provincial High People’s Court rejected his appeal. Tan’s wife, Wang Qinghua, told reporters in Hong Kong and overseas that he had contracted gout and was not receiving sufficient medical attention.

Memetjan Abdulla, freelance

Imprisoned: July 2009

Abdulla, editor of the state-run China National Radio’s Uighur service, was detained in July 2009 for allegedly instigating ethnic rioting in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region through postings on the Uighur-language website Salkin, which he managed in his spare time, according to international news reports. A court in the regional capital, Urumqi, sentenced him to life imprisonment on April 1, 2010, the reports said. The exact charges against Abdulla were not disclosed.

The U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia reported on the sentence in December 2010, citing an unnamed witness at the trial. Abdulla was targeted for talking to foreign journalists in Beijing about the riots, and translating articles on the Salkin website, RFA reported. The Germany-based World Uyghur Congress confirmed the sentence with sources in the region, according to The New York Times.   

Tursunjan Hezim, Orkhun

Imprisoned: July 2009

Details of Hezim’s arrest following 2009 ethnic unrest in northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region first emerged in March 2011. Police in Xinjiang detained foreign journalists and severely restricted Internet access for several months after rioting broke out on July 5, 2009, in Urumqi, the regional capital, between groups of Han Chinese and the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority.

The U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA), citing an anonymous source, reported that a court in the region’s far western district of Aksu had sentenced Hezim along with other journalists and dissidents in July 2010. Several other Uighur website managers received heavy prison terms for posting articles and discussions about the previous year’s violence, according to CPJ research.

Hezim edited a well-known Uighur website, Orkhun. U.S.-based Uighur scholar Erkin Sidick told CPJ that the editor’s whereabouts had been unknown from the time of the rioting until news of the conviction surfaced in 2011. Hezim was sentenced to seven years in prison on unknown charges in a trial closed to observers, according to Sidick, who had learned the news by telephone from his native Aksu, and RFA. Chinese authorities frequently restrict information on sensitive trials, particularly those involving ethnic minorities, according to CPJ research.

Gulmire Imin, freelance

Imprisoned: July or August 2009

Imin was one of several administrators of Uighur-language Web forums who were arrested after July 2009 riots in Urumqi, in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. In August 2010, Imin was sentenced to life in prison on charges of separatism, leaking state secrets, and organizing an illegal demonstration, a witness to her trial told the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia.

Imin held a local government post in Urumqi. As a sidelight, she contributed poetry and short stories to the cultural website Salkin, and had been invited to moderate the site in late spring 2009, her husband, Behtiyar Omer, told CPJ.

Authorities accused Imin of being an organizer of major demonstrations on July 5, 2009, and of using the Uighur-language website to distribute information about the event, RFA reported. Imin had been critical of the government in her online writings, readers of the website told RFA. The website was shut down after the July riots and its contents were deleted.

She was also accused of leaking state secrets by phone to her husband, who lives in Norway. Her husband told CPJ that he had called her on July 5 only to be sure she was safe.

The riots, which began as a protest of the death of Uighur migrant workers in Guangdong province, turned violent and resulted in the deaths of 200 people, according to the official Chinese government count. Chinese authorities shut down the Internet in Xinjiang for months after the riots as hundreds of protesters were arrested, according to international human rights organizations and local and international media reports.

Nijat Azat, Shabnam
Nureli, Salkin

Imprisoned: July or August 2009

Authorities imprisoned Nureli, who goes by one name, and Azat in an apparent crackdown on Uighur-language website managers. Azat was sentenced to 10 years and Nureli three years on charges of endangering state security, according to international news reports. The precise dates of their arrests and convictions were not clear.

Their sites, which have been shut down by the government, had run news articles and discussion groups concerning Uighur issues. The New York Times cited friends and family members of the men who said they were prosecuted because they had failed to respond quickly enough when they were ordered to delete content that discussed the difficulties of life in Xinjiang. Their whereabouts were unknown in late 2011.

Dilixiati Paerhati, Diyarim

Imprisoned: August 7, 2009

Paerhati, who edited the popular Uighur-language website Diyarim, was one of several online forum administrators arrested after ethnic violence in Urumqi in July 2009. Paerhati was sentenced to a five-year prison term in July 2010 on charges of endangering state security, according to international news reports.

He was detained and interrogated about riots in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on July 24, 2009, but released without charge after eight days. Agents seized Paerhati from his apartment again on August 7, 2009, although the government issued no formal notice of arrest, his U.K.-based brother, Dilimulati, told Amnesty International. News reports, citing his brother, said Paerhati was prosecuted for failing to comply with an official order to delete anti-government comments on the website.

Gheyrat Niyaz (Hailaite Niyazi), Uighurbiz

Imprisoned: October 1, 2009

Security officials arrested website manager Niyaz, sometimes referred to as Hailaite Niyazi, in his home in the regional capital, Urumqi, according to international news reports. He was convicted under sweeping charges of “endangering state security” and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

According to international media reports, Niyaz was punished because of an August 2, 2009, interview with Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly), a Chinese-language magazine based in Hong Kong. In the interview, Niyaz said authorities had not taken steps to prevent violence in the July 2009 ethnic unrest that broke out in China’s far-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Niyaz, who once worked for the state newspapers Xinjiang Legal News and Xinjiang Economic Daily, also managed and edited the website Uighurbiz until June 2009. A statement posted on the website quoted Niyaz’s wife as saying that while he did give interviews to foreign media, he had no malicious intentions.

Authorities blamed local and international Uighur sites for fueling the violence between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang region. Uighurbiz founder Ilham Tohti was questioned about the contents of the site and detained for more than six weeks, according to international news reports.

Tashi Rabten, freelance

Imprisoned: April 6, 2010

Public security officials detained Tashi Rabten for publishing a banned magazine and a collection of articles, according to Phayul, a pro-Tibetan independence news website based in New Delhi.

Tashi Rabten, a student at Northwest Minorities University in Lanzhou, Gansu province, edited the magazine Shar Dungri (Eastern Snow Mountain) in the aftermath of ethnic rioting in Tibet in March 2008. The magazine was banned by local authorities, according to the International Campaign for Tibet. The journalist later self-published a collection of articles titled Written in Blood, saying in the introduction that “after an especially intense year of the usual soul-destroying events, something had to be said,” the campaign reported.

The book and the magazine discussed democracy and recent anti-China protests; the book was banned after he had distributed 400 copies, according to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA). Tashi Rabten had already been detained once before, in 2009, according to international Tibetan rights groups and RFA.

A court in Aba prefecture, a predominantly Tibetan area of Sichuan province, sentenced him to four years in prison in a closed-door trial on June 2, 2011, according to RFA and the International Campaign for Tibet. RFA cited a family member saying he had been charged with separatism, although CPJ could not independently confirm the charge.

Dokru Tsultrim (Zhuori Cicheng), freelance

Imprisoned: May 24, 2010

A monk at Ngaba Gomang Monastery in western Sichuan province, Dokru Tsultrim was detained in April 2009 for alleged anti-government writings and articles in support of the Dalai Lama, according to the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy and the International Campaign for Tibet. Released after a month in custody, he was detained again in May 2010, according to the Dharamsala-based Tibet Post International. No formal charges or trial proceedings were disclosed.

At the time of his 2010 arrest, security officials raided his room at the monastery, confiscated documents, and demanded his laptop, a relative told The Tibet Post International. He and a friend had planned to publish the writings of Tibetan youths detailing an April 2010 earthquake in Qinghai province, the relative said.

Dokru Tsultrim, originally from Qinghai province, which is on the Tibetan plateau, also managed a private Tibetan journal, Khawai Tsesok (Life of Snow), which ceased publication after his 2009 arrest, the center said. “Zhuori Cicheng” is the Chinese transliteration of his name, according to Tashi Choephel Jamatsang at the center, who provided CPJ with details by email.

Liu Xianbin, freelance

Imprisoned: June 28, 2010

A court in western Sichuan province sentenced Liu Xianbin to 10 years in prison on charges of inciting subversion through articles published on overseas websites between April 2009 and February 2010, according to international news reports. One was titled “Constitutional Democracy for China: Escaping Eastern Autocracy,” according to the BBC.

The sentence was unusually harsh; inciting subversion normally carries a maximum five-year penalty, international news reports said. Liu also signed Liu Xiaobo’s pro-democracy Charter 08 petition. (Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his actions, is serving an 11-year term on the same charge.)

Police detained Liu Xianbin on June 28, 2010, according to the Washington-based prisoner rights group Laogai Foundation. His sentencing in 2011 came during a crackdown on bloggers and activists who sought to organize demonstrations inspired by uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, according to CPJ research.

Liu spent more than two years in prison for involvement in the 1989 anti-government protests in Tiananmen Square. He later served 10 years of a 13-year prison sentence handed down in 1999 after he had founded a branch of the China Democracy Party, according to The New York Times.

Buddha, freelance
Jangtse Donkho (Nyen, Rongke), freelance
Kalsang Jinpa (Garmi) freelance

Imprisoned: June and July 2010

The three men, contributors to the banned Tibetan-language magazine Shar Dungri (Eastern Snow Mountain), were detained in Aba, a Tibetan area in southwestern Sichuan province, the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.

Jangtse Donkho, an author and editor who wrote under the penname Nyen, meaning "Wild One," was detained on June 21, 2010, RFA reported. The name on his official ID is Rongke, according to the International Campaign for Tibet. Many Tibetans use only one name.

Buddha, a practicing physician, was detained on June 26 at the hospital where he worked in the town of Aba. Kalsang Jinpa, who wrote under the penname Garmi, meaning "Blacksmith," was detained on June 19, RFA reported, citing local sources.

On October 21, 2010, they were tried together in the Aba Intermediate Court on charges of inciting separatism that were based on articles they had written in the aftermath of the March 2008 ethnic rioting. RFA, citing an unnamed source in Tibet, reported that the court later sentenced Jangtse Donkho and Buddha to four years' imprisonment apiece and Kalsang Jinpa to three years. In January 2011, the broadcaster reported the three had been placed at the Mian Yang jail near the Sichuan capital, Chengdu, where they were subjected to hard labor.

Shar Dungri was a collection of essays published in July 2008 and distributed in western China before authorities banned the publication, according to the advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet, which translated the journal. The writers assailed Chinese human rights abuses against Tibetans, lamented a history of repression, and questioned official media accounts of the March 2008 unrest.

Buddha’s essay, “Hindsight and Reflection,” was presented as part of the prosecution, RFA reported. According to a translation of the essay by the International Campaign for Tibet, Buddha wrote: “If development means even the slightest difference between today’s standards and the living conditions of half a century ago, why the disparity between the pace of construction and progress in Tibet and in mainland China?”

The editor of Shar Dungri, Tashi Rabten, was also jailed in 2010.

Jolep Dawa, Durab Kyi Nga

Imprisoned: October 1, 2010

A court in Aba in southwestern Sichuan province sentenced Jolep Dawa, a Tibetan writer and editor, to three years in prison in October 2011, according to U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia and the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

He had been held in detention without trial since October 1, 2010, the organizations said. The exact date of the sentencing was not reported, and the charges against the writer were not disclosed. Jolep Dawa, who is also a teacher, edited a monthly Tibetan-language magazine, Durab Kyi Nga, according to the broadcaster and the rights group.

Chen Wei, freelance

Imprisoned: February 20, 2011

Police in Suining city, Sichuan, detained Chen among the dozens of lawyers, writers, and activists jailed nationwide following anonymous online calls for a nonviolent “Jasmine Revolution” in China, according to international news reports. The Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders reported that Chen was formally charged on March 28 with inciting subversion of state power. 

Chen’s lawyer, Zheng Jianwei, made repeated attempts to visit him but was not allowed access until September 8, according to the rights group and the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia. RFA reported that police had selected four pro-democracy articles Chen had written for overseas websites as the basis for criminal prosecution. In December, a court in Suining sentenced Chen to nine years in prison on charges of "inciting subversion," a term viewed as unusually harsh.

One other writer detained following the “Jasmine Revolution,” Ran Yunfei, was also indicted on subversion charges but was released in August. He and several others remained under restrictive residential surveillance, according to CPJ research. Chinese Human Rights Defenders reported that at least two other activists remained in criminal detention for transmitting information online related to the protests. Chen’s case, however, was the only one linked in public reports to independent journalistic writing.

Chen, a student protester during the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, had been imprisoned twice before for democracy activism, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders. 

Choepa Lugyal (Meycheh), freelance

Imprisoned: October 19, 2011

Security officials detained Choepa Lugyal, a publishing house employee who wrote online under the name Meycheh, at his home in Gansu province on October 19, according to the Beijing-based Tibetan commentator Woeser and the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, which is based in India. Choepa Lugyal wrote several print and online articles, including pieces for the Tibetan magazine Shar Dungri, according to the center.

Chinese authorities banned Shar Dungri, which was published in the aftermath of 2008 ethnic unrest between Tibetans and Han Chinese, and jailed several contributors, including Buddha, Jangtse Donkho, and Kalsang Jinpa. Editor Tashi Rabten was sentenced in July 2011 to four years in prison on charges described by family members as separatism-related.

^ Show all country summaries

Egypt: 2

Maikel Nabil Sanad, freelance

Imprisoned: March 28, 2011

Police arrested Sanad, a political blogger and activist, after he wrote an article criticizing the military’s performance and lack of transparency before and after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, according to news accounts. Sanad, who maintained his own blog, Ibn Ra, also described being tortured by the military during a previous detention.

On April 10, a military court in Cairo sentenced Sanad to three years in prison for “insulting the military,” defense lawyer Ali Atef told CPJ. After Sanad appealed and was granted a retrial, a court sentenced him in December to two years on the same charge.

Sanad waged a hunger strike in August to protest his continued imprisonment and mistreatment by military prison guards, his brother, Marc, told CPJ.

Alaa Abd el-Fattah, freelance

Imprisoned: October 30, 2011

Military prosecutors summoned Abd el-Fattah, a prominent journalistic blogger, for questioning in connection with his critical coverage of the October 9 clashes between troops and Coptic Christian protesters that resulted in the deaths of at least 25 people, including journalist Wael Mikhael.

Abd el-Fattah, a critic of Egypt’s practice of subjecting civilians to military proceedings, objected to questioning by the military and demanded that any case against him be handled by civilian authorities. In response, the military prosecutor ordered he be detained for 15 days pending investigation, according to news reports. The same day, the prosecutor filed a series of antistate charges against him, including “inciting violence against the military.” His case was transferred to a civilian court in late November.

Abd el-Fattah and his wife and fellow blogger, Manal, had been critical of the military regime in articles posted to their blog, Manalaa. Abd El-Fattah also wrote an October 20 opinion piece in the independent daily Al-Shorouk in which he criticized the military’s investigation of the clashes with Coptic Christians, saying it could not conduct an impartial investigation into its own activities. The article detailed his view of the October 9 clashes and the two ensuing days he spent at the morgue, encouraging victims’ families to demand autopsy reports.

In 2006, Abd el-Fattah was detained for 45 days without charge after writing in support of reformist judges and better election monitoring.

^ Show all country summaries

Eritrea: 28

Said Abdelkader, Admas
Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Tsigenay
Amanuel Asrat, Zemen
Temesken Ghebreyesus, Keste Debena
Mattewos Habteab, Meqaleh
Dawit Habtemichael, Meqaleh
Medhanie Haile, Keste Debena
Seyoum Tsehaye, freelance

Imprisoned: September 2001

More than 10 years after imprisoning leading editors of Eritrea’s once-vibrant independent press and permanently banning their publications to silence growing criticism of President Isaias Afewerki, Eritrean authorities had yet to account for the whereabouts, health, or legal status of the journalists, some of whom may have died in secret detention.

The journalists were arrested without charge after the government suddenly announced on September 18, 2001, that it was closing the country’s independent newspapers. The papers had reported on divisions within the ruling Party for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) and advocated for full implementation of the country’s constitution. A dozen top officials and PFDJ reformers, whose pro-democracy statements had been covered by the independent newspapers, were also arrested.

Authorities initially held the journalists at a police station in the capital, Asmara, where they began a hunger strike on March 31, 2002, and smuggled a message out of jail demanding due process. The government responded by transferring them to secret locations without ever bringing them before a court or publicly registering charges.

Over the years, Eritrean officials have offered vague and inconsistent explanations for the arrests—from nebulous antistate conspiracies involving foreign intelligence to accusations of skirting military service or violating press regulations. Officials at times have even denied that the journalists existed. Meanwhile, shreds of often unverifiable, second- or third-hand information smuggled out of the country by people fleeing into exile have suggested the deaths of as many as five journalists in custody.

In February 2007, CPJ established that one detainee, Fesshaye “Joshua” Yohannes, a co-founder of Setit and a 2002 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award, had died in custody at the age of 47. Addressing reports of Yohannes’ death in an interview with the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Voice of America, Eritrean presidential spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel declared: “In the first place, I don’t know the person you’re talking about.”

CPJ is seeking corroboration of three reports suggesting the deaths of up to four other detained journalists. An unbylined report on the Ethiopian pro-government website Aigaforum in August 2006 quoted 14 purported guards from Eiraeiro Prison as citing the deaths of prisoners whose names closely resembled Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Medhanie Haile, and Said Abdelkader. The details could not be independently confirmed, although CPJ sources considered it to be generally credible. In 2009, the London-based Eritrean opposition news site Assena posted purportedly leaked death certificates of Yohannes, Ali, Haile, and Abdelkader. CPJ could not verify the authenticity of the documents. In 2010, Eritrean defector Eyob Habtemariam, who claimed to have been a prison guard, told the Ethiopian government-sponsored Radio Wegahta that Habteab had died along with the four others.

CPJ continues to seek confirmation of the reported deaths. It lists the journalists on the 2011 prison census as a means of holding the government accountable for their fates. Relatives of the journalists also told CPJ that they maintain hope their loved ones are still alive. 

Several CPJ sources say most of the journalists were being held in a secret prison camp called Eiraeiro, near the village of Gahtelay, and in a military prison, Adi Abeito, based in the capital, Asmara. Eritrean government officials in Asmara referred CPJ’s inquiries to the Eritrean Embassy in Washington. The embassy did not respond to CPJ’s requests for information.

Dawit Isaac, Setit

Imprisoned: September 23, 2001

Eritrea’s imprisonment of Isaac, a co-founder of Setit with dual Eritrean and Swedish citizenship, has drawn considerable international attention, particularly in 2011, on the 10th anniversary of his arrest.

Isaac has been held incommunicado except for brief contact with his family in 2005. Asked about Isaac’s crime in a May 2009 interview with Swedish freelance journalist Donald Boström, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki declared, “I don’t know,” but said the journalist had made “a big mistake,” without elaborating. In April 2010, Eyob Bahta Habtemariam, an Eritrean defector who claimed to have been a guard at two prisons northeast of Asmara, said Isaac was in poor health, according to media reports. In August 2010, Yemane Gebreab, a senior presidential adviser, declared in an interview with Swedish daily Aftonbladet that Isaac was held for “very serious crimes regarding Eritrea’s national security and survival as an independent state.” 

In July 2011, Isaac’s brother Esayas and three jurists—Jesús Alcalá, Prisca Orsonneau, and Percy Bratt—filed a writ of habeas corpus with Eritrea’s Supreme Court. The writ calls for information on the journalist’s whereabouts and a review of his detention.

On September 16 in Strasbourg, the European Parliament signaled a break from quiet diplomacy to secure Isaac’s release to public confrontation when it passed a strongly worded resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Isaac and other prisoners of conscience “who have been jailed simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression."

On the day marking the 10th anniversary of Isaac’s imprisonment, Nobel Prize laureates Mario Vargas Llosa and Herta Müller, as well as John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International, signed a statement calling on Sweden and the European Union to take a tougher approach toward Eritrea to secure Isaac’s release. In October, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers awarded Isaac its 50th anniversary Golden Pen of Freedom.

Hamid Mohammed Said, Eri-TV

Imprisoned: February 15, 2002

During a July 2002 fact-finding mission to the capital, Asmara, a CPJ delegation confirmed that Eritrean authorities had arrested three state media reporters in February 2002 as part of the government’s mass crackdown on the press, which began in September 2001. Reporters Saadia Ahmed and Saleh Aljezeeri were released, according to CPJ sources.

Sources told CPJ they believed Eri-TV reporter Said was still being held in an undisclosed location. The government has refused to respond to numerous inquiries from CPJ and other international organizations seeking information about the journalist’s whereabouts, health, and legal status.

Esmail Abd-el-Kader, Radio Bana
Ghirmai Abraham, Radio Bana
Issak Abraham, Radio Bana
Mohammed Dafla, Radio Bana
Araya Defoch, Radio Bana
Simon Elias, Radio Bana
Yirgalem Fesseha, Radio Bana
Biniam Ghirmay, Radio Bana
Mulubruhan Habtegebriel, Radio Bana
Bereket Misguina, Radio Bana
Mohammed Said Mohammed, Radio Bana
Meles Nguse, Radio Bana

Imprisoned: February 19, 2009

A U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks in November 2010 identified February 19, 2009, as the date Eritrean security forces raided the Education Ministry-sponsored station Radio Bana and arrested its entire staff.

The cable, by then-U.S. Ambassador Ronald McMullen and dated February 23, 2009, attributes the information to the deputy head of mission of the British Embassy in Asmara in connection with the detention of a British national who volunteered at the station. According to the cable, the volunteer reported being taken by security forces with the Radio Bana staff to an unknown location six miles (10 kilometers) north of Asmara and later separated from them. The volunteer was not interrogated and was released the next day. According to the cable, some staff members were released as well.

At least 12 journalists working for Radio Bana have been held incommunicado since, according to several CPJ sources. The reasons for the detentions are unclear, but CPJ sources say the journalists were either accused of providing technical assistance to two opposition radio stations broadcasting into the country from Ethiopia, or of taking part in a meeting in which detained journalist Meles Nguse spoke against the government. Their close collaboration with two British nationals on the production of educational programs may have also led to their arrests, according to the same sources.

Ghirmai Abraham had been producer of an arts program with government-controlled state radio Dimtsi Hafash, and Issak Abraham had produced a Sunday entertainment show on the same station. Issak Abraham and Habtegebriel, a reporter with state daily Hadas Eritrea, had co-authored a book of comedy. Misguina (also a film director and scriptwriter), Nguse (also a poet), and Fesseha (a poet as well) were columnists for Hadas Eritrea.

In 2011, based on new information obtained from recently escaped journalists, CPJ identified at least six imprisoned Radio Bana journalists that were previously not listed in the organization’s annual census. They are Mohammed, deputy director of the station, presenters Abd-el-Kader and Defoch, and producers Ghirmay, Elias, and Dafla.

None of the detainees’ whereabouts, health, or legal status had been disclosed by late year.

Habtemariam Negassi, Eri-TV

Imprisoned: January or February 2009

Negassi, a veteran cameraman and head of the English desk at the government-controlled broadcaster Eri-TV, was arrested around the same time as journalists from Radio Bana, according to CPJ sources. The reason for the arrest was unknown; no charges were publicly filed.

Eritrean authorities typically refuse to disclose even the most basic information about detainees, but CPJ continues to gather details from journalists who recently escaped the country. While the government’s motivation in imprisoning journalists is unknown in most cases, CPJ’s research has found that state media journalists work in a climate of intimidation, retaliation, and absolute control.

The Information Ministry employs some 100 journalists, many of them conscripts of the country’s mandatory national service, and hundreds of support staff, according to journalists in exile. Over the years, CPJ has documented a broad pattern in which Information Minister Ali Abdu has arbitrarily imprisoned journalists he suspects of being sources for diaspora news websites or of attempting to leave the country to escape the oppressive conditions. In this context of extreme repression, CPJ considers journalists attempting to escape the country or in contact with third parties abroad as struggling for press freedom.

Nebiel Edris, Dimtsi Hafash
Eyob Kessete, Dimtsi Hafash
Tesfalidet Mebrahtu, Dimtsi Hafash, Eri-TV
Mohamed Osman, Dimtsi Hafash
Ahmed Usman, Dimtsi Hafash

Imprisoned: February and March 2011

The government did not disclose why it arrested Kessete, a reporter for the Amharic-language service of government-controlled radio Dimtsi Hafash, but CPJ sources believe he was suspected of helping people escape the country.

Authorities had previously detained Kessete in early 2009 after he attempted to flee Eritrea himself. His family acted as his guarantor at that time, and he was released. His private website and email were searched by the government during the 2009 arrest, according to CPJ sources. His current location is unknown.

Authorities arrested Edris of the Arabic service of government-controlled Dimtsi Hafash, Usman of the Tigre service, and Osman of the Bilen-language service in February, according to CPJ sources. The reasons for the arrests were not disclosed.

Authorities imprisoned Mebrahtu, a prominent sports journalist with state-run radio Dimtsi Hafash and television Eri-TV, on suspicion of attempting to flee the country, according to CPJ sources. Mebrahtu is reportedly detained in either Mai Serwa or Adi Abeto prison.

While it is very difficult to obtain details from Eritrea, CPJ continues to gather information on the imprisoned from journalists who have recently escaped the country. The government’s motivation in imprisoning journalists is unknown in most cases, but CPJ’s research has found an environment in which state media journalists are under the absolute control of Information Minister Ali Abdu.

The ministry employs some 100 journalists, many of them conscripts under the country’s mandatory national service, and hundreds of support staff, according to journalists in exile. Former state media journalists told CPJ they worked under the close scrutiny and direction of Abdu and his censors, with no editorial freedom. “You’re given directives as to how you write. We had to inform Ali Abdu each time we want to interview someone, and we cannot proceed until he approves,” said one former senior journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to protect relatives still in Eritrea.

Over the years, CPJ has documented a broad pattern of intimidation in which Abdu has arbitrarily imprisoned journalists he suspects of being sources for opposition diaspora news websites or of attempting to leave the country to escape the oppressive conditions. For example, television presenter Paulos Kidane was among several journalists imprisoned in 2006 on suspicion of communicating with opposition websites abroad; he later died while attempting to flee the country. In this context of extreme repression, CPJ considers journalists attempting to escape the country or in contact with third parties abroad as struggling for press freedom.

^ Show all country summaries

Ethiopia: 7

Saleh Idris Gama, Eri-TV
Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi, Eri-TV

Imprisoned: December 2006

In 2011, the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi publicly addressed the detentions of Gama and Tesfazghi after years in which they refused to disclose information about the journalists’ whereabouts, legal status, or health. The two journalists from Eritrea’s state broadcaster Eri-TV were arrested in late 2006 at the Kenya-Somalia border during Ethiopia’s invasion of southern Somalia.

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry first disclosed the detention of Tesfazghi, a producer, and Gama, a cameraman, in April 2007, and presented them on state television as part of a group of 41 captured terrorism suspects, according to CPJ research. Though Eritrea often conscripted journalists into military service, the video did not present any evidence linking the journalists to military activity. The ministry pledged to subject some of the suspects to military trials, but did not identify them by name.

In a February 2011 interview with CPJ, Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti denied the journalists were in Ethiopian custody. “We don’t have two journalists in prison or detention here. We don’t know their whereabouts and I have no idea where they are,” he told CPJ. “In Ethiopia, we have freedom of press. It is simply malicious propaganda put forth by the Eritrean guys.”

However, in a September 2011 press conference with exiled Eritrean journalists in Addis Ababa, Zenawi declared that Gama and Tesfazghi would be freed if investigations determined they were not involved in any espionage activities, according to news reports and journalists who participated in the press conference. The whereabouts of the journalists were unknown.

Woubshet Taye, Awramba Times

Imprisoned: June 19, 2011

Police arrested Taye, deputy editor of the leading independent newspaper Awramba Times, after raiding his home in the capital, Addis Ababa, and confiscating documents, cameras, CDs, and selected copies of the newspaper, according to local journalists.

Shortly after Taye’s arrest, government spokesman Shimelis Kemal denied that Taye or any other journalist was in custody. “We have a law prohibiting pretrial detention of journalists. No arrest could be initiated on account of content,” he told CPJ. A week later, however, Kemal announced that Taye was among nine people arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks on infrastructure, telecommunications, and power lines in the country, with the support of an unnamed international terrorist group and Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea, according to news reports.

Authorities took Taye to the Maekelawi Federal Detention Center where he was held without charge for 81 days under a far-reaching anti-terrorism law, according to CPJ research.

On September 6, Taye was charged with terrorism without the presence of his lawyer, according to local journalists. CPJ believes the charges against Taye are false, politically motivated, and perpetuate a long and documented pattern of harassment over his critical coverage.

In November 2005, as a senior reporter with the now-banned private weekly Hadar, Taye was detained for a week in a crackdown on dissent and critical coverage of the government’s brutal response to protests over disputed elections, according to local journalists. In May 2010, a regulatory official threatened Taye, accusing him of “inciting and misguiding the public” over an editorial that raised questions about the lack of public enthusiasm for parliamentary elections in which the ruling party swept 99.6 percent of the seats, according to news reports. Prior to his arrest, Taye had written a column criticizing what he saw as the ruling party’s methods of weakening and dividing the media and the opposition, Taye’s editor, Dawit Kebede, told CPJ.

Taye was being held at Kality Prison in Addis Ababa in late year.

Reeyot Alemu, freelance

Imprisoned: June 21, 2011

Ethiopian security forces arrested Alemu, known for critical columns in the leading independent weekly Feteh, at an Addis Ababa high school where she taught English, according to news reports. Authorities raided Alemu’s home and seized documents and other materials before taking her into custody at the Maekelawi Federal Detention Center.

A week after Alemu’s arrest, Ethiopian government spokesman Shimelis Kemal announced that the journalist was among nine people arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks on infrastructure, telecommunications, and power lines in the country, with the support of an unnamed international terrorist group and Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea, according to news reports

Alemu was held without charge for 79 days under a far-reaching anti-terrorism law, and was charged on September 6 with terrorism, without the presence of her lawyer, according to local journalists.

CPJ believes the charges against Alemu are baseless and a reprisal for her critical coverage. In the last column before her arrest, Alemu criticized the ruling party’s alleged methods of coercion and compared Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to the late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, according to local journalists. Her newspaper has also faced government persecution for its coverage. Since its inception in 2008, authorities have questioned Feteh editor Temesghen Desalegn twice and filed 41 lawsuits against him, according to local journalists.

Alemu was being held at Kality Prison in Addis Ababa in late year.

Johan Persson, freelance
Martin Schibbye, freelance

Imprisoned: June 30, 2011

Ethiopian security forces detained Persson and Schibbye, freelancers with the Sweden-based photo agency Kontinent, in a shootout with rebels of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front, or ONLF. The journalists, who were slightly injured in the crossfire, had embedded with ONLF fighters after crossing into Ethiopia from neighboring Somalia.

The ONLF has been waging a low-level insurgency since 1984 in Ethiopia’s Somali-speaking, oil-rich Ogaden region; the Ethiopian government has banned independent media access to the area amid allegations of human rights abuses. The Ethiopian Parliament formally designated the ONLF a terrorist entity in May 2011 under a far-reaching anti-terrorism law. Under the law, journalists reporting statements or activities by terror-designated entities risk up to 20 years in prison if the government deems their coverage favorable to the groups.

Shortly after Persson and Schibbye’s arrests, Ethiopia’s government-controlled public broadcaster ERTA showed a video montage posted on the pro-government Ogaden website Cakaara News, presenting the journalists as accomplices to terrorists, according to CPJ research. Part of the footage appeared to have been shot by the journalists themselves, including clips showing them taking photos and interviewing people in refugee camps, and Persson handling an assault rifle. Other clips were shot by authorities after the arrests. “We came to the Ogaden region to do interviews with the ONLF,” Schibbye is heard saying, speaking under instructions while in custody.

Using a provision of the anti-terrorism law, which allows for extended detention without charge, Ethiopian public prosecutors held Persson and Schibbye without charge for 68 days, according to CPJ research. On September 6, Persson and Schibbye were taken to court and charged with terrorism, without the presence of their lawyers, Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Anders Jörle told CPJ.

In an October interview with Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the journalists “are, at the very least, messenger boys of a terrorist organization. They are not journalists.” He referenced the government-produced video released in July, saying, “We have video clippings of this journalist training with the rebels.” CPJ condemned the statements as predetermining the outcome of the journalists’ trial.

In October, Persson and Schibbye pleaded not guilty to charges of involvement in terrorist activities but acknowledged entering the country illegally, according to news reports. They were convicted on both charges in December and sentenced to 11 years in prison apiece.

Persson had done work for Kontinent for five years, covering dangerous assignments across the globe, including the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to colleague Jacob Zocherman. Schibbye, an experienced reporter, had written, among other things, a series of reports on human trafficking in Asia, Zocherman said.

Persson and Schibbye were being held at Kality Prison in Addis Ababa.

Eskinder Nega, freelance

Imprisoned: September 9, 2011

Ethiopian security forces arrested Nega, a prominent journalist, government critic, and dissident blogger, on accusations of involvement in a vague terrorism plot. Nega was taken to the Maekelawi Federal Detention Center and held under a provision of the anti-terrorism law that allows for extended detention without charge.

Shortly after Nega’s arrest, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front-controlled state television portrayed the journalist and four others arrested as “spies for foreign forces” and accused them of having links with the banned opposition movement Ginbot 7, which the Ethiopian government formally designated as a terrorist entity. In an interview with Agence France-Presse, government spokesman Shimelis Kemal accused the detainees of plotting “a series of terrorist acts that would likely wreak havoc.”

In November, a judge charged Nega with providing support to Ginbot 7, according to local journalists. Five exiled Ethiopian journalists were charged in absentia.

CPJ believes the charges against Nega are baseless and fall into a long and well-documented pattern of persecution of the journalist over his critical coverage of the government. In February, police arrested Nega as he exited a cybercafé; a deputy police commissioner threatened to jail him over his online columns comparing the uprising in Egypt with Ethiopia’s 2005 pro-democracy protests, according to news reports. Nega’s coverage of the government’s brutal repression of those protests had previously landed him in jail for 17 months on antistate charges. After his release, authorities banned his newspaper and denied him a license to start a new publication, while pursuing hefty fines against him, according to CPJ research.

Nega was being held at Kality Prison in Addis Ababa.  

^ Show all country summaries

Gambia: 1

“Chief” Ebrima Manneh, Daily Observer

Imprisoned: July 7, 2006

In 2011, the government’s justice minister publicly acknowledged knowing the condition of “Chief” Ebrima Manneh, a reporter with the pro-government Daily Observer who disappeared in state custody after his 2006 arrest by two plainclothes officers of the National Intelligence Agency. The reason for the arrest remained unclear, although some colleagues believe it was linked to his attempt to republish a BBC article critical of President Yahya Jammeh. 

Sketchy and conflicting details about Manneh’s whereabouts, health, and legal status have emerged over the years. Eyewitnesses reported seeing him in government custody in December 2006 and in July 2007, according to CPJ research. Agence France-Presse quoted an unnamed police official in 2009 as saying that Manneh had been spotted at Mile 2 Prison in 2008. But the official also speculated that Manneh was no longer alive, AFP reported.

In October 2011, Justice Minister Edward Gomez said in an interview with the local newspaper Daily News that Manneh was alive. “Chief Ebrima Manneh is alive, and we will talk about this case later,” Gomez told AFP in a subsequent interview. His comments contrasted with a series of government denials and obfuscations.

In a nationally televised meeting with local media representatives in March 2011, President Jammeh described Manneh as having died while denying any government involvement in the journalist’s fate. “Let me make it very clear that the government has nothing to do with the death of Chief Manneh,” he said. In July, national police spokesman Yorro Mballow told CPJ that police had no information about Manneh. In September, Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy told CPJ that the government did not arrest Manneh and that she had no knowledge of his whereabouts.

The Gambia has resisted international appeals to free Manneh by, among others, six U.S. senators, UNESCO, and the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States.

^ Show all country summaries

India: 2

Sudhir Dhawale, Vidrohi

Imprisoned: January 2, 2011

Dhawale, a Mumbai-based activist and journalist, wrote about human rights violations against Dalits in the Marathi-language Vidrohi, a monthly he founded and edited.

Police arrested Dhawale in the Wardha district of Maharashtra state, where he had traveled to attend a Dalit meeting, and charged him with sedition and involvement with a terrorist group under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, according to local and international news reports. They said a Maoist insurgent in custody had accused him of involvement in the banned organization’s war against the state in central tribal areas of India, according to The Wall Street Journal. Police also searched Dhawale’s home the following day, seizing books and a computer, the news reports said.

Dhawale’s supporters said he was detained because he was a critic of a state-supported, anti-Maoist militia active in Chhattisgarh state, a center of the civil violence between Maoists and the state. In a documentary on the case, Darshana Dhawale, the journalist’s wife, said police had accused her husband of supporting the Maoists in his writings. The makers of the film—titled “Sudhir Dhawale: Dissent = Sedition?”—also interviewed Anand Teltumbde of the Mumbai-based Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, who said Dhawale’s publication covered the Maoists but did not support them.

On January 20, police accused him of hanging Maoist posters in an unrelated case in Gondia district in December 2010. Authorities filed a new charge of waging war against the state, which carries a potential death penalty under the Indian penal code. His wife says he was in Mumbai, not Gondia, in December, according to local news reports. Dhawale was refused bail, and a trial date had yet to be scheduled as of late year.

Lingaram Kodopi, freelance

Imprisoned: September 10, 2011

Police said they arrested Kodopi in a public market in Dantewada district accepting a bribe from a representative of a steel company wanting to operate in a Maoist insurgent-controlled area, local news reports said. The journalist denied the charge and said that police had targeted him since he refused to work for them under a program to recruit tribal youths to defeat the insurgents, the New Delhi-based newsmagazine Tehelka reported.

Police accused Kodopi of being a “Maoist associate.” He was charged with antistate activities under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act, and the Indian penal code, Tehelka reported. He had not been brought to trial by late year, and the total penalty he faced was not clear.

Local human rights activists and journalists said authorities wanted to prevent Kodopi, 25, from publicizing the role of police in recent violence in the state. In April, the journalist documented the destruction of houses during an anti-Maoist police operation in three Dantewada district villages and “recorded on video precise narrations of police atrocities,” Tehelka reported. Himanshu Kumar, a local human rights activist, told the Indian Express that Kodopi had evidence of government involvement in burning down three villages.

Kodopi told journalists he had fled police harassment in 2010 to study journalism and work as a freelancer in New Delhi, the Indian Express reported. While he was there, police back in Dantewada accused him of being a senior Maoist commander and masterminding an attack against a politician in Chhattisgarh. Kodopi denied the accusations in a press conference in Delhi, the Indian Express said, and he was not taken into custody at the time.

Police in Dantewada would not explain whether Kodopi was believed to be a low-level Maoist “associate,” as alleged in the 2011 case, or a senior commander, as they said in 2010. "We are still ascertaining his role,” District Police Superintendent Ankit Garg told Tehelka.

^ Show all country summaries

Iran: 42

Adnan Hassanpour, Aso

Imprisoned: January 25, 2007

Security agents seized Hassanpour, former editor of the now-defunct Kurdish-Persian weekly Aso, in his hometown of Marivan, Kurdistan province, according to news reports.

In July 2007, a Revolutionary Court convicted Hassanpour on antistate charges and sentenced him to death. After a series of appeals and reversals, he was sentenced in May 2010 to 15 years in prison, defense lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told the Reporters and Human Rights Activists News Agency.

The government’s case against Hassanpour amounted to a series of assertions by security agents, defense attorney Sirvan Hosmandi told CPJ in 2008. Hassanpour’s sister, Lily, told CPJ that she believed his critical writings were behind the charges.

Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, Payam-e-Mardom

Imprisoned: July 1, 2007

Plainclothes security officials arrested journalist and human rights activist Kaboudvand at his Tehran office, according to Amnesty International and CPJ sources. He was being held at Evin Prison in Tehran.

Authorities accused Kaboudvand, head of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan and managing editor of the weekly Payam-e-Mardom, of acting against national security and engaging in propaganda against the state, according to his organization’s website. A Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

Kaboudvand, 48, was reported in ill health in 2011, but authorities refused requests for medical furlough, his wife, Farinaz Baghban Hassani, told the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz.

Based on their visits and consultation with a prison physician, family members believe Kaboudvand may have suffered a stroke while in custody, according to news accounts. Human Rights House of Iran reported in July 2010 that Kaboudvand suffered severe dizziness, disruption of his speech and vision, and disorders in his limb movements. At times, the journalist has been denied family visits and telephone calls with relatives, his wife told Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz.

The opposition website Daneshjoo News reported that Kaboudvand sent an October 6, 2011, letter to the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, describing violations of human rights in prison.

Mojtaba Lotfi, freelance

Imprisoned: October 8, 2008

A clergyman and blogger, Lotfi was arrested by security forces on a warrant issued by the religious Clergy Court in Qom. Authorities accused him of publishing the views of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the now-deceased cleric who had criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s positions.

Authorities did not specify articles or publications in which the views were supposedly cited. In November 2009, Lotfi was convicted of several charges, including spreading antistate information, and sentenced to four years in prison followed by a period of exile, according to online reports.

In July 2010, the Human Rights House of Iran reported that Lotfi had been transferred to the remote village of Ashtian for 10 years of enforced internal exile. Lotfi, an Iran-Iraq War veteran who was exposed to chemical agents, suffers from a respiratory illness which has worsened during his confinement, the reformist news website Norooz News reported.

Hossein Derakhshan, freelance

Imprisoned: November 2008

On December 30, 2008, a judiciary spokesman confirmed at a press conference in Tehran that Derakhshan, a well-known Iranian-Canadian blogger, had been detained since November 2008 in connection with comments he allegedly made about a key cleric, according to local and international news reports. The exact date of Derakhshan’s arrest is unknown, but word of his detention was first reported on November 17, 2008, by Jahan News, a website close to the Iranian intelligence service. The site claimed Derakhshan had confessed to “spying for Israel” during the preliminary interrogation.

Known as the “Blogfather” for his pioneering online work, Derakhshan started blogging after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. A former writer for reformist newspapers, he also contributed opinion pieces to The Guardian of London and The New York Times. The journalist, who lived in Canada during most of the decade prior to his detention, returned to Tehran a few weeks before his detention, The Washington Post reported. In November 2009, the BBC Persian service reported that Derakhshan’s family had sought information about his whereabouts and the charges he faced, and expressed concern about having very limited contact with him.

In September 2010, the government announced that Derakhshan had been sentenced to 19 and a half years in prison, along with a five-year ban on “membership in political parties and activities in the media,” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and other sources. Derakhshan has spent much of his imprisonment in solitary confinement at Evin Prison, according to multiple sources. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, citing a source close to the journalist’s family, said Derakhshan had been beaten and coerced into making false confessions about having ties to U.S. and Israeli intelligence services.

Ahmad Zaid-Abadi, freelance

Imprisoned: June 2009

Zaid-Abadi, who wrote a weekly column for Rooz Online, a Farsi- and English-language reformist news website, was arrested in Tehran, according to news reports. Zaid-Abadi had also been a supporter of the defeated 2009 presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi and had served as director of the politically active Organization of University Alumni of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

On November 23, 2009, Zaid-Abadi was sentenced to six years in prison, five years of internal exile in Khorasan province, and a “lifetime deprivation of any political activity” including “interviews, speeches, and analysis of events, whether in written or oral form,” according to the Persian service of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. An appeals court upheld the sentence on January 2, according to Advar News.

In February 2010, Zaid-Abadi and fellow journalist Massoud Bastani were transferred to Rajaee Shahr Prison, a facility known for housing people convicted of drug-related crimes. Zaid-Abadi’s wife, Mahdieh Mohammadi, said prison conditions were crowded and unsanitary, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported. She said she feared malnutrition and the spread of disease. In August 2011, Zaid-Abadi was granted a 48-hour furlough after posting bail of $500,000, the U.S. government-funded Radio Farda reported.

Kayvan Samimi, Nameh

Imprisoned: June 14, 2009

Samimi, manager of the now-defunct monthly Nameh, was serving a six-year prison sentence along with a 15-year ban on “political, social, and cultural activities,” the Aftab News website reported.

Initially held at Evin Prison, Samimi was subjected to mistreatment. In February 2010, he was transferred to solitary confinement after objecting to poor prison conditions, according to Free Iranian Journalists, a website devoted to documenting cases of jailed reporters and editors. He and 14 other prisoners later went on a 16-day hunger strike to protest abuse at the prison. In November 2010, Samimi was transferred to Rajaee Shah Prison in Karaj, which houses violent criminals, according to news reports. In May 2011, he and several other political prisoners waged a hunger strike to protest mistreatment there, reformist news websites reported.

In August 2011, the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported that Samimi was in poor health and suffered from liver problems. Prison authorities refused medical leave for treatment outside the prison, the news site reported.

Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, freelance

Imprisoned: June 19, 2009

Amouee, a contributor to reformist newspapers such as Mihan, Hamshahri, Jame’e, Khordad, Norooz, and Sharq, and the author of an eponymous blog, was arrested with his wife, Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, according to news reports. Bani-Yaghoub, editor-in-chief of the IranianWomen’s Club, a news website focusing on women’s rights, was released on bail in August 2009, according to the ‎BBC Persian service.

In January 2010, Amouee was sentenced to 34 lashes, along with seven years and four months in prison. In March of the same year, an appeals court reduced the sentence to five years in prison, according to Rooz Online.

Amouee was being held in Evin Prison, according to news reports, with part of his term served in solitary confinement. In July 2010, Amouee and 14 other prisoners staged a 16-day hunger strike to protest mistreatment at Evin Prison. Prison officials punished them by denying family visits for a month, Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported.

Issa Saharkhiz, freelance

Imprisoned: July 3, 2009

Saharkhiz, a columnist for the reformist news websites Rooz Online and Norooz and a founding member of the Association of Iranian ‎Journalists, was arrested while traveling in northern Iran, the association said in a ‎statement. ‎His lawyer said his client was charged with “participation in riots,” “encouraging others to participate in riots,” and “insulting the supreme leader,” according to Rooz Online.

Saharkhiz was sentenced to three years in prison, a five-year ban on political and journalistic activities, and a one-year ban on foreign travel, the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported in September 2010. In an interview with Radio Zamaneh, Mehdi Saharkhiz said his father would not appeal the court’s decision. “He said that all sentencing is made under [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei’s direct supervision and the judiciary has nothing to do with it. Therefore, neither the lower court nor the appeals court is official in any way, and they are only for show.”

Saharkhiz has had a long career in journalism. He worked for 15 years for IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, and ran its New York office for part of that time. He returned to Iran in 1997 to work in Mohammad Khatami’s Ministry of Islamic Guidance, in charge of domestic publications. Journalist Ahmad Bourghani and Saharkhiz came to be known as the architects of a period of relative freedom for the press in Iran. But as the regime took a more conservative bent, Saharkhiz was forced to leave the ministry and was eventually banned from government service. He founded a reformist newspaper, Akhbar-e-Eghtesad, and monthly magazine, Aftab, both of which were eventually banned. He wrote articles directly critical of Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.

During his imprisonment, which began at Evin Prison, Saharkhiz was subjected to constant pressure, including being kept in a prison yard overnight in freezing temperatures without shoes or socks, according to Rooz Online.

Saharkhiz’s son, Mehdi, told the BBC Persian service that the journalist had waged a hunger strike in October 2011. Mehdi Saharkhiz expressed concern about his father's well-being, telling the BBC that the journalist suffered from blood pressure, spine, and neck problems.

Massoud Bastani, Farhikhtegan and Jomhoriyat

Imprisoned: July 5, 2009

Bastani, a journalist for the reformist newspaper Farhikhtegan and Jomhoriyat, a news website affiliated with the defeated 2009 presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was arrested when he ‎went to a Tehran court seeking information about his wife, journalist Mahsa Amrabadi, according to local news reports. Amrabadi, arrested ‎with two other journalists in June 2009, was released the next month.

Bastani was among more than 100 opposition figures and journalists who faced a mass, televised judicial proceeding in August 2009 on vague antistate accusations, according to news reports. On October 20, 2009, the news site Norooz reported that a court had sentenced Bastani to six years in prison for “propagating against the regime and congregating and mutinying to create anarchy.”

Bastani was being held at Rajaee Shahr Prison, a facility reserved for hardened criminals, along with fellow journalist Ahmad Zaid-Abadi, according to the reformist daily Etemad. In July 2010, Bastani’s family told reporters that he had suffered an infection in his jaw that had gone untreated in prison, the Human Rights House of Iran reported.

Authorities restricted Bastani’s family visits to once every two weeks. His wife, Mahsa Amrabadi, was found guilty in October 2010 on antistate charges related to “interviews and journalistic reports,” Human Rights House reported. She was sentenced to one year in prison, although she was not immediately taken into custody, the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported.

Saeed Matin-Pour, freelance

Imprisoned: July 12, 2009

Matin-Pour, a journalist who wrote for his own blog and for the newspapers Yar Pag and Mouj Bidari in western Azerbaijan province, was first arrested in May 2007. Released on bail, he was rearrested in July 2009 amid the government’s massive crackdown on dissidents and the press.

A Revolutionary Court in Tehran convicted Matin-Pour of having “relations with foreigners” and “propagating against the regime,” according to local news reports. He was sentenced to an eight-year prison term.

Matin-Pour’s wife, Atieh Taheri, told the Human Rights Activists News Agency that the journalist’s health had deteriorated in Evin Prison and that officials had denied him proper medical care, according to news reports. Matin-Pour spent much of his imprisonment in solitary confinement amid abusive treatment, leading to heart and respiratory problems, reformist news websites reported.

Mohammad Davari, Saham News

Imprisoned: September 5, 2009

Davari, editor-in-chief of Saham News, a website affiliated with the defeated 2009 presidential candidate Mehdi ‎Karroubi, was charged with several antistate counts, including “propagating against the regime,” and “disrupting national security.” The charges stemmed from Davari’s reporting on widespread complaints of abuse and rape of inmates at Kahrizak Detention Center. The detention center was closed in July 2009 after Saham News and others documented the pervasive abuse.

In May 2010, Davari was sentenced to five years in prison, according to the website of Reporters and Human Rights Activists of Iran. His family said he was being held at Tehran’s ‎Evin Prison.

Davari was tortured and coerced into making false statements against Karroubi, along with false statements recanting his Kahrizak Detention Center reports, according to an April 6 report by Reporters and Human Rights Activists. When Davari complained about poor prison conditions, officials placed him in solitary confinement and denied him family visits, according to news reports.

In mid-2011, Davari was sentenced to an additional year in prison, allegedly for his participation in teacher protests in 2006, reformist news websites reported in July. In recognition of his exemplary journalism, CPJ honored Davari with its International Press Freedom Award in November 2010.


Mehdi Mahmoudian, freelance

Imprisoned: September 16, 2009

Mahmoudian, a political journalist and blogger, was serving a five-year prison term on charges of “mutiny against the regime” for his role in documenting complaints of rape and abuse of detainees at the Kahrizak Detention Center, reformist news websites reported.

The detention center was closed in July 2009 after Mahmoudian and others documented the pervasive abuse. Mahmoudian also worked with journalist Emadeddin Baghi at the Center for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights.

Held at Rajaee Shahr Prison, Mahmoudian was in poor health and suffering from kidney ailments, according to the German public news organization Deutsche Welle. Mahmoudian’s mother, Fatemeh Alvandi, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in April 2011 that her son developed epilepsy while in prison and was in dire physical and psychological condition. Mahmoudian was hospitalized in October 2011 but returned to prison the next month, according to reformist news websites.


Seyed Hossein Ronaghi Maleki (Babak Khorramdin), freelance

Imprisoned: December 13, 2009

Ronaghi Maleki, writing under the name Babak Khorramdin, discussed politics in a series of critical blogs that were eventually blocked by the government. He was also a founder of the anti-censorship group Iran Proxy, which was launched in 2003.

In October 2010, a Revolutionary Court sentenced Ronaghi Maleki to 15 years in prison on antistate conspiracy charges, the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported. The first year of his term was served largely in solitary confinement, defense lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Ronaghi Maleki’s family said the journalist was in poor health and had severe kidney problems that were going untreated, according to the campaign. In May 2011, Ronaghi Maleki was transferred to a hospital in hand and ankle cuffs, where he underwent kidney surgery, the campaign reported. He was hospitalized in custody again in October 2011, when he underwent additional kidney surgery, the Human Rights House of Iran reported.

Ali Malihi, freelance

Imprisoned: February 9, 2010

Malihi, a contributor to the reformist publications Etemad, Irandokht, Shahrvand-e-Emruz, and Mehrnameh, was charged with several antistate counts, including “mutiny against the regime” and “insulting the president.” Malihi was sentenced to a four-year prison term, which an appeals court upheld in September 2010, according to the Committee of Human Rights Reporters. Malihi was also a leader of the politically active Iranian Students Association.

The reformist news site Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz and others published a February 2010 petition signed by 250 civil society activists demanding Malihi’s release and stating that he was a nonpartisan journalist. In a March 2010 letter to Tehran’s prosecutor, Malihi’s father said the journalist had endured severe beatings while being held at Evin Prison, according to the reformist site Advar News.

Hengameh Shahidi, Etemad-e-Melli

Imprisoned: February 25, 2010

In November 2009, a Revolutionary Court sentenced Shahidi to six years and three months in prison on several antistate charges, including “propagating against the regime,” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. The verdict was upheld in February 2010, and Shahidi was taken into custody the next day, according to the Committee of Human Rights Reporters.

Shahidi wrote extensively about Iranian and international politics, human rights, and women’s rights. A reformist who also worked for Mehdi Karroubi’s 2009 presidential campaign, she had written many articles condemning the practice of stoning.

A fellow prisoner severely beat Shahidi in May 2010 as prison authorities stood by, prompting relatives to have deep concerns about her well-being, the reformist website Kalame reported. Shahidi was granted a short medical leave in June 2011, after which she was returned to prison, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Abolfazl Abedini Nasr, Bahar Ahvaz

Imprisoned: March 3, 2010

Abedini, who wrote about labor issues for the provincial weekly, was arrested in Ahvaz and transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran, according to the website of Reporters and Human Rights Activists.

An Ahvaz court sentenced Abedini to 11 years in prison on antistate charges that included having “contact with enemy states,” the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported in April 2011. Abedini was not represented by a lawyer at trial. When Abedini appealed, a Khuzestan provincial appellate court would not allow a defense lawyer to present arguments, the reformist website Kalame reported. The appeals court upheld the verdict.

In September 2010, Human Rights House in Iran reported that Abedini had been beaten at Ahvaz Prison. He was transferred to Tehran’s Evin Prison later that same month, the group reported. On May 4, 2011, a Revolutionary Court judge sentenced Abedini to an additional year in prison on the charge of “propagating against the regime,” Human Rights House reported. The basis for the additional charge was not disclosed.

Siamak Ghaderi, freelance

Imprisoned: July 27, 2010

Ghaderi was arrested in connection with entries he posted on his blog, IRNA-ye maa, or Our IRNA, a reference to the Islamic Republic’s official news agency. In the entries, he wrote about street protests and other developments after the contested 2009 presidential election, according to the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz.

In January 2011, Ghaderi was sentenced to four years in prison and 60 lashes on charges of “propagating against the regime,” “creating public anxiety,” and “spreading falsehoods,” according to the BBC’s Persian service.

Ghaderi was an editor and reporter for IRNA for 18 years until he was dismissed for writing about the 2009 election on his blog, Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz said. Pro-government news websites, among them Rasekhoon and Haghighat News, called him a “seditionist” who was arrested for “immoral” acts. Ghaderi’s blog was repeatedly blocked by authorities before he was detained, Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported.

Among the entries that authorities found objectionable was a piece in which Ghaderi interviewed several Iranian homosexuals. The article was an apparent reaction to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s public assertion that “there are no homosexuals in Iran.” The lashes in his sentence were for “cooperating with homosexuals,” the BBC reported. The reformist news website Kaleme reported in July 2011 that Ghaderi was being held at Evin Prison.

Mohammad Reza Pourshajari (Siamak Mehr), freelance

Imprisoned: September 12, 2010

Pourshajari, a journalistic blogger who wrote under the penname Siamak Mehr, was arrested at his home in Karaj, outside Tehran, according to news and human rights websites. In his blog Gozaresh be Khaak-e-Iran (Reports to the Soil of Iran), Pourshajari was critical of Iran’s theological state.

In an open letter dated December 2010, published by the Human Rights and Democracy Activists of Iran, Pourshajari described his arrest and subsequent detention. He said intelligence agents confiscated a computer hard drive, satellite receiver, and numerous documents. Pourshajari was taken to Rajaee Shahr Prison, where interrogators tortured him and subjected him to a mock execution, he wrote. Pourshajari said he was not allowed visitors, phone calls, or access to a lawyer.

In December 2010, Pourshajari was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “propagating against the regime” and “insulting the supreme leader,” Human Rights Activists for Democracy in Iran reported. In October 2011, Pourshajari was transferred to Ghezel Hessar Prison, where hardened criminals are confined, the group said.

Pourshajari was due to be tried in December 2011 on an additional count of “insulting sanctities,” a charge that could bring the death penalty, according to news accounts. The basis for the new charge was not disclosed.

Arash Honarvar Shojaei, freelance

Imprisoned: October 28, 2010

Nearly a year after Shojaei was first jailed, a special clerical court sentenced the blogger and cleric to four years in prison and 50 lashes on October 2, 2011, on multiple charges of “acting against national security,” “espionage,” and “cooperation with foreign embassies,” the reformist news outlet Radio Zamaneh reported. 

Shojaei was author of the book, Madar-e-Shari’at, about the dissident cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari, according to Radio Zamaneh. Shariatmadari had opposed the principle of velayat-e faqih, which seeks to convey unlimited power to the supreme leader.

Shojaei was being held at Evin Prison, where he endured torture and several months of solitary confinement, according to Human Rights House of Iran and Radio Zamaneh. He was suffering from the effects of epilepsy, Radio Zamaneh said.

Fereydoun Seydi Rad, freelance

Imprisoned March 2, 2011

Seydi Rad, a journalistic blogger, was arrested in Arak in March, although his detention was not disclosed for several months, according to news accounts. His sister, Faranak Seydi, told the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz that family members had maintained silence because they feared further reprisals. The Committee of Human Rights Reporters said Seydi Rad spent 43 days in solitary confinement under interrogation.

In August, a Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Seydi Rad to one year in prison for "propagating against the regime" in his blog, Arak Green Revolution. Seydi Rad wrote about the pro-democracy movement, student protests, and labor strikes in the city of Arak.

The court also sentenced him to two years in prison for taking part in a 2010 protest and attending the 2009 funeral of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the cleric who had criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s positions.

Faranak Seydi told Jonbesh-e-Rah-e- Sabz that his family had only been able to visit him in person twice, and their other weekly visits had been through a booth.

Mehrdad Sarjoui, Iran News

Imprisoned: July 2011

Sarjoui, who covered international news for the English-language daily Iran News and other publications, was arrested at his home and transferred to the Intelligence Ministry’s Ward 209 at Evin Prison, the BBC Persian service reported. The reformist news website Kaleme reported that he was being held in Evin Prison.

No formal charges had been disclosed by late year. Sarjoui had previously worked in the international relations department of the government’s Strategic Research Center, according to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Staff members for the research agency have access to politically sensitive material, which has placed them under intense scrutiny by government security agents.

Ali Dini Torkamani, freelance

Imprisoned: July 27, 2011

Torkamani, an economist and author of several books, was arrested after writing articles critical of government policies for a number of publications, particularly the energy trade journal Danesh-e-Naft, according to news accounts. He also gave interviews to the U.S. government-funded Radio Farda and other media outlets in which he criticized government plans to eliminate consumer subsidies.

Torkamani and some other analysts had argued that the plan, supported by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was insufficiently researched. He had also participated in an academic debate that challenged the plan. Authorities had not disclosed formal charges or Torkamani’s whereabouts by late year.

Kouhyar Goudarzi, Committee of Human Rights Reporters

Imprisoned: July 31, 2011

Goudarzi, a veteran journalist for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters who had completed a one-year prison term in December 2010, was seized by suspected government agents in July 2011 and taken to an undisclosed location, the reformist news website Kaleme reported. By October, Kaleme reported, Goudarzi was being held by the Intelligence Ministry.

Numerous journalists working for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters have been detained for varying periods of time since 2009 in connection with their reporting on human rights abuses. The human rights committee said judicial authorities have sought to link the organization to external political parties.

Authorities also targeted Goudarzi’s family and friends. His mother, Parvin Mokhtare, was being held in a prison in Kerman in late year on charges of “insulting the supreme leader” and “giving interviews to foreign media” concerning government harassment of the journalist, Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported. Two of Goudarzi’s friends were briefly detained and later took their own lives, according to news accounts.

The Committee of Human Rights Reporters said Goudarzi was being held in Evin Prison, where he has been denied contact with family members.

Saeed Jalalifar, Committee of Human Rights Reporters

Imprisoned: July 31, 2011

Jalalifar, who had reported on child labor and political prisoner issues for the committee, was first arrested in December 2009. He was free on bail for more than a year before being summoned back to Evin Prison in July 2011, the BBC Persian service reported.

The opposition website Pars Daily News reported that Jalalifar was then sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “assembly and collusion against the regime.”

Numerous journalists working for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters have been detained for varying periods of time since 2009 in connection with their work in exposing human rights violations and government malfeasance.

Morteza Moradpour, Yazligh

Imprisoned: August 26, 2011

Moradpour, who wrote for Yazligh, a children’s magazine, was serving a three-year prison term on charges of “propagating against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” “mutiny,” and “illegal congregation,” according to the Committee of Human Rights Reporters.

Moradpour was first arrested in 2009 along with several family members during a protest over Azeri-language rights in Tabriz in northwestern Azerbaijan province, according to the committee. Two issues of Yazligh were used as evidence in the trial against him, the news website Bizim Tabriz reported. Moradpour’s attorney said the charges were politically motivated, the news website Tabriz Sesi reported. The Committee of Human Rights Reporters said pressure on members of Azeri civil society had increased as the government attempted to marginalize the ethnic minority.

The journalist was jailed at the Tabriz Information Office Detention Center before being transferred to Tabriz Central Prison, where he spent nearly two months in solitary confinement.

On November 10, 2009, Moradpour was sentenced to three years in prison, Azeri news websites reported. He was released on the equivalent of US$50,000 bail in late 2010, according to Baybak, a local Azeri news website. (The practice of releasing convicted inmates on bail or furlough is common in Iranian jurisprudence.)

Moradpour was rearrested based on the original conviction on August 26, 2011, after taking part in protests related to the environmental degradation of Lake Orumiyeh in northwestern Iran, reformist news websites reported.

Hadi Ahmadi, Iranian Students News Agency

Imprisoned: September 2011

Security forces in Karaj arrested Ahmadi in mid-September, according to Aftab News Agency and the pro-opposition Radio Koocheh. An economics reporter, Ahmadi had worked for the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency, or ISNA, since 2006.

Ahmadi contacted his family by telephone after his arrest, but said he did not know the basis for his arrest, the Human Rights House of Iran reported. No formal charges were immediately disclosed.

The state-supported ISNA is run largely by Iranian university students. Originally established to publish news from Iranian universities, it now covers a variety of national and international topics. Four other ISNA journalists were jailed in October 2011.

Omid Behroozi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Reza Entessari, Majzooban-e-Noor
Amir Eslami, Majzooban-e-Noor
Afshin Karampour, Majzooban-e-Noor
Hamid Moradi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Farshid Yadollahi, Majzooban-e-Noor

Imprisoned: September 5, 2011

Authorities arrested at least 30 members of the religious minority Gonabadi Dervishes following a confrontation with plainclothes agents in the town of Kavar in Fars province, a spokesman for the group told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Among the detainees were a number of journalists for Majzooban-e-Noor, a website that reported news about the group, the International Campaign and the reformist news website Rooz Online reported.

Six of the website staffers were among those who remained in prison when CPJ conducted its annual census on December 1, 2011. In a September 12 article, Majzooban-e-Noor said agents had targeted the journalists in an effort to silence news coverage about the group.

The detainees were initially placed in solitary confinement and were not allowed to telephone their families for three weeks. In subsequent calls to relatives, the detainees said they were being held at Intelligence Ministry Ward 209 at Evin Prison, the reformist website Kaleme reported.

Amir Ali Allamehzadeh, Iranian Labor News Agency

Imprisoned: September 18, 2011

Plainclothes police arrested Allamehzadeh, an international affairs reporter for Iranian Labor News Agency, or ILNA, at his father’s home in Tehran, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported.

No formal charges were immediately disclosed, although the warrant was authorized by an investigative judge presiding in the Government Employees and Media Court, indicating that the charges would be work-related. Security agents searched the family’s home in October, seizing several undisclosed items. 

Allamehzadeh was being held in late year in a security ward at Evin Prison overseen by Revolution Guards, according to human rights websites. In a visit with his father, a distraught Allamehzadeh said he could not talk about conditions in prison, Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported.

Mojtaba Mir Tahmaseb, freelance

Imprisoned: September 18, 2011

Tahmaseb was among five filmmakers arrested just as the BBC Persian service aired a critical documentary on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to news accounts. Although the others were released, the Intelligence Ministry issued a statement accusing Tahmaseb of serious crimes, including “fulfilling the needs of the intelligence service of Britain,” “providing propaganda for psychological war for Iran’s enemies,” and “money laundering.” The filmmaker was being held at Evin Prison in late year, Radio France Internationale reported.

It was not clear why the government initially targeted the group of filmmakers. The BBC reported that the five filmmakers were not involved in the production of the Khamenei documentary.

Tahmaseb had directed the 2011 documentary, “This Is Not a Film,” which depicted the detention of another director, Ja’far Panahi. Prior to his arrest, on September 5, Tahmaseb was taken off a flight to Europe, and his passport was confiscated, the BBC Persian service reported. His wife traveled in his place to present “This Is Not a Film” at a variety of film festivals.

Saeed Nazari, Iranian Students News Agency
Ali Nezamolmolki, Iranian Students News Agency

Imprisoned: October 1, 2011

Farzad Sadri, Iranian Students News Agency

Imprisoned: October 5, 2011

Authorities arrested the three journalists in the southern city of Shiraz and placed them in an intelligence agency detention center, the Human Rights Activists News Agency and the reformist news website Kaleme reported. No formal charges were immediately disclosed.

Agents also seized a number of undisclosed items from the home of Sadri, a regional editor for the news agency, Kaleme reported. The state-supported Iranian Students News Agency, or ISNA, is run largely by Iranian university students. Originally established to publish news from Iranian universities, it now covers a variety of national and international topics. Another ISNA journalist, Hadi Ahmadi, was jailed in September 2011.

ISNA did not issue a public response to the arrests.

Raed al-Majed, freelance
Adel al-Yahya, Al-Adalah

Imprisoned: November 11, 2011

Al-Yahya, a presenter for the private Kuwaiti television station Al-Adalah, and al-Majed, a freelance cameraman, were detained in the southern city of Abadan on charges of espionage and entering the country illegally, according to news reports.

Kuwaiti newspapers said the journalists intended to produce a report about Kuwaitis who married Iranian citizens. The Kuwaiti Bar Association said the two journalists had received permits from Iranian authorities prior to traveling to the country, according to Iranian news reports.

Hassan Fathi, Ettelaat

Imprisoned: November 13, 2011

Security forces arrested Fathi, editor of the Iranian daily Ettelaat, at his home in Tehran, the BBC Persian service reported. His wife told the BBC that security forces confiscated Fathi’s laptop and satellite receiver.

The semi-official Fars news agency said Fathi was arrested after reporting for the BBC Persian service on an explosion at an ammunition depot that killed 17 Revolutionary Guards. Fars alleged that Fathi was a contributor to the banned BBC Persian service and accused him of “spreading lies and disrupting public minds.” Iran bans cooperation with foreign news agencies.

In a statement, the BBC Persian service said Fathi was interviewed as an independent analyst and did not work for the organization. The broadcaster said it had no office or journalists working in Iran. Fathi’s whereabouts and legal status were not immediately disclosed.

Rojin Mohammadi, freelance

Imprisoned: November 14, 2011

Mohammadi, an Iranian medical student and political blogger based in Manila, was arrested when she arrived at Tehran’s international airport on a flight from Istanbul, according to news accounts. She was free on bail for several days before being summoned back to Evin Prison in late November, according to the Committee of Human Rights Reporters.

Security agents confiscated her laptop computer and other belongings. The committee, citing unnamed sources, said Mohammadi was placed in solitary confinement at Evin Prison. A judge based at the prison charged her with "assembly and collusion with the intent to disrupt state security," "propagating against the regime," and "human rights activities."

Davood Khodakarami, Bayram Monthly

Imprisoned: November 18, 2011

Khodakarami, a journalist for the Azeri-language Bayram Monthly, was detained in the northwestern province of Zanjan, according to news reports. He had gone to a Zanjan bus terminal to ship copies of his publication to the city of Tabriz. Khodakarami was being held at Zanjan’s intelligence office; no charges were immediately disclosed.

Bayram Monthly is the only publication in the city of Zanjan that covers cultural and social issues. According to opposition website Iran Global, security forces had gone to Khodakarami's home several times since August, threatening his family and searching the premises and confiscating his computer and personal items.

^ Show all country summaries

Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory: 7

Walid Khalid Harb, Falastin

Imprisoned: May 8, 2011

Israeli authorities arrested Harb, director of the Hamas-affiliated Falastin, at his home in the northern West Bank town of Isskaka, the newspaper reported. An Israeli military court ordered that Harb be held in administrative detention. He was jailed at Nafha Prison in the Negev desert in late year, according to his employer.

Under administrative detention procedures, authorities may hold detainees for six months without charge or trial and then extend the detention an unlimited number of times. No formal charges were brought by late year.

Authorities had arrested Harb before, in May 2007, CPJ research shows. His attorney, Tamar Pelleg, told CPJ at the time that she believed his work at Falastin played a role in that detention.

Nawaf al-Amer, Al-Quds

Imprisoned: June 28, 2011

Al-Amer, satellite program coordinator for London-based Al-Quds television, was arrested by Israeli authorities at his home in the town of Kufr Khalil, near Nablus. Al-Amer had previously worked for the London-based, pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi.

An Israeli military court ordered that al-Amer be held in administrative detention for six months. Under administrative detention procedures, authorities may hold detainees for six months without charge or trial and then extend the detention an unlimited number of times. On October 26, Israeli authorities informed al-Amer’s wife that the detention had been extended for another four months, local press freedom groups reported. No explanation was given for the extension, and no formal charges had been lodged by late year.

Al-Amer was working on a book detailing mistreatment of Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, his son wrote in an online article published prior to the arrest.

Amer Abu Arafa, Shihab News Agency

Imprisoned: August 21, 2011

Israeli authorities arrested Abu Arafa, a correspondent for the Gaza-based Shihab News Agency, at his home in Hebron, the news outlet reported. An Israeli military court ordered that Abu Arafa be held at the Ofer administrative detention center for six months, Shihab said.

Under administrative detention procedures, authorities may hold detainees for six months without charge or trial and then extend the detention an unlimited number of times. His family told Shihab that authorities had accused the journalist of being a “security threat,” although no formal charges had been filed by late year.

The news agency, based in the Gaza Strip, pursues an editorial line that is critical of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, CPJ research shows. Abu Arafa covered news in Hebron and the surrounding area for the agency, Shihab told CPJ. Shortly before his arrest, Abu Arafa wrote a story about the arrests of 120 Hamas members by Israeli authorities in Hebron, Shihab told CPJ.

Abu Arafa was arrested before, in May 2010, by Palestinian security forces, CPJ research shows. His father told Shihab that his son was taken from their home by the Palestinian Intelligence Services for reasons linked to his work. Two months later, a Palestinian court sentenced Abu Arafa to three months in prison and a fine of 500 Jordanian dinars (US$700) after finding him guilty of “resisting the policies of the authorities” in connection with his reporting, Shihab told CPJ at the time.

Raed al-Sharif, Radio Marah

Imprisoned: November 14, 2011

Al-Sharif, a journalist for the independent Hebron-based Radio Marah, was arrested after Israeli military forces raided his home in the southern West Bank town, according to news reports. He was ordered held in administrative detention. Under administrative detention procedures, authorities may hold detainees for six months without charge or trial and then extend the detention an unlimited number of times.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said al-Sharif was arrested for "suspected involvement in terrorist activity," according to the independent Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said in a statement that al-Sharif’s arrest was an attempt by Israeli authorities to censor an independent journalist. No charges had been disclosed as of late year.

Local press freedom groups said al-Sharif had been detained for a short period in October 2010.

Ziyad Awad, Aswar Press Agency

Imprisoned: November 22, 2011

Hamas security forces arrested Awad, a photojournalist for the Aswar Press Agency, at his home in Gaza, the agency and other local news outlets reported. Agents confiscated his computer and other equipment, and placed him in a jail run by the internal security directorate, according to news reports.

No charges were immediately disclosed. Authorities said the detention was “security-related” but did not elaborate, Aswar said in a statement. The news agency noted that the arrest took place the same week Hamas authorities had detained or interrogated a number of other journalists. Aswar, which is critical of the Gaza-based Hamas government, said the detention was reprisal for its coverage.

Mahmoud al-Barbar, freelance

Imprisoned: November 22, 2011

Hamas forces arrested al-Barbar, a journalistic blogger, at his Gaza home and confiscated his computer and mobile phone, according to regional news reports. He was being held in a jail run by the internal security directorate, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said.

On his blog, Mahmoud Gaza, and in articles contributed to Arabic news websites, al-Barbar was critical of Hamas policies and what he perceived to be the government’s lack of democratic principles. He has also appeared on television news programs to comment on what he saw as a lack of youth participation in the political process.

No charges were immediately disclosed. The arrest came amid a flurry of interrogations and detentions of journalists in Gaza.

Hani al-Agha, Al-Nahar News Agency

Imprisoned: November 24, 2011

Al-Agha, editor-in-chief of the Gaza-based Al-Nahar News Agency, was arrested by Hamas security forces at the Rafah Crossing as he was returning from a trip to Egypt, according to Al-Nahar and regional news reports. Three days later, security forces raided his home and confiscated his computer along with other work-related documents, the news agency said in a statement.

The journalist was being held in a jail run by the internal security directorate. Hamas authorities did not disclose charges against the journalist, saying only that it was “security-related,” according to local news outlets. In its statement, Al-Nahar said the arrest was reprisal for the agency’s critical coverage of the Hamas government. A number of other Gaza-based journalists were interrogated or detained in late November.

^ Show all country summaries

Ivory Coast: 4

Hermann Aboa, Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne

Imprisoned: July 21, 2011

Aboa, a television presenter with state broadcaster Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI), was arrested on antistate charges in connection with his role as moderator of a partisan political show when the station was controlled by former President Laurent Gbagbo.

From November 2010 to February 2011, Aboa was one of four moderators of the show "Raison d’État" (National Interest), which exclusively featured guests favorable to then-President Gbagbo, according to CPJ research. Gbagbo was locked in a five-month power struggle with rival Alassane Ouattara, whose U.N.-certified victory in the November 2010 presidential elections was challenged by Gbagbo until French-backed Ouattara forces ousted him in April.

Ivorian investigating magistrate Mamadou Koné charged Aboa with antistate crimes, including endangering state security and public order, participation in an insurrection, and incitement to ethnic hatred, according to news reports and local journalists. Less than a week after the arrest, Ouattara declared in a press conference at U.N. headquarters that Aboa’s program was “really calling on hate, hatred,” and inciting “people to kill each other.” He compared Aboa’s program to Radio Mille Collines, a Rwandan government-sponsored station that directed killings during the 1994 genocide in that country. Ouattara also accused the journalist of accepting money from Gbagbo “to buy arms, to distribute arms to mercenaries.”

Based on footage of Aboa’s program, CPJ determined that the accusations regarding Aboa’s performance as a journalist were baseless. Authorities did not disclose any evidence to support the arms-smuggling accusations, and local journalists question the allegations. He was the only one of four program moderators to be prosecuted. 

Aboa fled the country in April following Gbagbo’s fall, but he returned in June in response to Ouattara’s call for exiles to come home after the conflict had ended, according to CPJ research.

In interviews with CPJ in October, Ivorian State Prosecutor Koffi Simplice said Aboa was in preventive detention pending completion of an investigating magistrate’s probe. He said such investigations could last as long as five years. Aboa was being held in Abidjan’s MACA Prison, according to local journalists. In November, authorities denied Aboa’s petition for release on bail, according to news reports. No date for a trial had been set by late year.

César Etou, Notre Voie
Didier Dépry, Notre Voie
Boga Sivori, Notre Voie

Imprisoned: November 24, 2011

Public Prosecutor Simplice Kouadio ordered the arrests of Editor Etou, copy editor Dépry, and political desk chief Sivori following the publication of columns critical of the government, according to local journalists and news reports. The daily Notre Voie is known as favoring former leader Laurent Gbagbo.

Authorities interrogated the journalists over a critical November 21 column concerning the government's reported acquisition of Mercedes Class E vehicles for members of the cabinet, defense lawyer Serge Essouo told CPJ. The journalists were also questioned about a November 24 column that criticized the government's dismissive reaction to a Notre Voie report regarding currency valuation.

Police detained the trio without formal charge beyond the 48-hour constitutional limit on pretrial detention and in contravention of Ivory Coast's 2004 Press Law, which bans the detention of journalists for press matters, according to local journalists and CPJ research. On November 29, a judge charged the journalists under the penal code with “incitement to theft, looting and destruction of private property via a press channel,” Essouo told CPJ.

The three were being held in Abidjan’s MACA Prison, according to local journalists. 

^ Show all country summaries

Kazakhstan: 1

Ramazan Yesergepov, Alma-Ata Info

Imprisoned: January 7, 2009

Two months after Yesergepov published explosive internal memos from the KNB, the Kazakh security service, authorities arrested the editor at an Almaty hospital, where he was undergoing treatment for a heart condition, according to CPJ interviews and news accounts. Yesergepov was transported to a detention facility in the southern city of Taraz.

The KNB memos, published in Yesergepov’s newspaper, Alma-Ata Info, showed high-ranking agents conspiring to influence a prosecutor and a judge in a tax-evasion case. Yesergepov also wrote a commentary on the contents of the memos. The KNB retroactively declared the memos classified and charged Yesergepov with “collecting state secrets.” Authorities tried him behind closed doors, denied him a lawyer of his choosing, and barred access to his own case file.

In August 2009, a Taraz City Court judge sentenced Yesergepov to three years in prison. Raushan Yesergepova, the journalist’s wife, told CPJ that the state-appointed defense lawyer did not attend Yesergepov’s final hearing. Subsequent appeals—which Yesergepov prepared himself—were denied, as were appeals for early release and transfer to a lower-security facility.

During a June 2010 fact-finding mission to Almaty, CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova tried to visit Yesergepov in prison. Kazakh authorities initially approved the visit, but officials with the local penitentiary service revoked the approval on the day Ognianova traveled to the prison colony in Taraz.

A CPJ delegation advocated on behalf of Yesergepov in an October 2010 meeting with Kazakh Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov, chairman of the permanent council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. In the meeting, at OSCE headquarters in Vienna, Ognianova and CPJ Senior Adviser Jean-Paul Marthoz detailed violations of Yesergepov’s rights to a fair trial.

In January 2011, authorities denied Yesergepov’s appeal for early release, saying he “did not show signs of improved behavior,” news reports said. The reports quoted authorities as saying Yesergepov violated prison rules by turning on the lights in his cell when he needed to take medication at night.

^ Show all country summaries

Kyrgyzstan: 1

Azimjon Askarov, freelance

Imprisoned: June 15, 2010

Askarov, a contributor to the independent news website Voice of Freedom and director of the local human rights group Vozdukh (Air), was serving a life term on a series of fabricated charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer.

Authorities in the southern Jalal-Abad region arrested Askarov after a violent confrontation between police and villagers in Bazar-Korgon. One police officer was killed in the conflict. The episode took place amid deadly ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek residents, which engulfed all of southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. The clashes left hundreds dead, and forced up to a half-million people to flee their homes. According to press reports and CPJ sources, Askarov was reporting on violence, destruction, looting, and human rights abuses in Bazar-Korgon at the time.

CPJ research shows that Askarov was imprisoned in retaliation for his journalism and human rights work. Before his arrest, Askarov had reported allegations that regional police had fabricated criminal cases against innocent people and had tortured detainees in custody. As a result of Askarov’s work, several senior law enforcement officials had been dismissed from their posts, according to Voice of Freedom and CPJ sources.

Regional prosecutors initially charged Askarov, 61, with organizing the riots, but later expanded his indictment to include complicity in the murder of a police officer, possession of ammunition and extremist literature, and attempted kidnapping, regional press reports said. Askarov denied the charges and said he had not been present at the scene. In June 2011, Askarov told the independent news website Fergana News that he came to the scene of the killing only after his neighbors alerted him to the events. During his trial, Askarov said, neighbors wanted to testify on his behalf, but regional police and prosecutors threatened them into silence.

Askarov, held by the same department whose officer was killed in Bazar-Korgon, was beaten by police while in custody, defense lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov told CPJ. Toktakunov said he himself was attacked by relatives of the deceased officer. Authorities did not investigate the reports, according to CPJ research.

On September 15, 2010, Judge Nurgazy Alimbayev pronounced Askarov guilty on all charges and sentenced him to life in prison. Toktakunov said the prosecution had failed to produce any evidence or witness testimony that implicated Askarov.

^ Show all country summaries

Libya: 1

Hala al-Misrati, Al-Libiya

Imprisoned: August 21, 2011

Al-Misrati, an anchor for the daily news show “Libya Today” on state-aligned Al-Libiya television, was being held under house arrest, news reports said. Rebel forces detained her after seizing Tripoli and storming the station, which was launched in 2009 by Saif al-Islam, a son of the late leader Muammar Qaddafi. 

Al-Misrati was known for her staunch support of Qaddafi’s regime during the popular uprising that began in Libya in February. In an August 21 broadcast, aired as rebel forces were advancing on the capital, she was shown brandishing an automatic weapon and saying that she was ready to die for Qaddafi.

The London-based daily Al-Sharq al-Wasat quoted al-Misrati as saying that she was compelled to take a hard-line in support of the Qaddafi government. She told the paper that rebel forces had treated her well.

^ Show all country summaries

Morocco: 2

Rachid Nini, Al-Massae

Imprisoned: April 28, 2011

Nini, executive editor of the Moroccan daily Al-Massae, was arrested following the publication of several articles criticizing perceived abuses in the country’s counterterrorism efforts. In May, a Casablanca court refused to release the prominent journalist on bail. His lawyers argued that their client was being improperly prosecuted under the penal code, which provides harsher penalties than the press code, according to news reports.

In June, he was sentenced to one year in prison for “denigrating judicial rulings” and “compromising the security and safety of the homeland and citizens.” Nini was being held at Okacha Prison in Casablanca in late year, according to Al-Massae.

Long known as an outspoken government critic, Nini had also denounced official corruption, called for increased political freedom, and sought the annulment of Morocco’s anti-terrorism law.

Mohamed al-Dawas, freelance

Imprisoned: September 5, 2011

Authorities arrested al-Dawas, a critical journalist who wrote for the blog Al-Fnidaq Online, in the northern city of Fnidaq, according to news reports. On September 22, a court in Tetouan sentenced the blogger to a 19-month prison sentence on drug trafficking charges and a fine of 20,000 dirhams (US$2,472), defense lawyer Abdel al-Sadiq al-Bushtawy told CPJ.

Al-Bushtawy said his client denied the drug trafficking allegations, which the defense considered retaliation for al-Dawas’ critical writing. Al-Fnidaq Online features the work of several journalists who write about local government corruption. A report by the French news outlet France 24 quoted several local journalists as saying they, too, believed the arrest to be retaliation for al-Dawas’ critical writing.

Al-Bushtawy told CPJ that the defense team was not given an adequate opportunity to present its case. In protest, the defense team withdrew from what it deemed unfair proceedings, and the court tried al-Dawas without counsel. An appeal was pending in late year.

^ Show all country summaries

Rwanda: 2

Agnès Uwimana, Umurabyo
Saidati Mukakibibi, Umurabyo

Imprisoned: July 8, 2010

Authorities arrested Uwimana, founder and chief editor of the independent vernacular weekly Umurabyo, and its deputy editor, Mukakibibi, in July 2010, defense lawyer Nsabayezu Evariste told CPJ. By February 2011, Kigali’s High Court sentenced Uwimana and Mukakibibi to 17 and seven years, respectively, on charges of incitement to violence, genocide denial, and insulting the head of state in connection with several opinion pieces published in mid-2010, according to news reports. The publication closed after their arrest.

Although the publication was considered sometimes sensational, local journalists told CPJ, Umurabyo raised questions about a number of sensitive topics, including the July 2010 murder of journalist Jean-Léonard Rugambage, the fallout between President Paul Kagame and two now-exiled military leaders, growing divisions within the Rwandan army, and the need for justice for ethnic Hutus killed in the 1994 genocide.

Both single mothers and the sole breadwinners in their families, the two journalists filed appeals with the Supreme Court. Uwimana and Mukakibibi were being held at Central Prison in the capital, Kigali.

^ Show all country summaries

Sudan: 4

Abdelrahman Adam Abdelrahman, Radio Dabanga
Adam al-Nur Adam, Radio Dabanga
Zakaria Yacoub Eshag, Radio Dabanga

Imprisoned: October 30, 2010

The Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services arrested several journalists and human rights activists during a raid on the shared Khartoum offices of Radio Dabanga and the Human Rights and Advocacy Network for Democracy, according to local and international news reports.

Abdelrahman, the station’s Sudan director, and reporters al-Nur and Eshag remained in custody in late year, according to local journalists. Although the station is outlawed in Sudan because of its coverage of Darfur and human rights, it is based in the Netherlands and uses shortwave frequencies to transmit its signal into Sudan.

The three journalists were being held on antistate charges stemming from their reporting on the humanitarian situation in Darfur, the station reported. The journalists were also accused of threatening national peace and security, espionage against the state, and undermining the constitutional system, Dabanga said on its website.

The defendants, all of whom were being held at Khartoum’s Kober Prison, went on trial in July 2011, at which time they denied all charges against them. Their trial was pending in late year.

Jamal Osman Hamad, freelance

Imprisoned: October 24, 2011

Security forces in Khartoum arrested Hamad, an exiled Eritrean journalist, according to Sudanese human rights groups and exiled Eritrean journalists. Authorities did not immediately disclose Hamad’s whereabouts or legal status.

Hamad is a veteran journalist who had been living in Sudan for several years and writing for the Eritrean opposition news website Adoulis. His articles have been critical of Eritrean government policies.

^ Show all country summaries

Syria: 8

Tal al-Mallohi, freelance

Imprisoned: December 27, 2009

Al-Mallohi, a journalistic blogger, was detained in December 2009 after she was summoned for questioning by security officials, according to local rights groups. In February 2011, she was sentenced by a state security court to five years in prison on a fabricated charge of “disclosing information to a foreign country that must remain a secret for national safety.”

The private newspaper Al-Watan said in October 2010 that al-Mallohi was suspected of spying for the United States. But lawyers allowed into the closed-court session said the judge “did not give evidence or details as to why she was convicted,” the BBC reported. The U.S. State Department condemned the trial, saying in a statement that the allegations of espionage were baseless.

Al-Mallohi’s blog was devoted to Palestinian rights and was critical of Israeli policies. It also discussed the frustrations of Arab citizens with their governments and what she perceived to be the stagnation of the Arab world. Al-Mallohi’s case gained widespread attention in the Arab blogosphere, on social media websites, and with human rights activists worldwide.

Mohamed-Jamal al-Tahan, Tishreen

Imprisoned: July 20, 2011

Two security agents arrested the veteran journalist al-Tahan at his home in Aleppo, according to news reports and human rights groups. An editor for the state-owned daily Tishreen, al-Tahan also contributed to several Arabic newspapers. He had written in support of the country’s popular uprising, regional news media reported. 

Al-Tahan’s whereabouts, well-being, and legal status were unknown in late year. In November, regional news media said they had received unconfirmed but credible reports that al-Tahan may have died in detention. CPJ could not independently corroborate those reports.

Tariq Saeed Balsha, freelance

Imprisoned: August 19, 2011

Balsha, a freelance cameraman, was arrested in the coastal city of Latakia three days after he covered an episode in which government troops opened fire at Al-Raml Palestinian refugee camp, according to local press freedom groups.

Balsha’s footage of demonstrations and authorities’ efforts to quash the unrest have been posted to a number of websites, including the Shaam News Network, a loose-knit citizen news organization that has published thousands of videos documenting the popular unprising in Syria. Shaam’s footage has been used by international news organizations such as Al-Jazeera and the BBC.

In November, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression reported that Balsha was being held at Latakia Central Prison. No charges had been disclosed by late year.

Adel Walid Kharsa, freelance

Imprisoned: August 22, 2011

Security forces arrested Kharsa in connection with his coverage of protests in Hama, according to human rights organizations. Kharsa’s whereabouts, well-being, and legal status were unknown in late year, but Amnesty International said it was concerned he may have been tortured in detention.

Kharsa had been living in the United Arab Emirates until June, when he decided to move back to his hometown of Hama to report on the country’s popular uprising. Amnesty International said Kharsa had tried working anonymously in his reporting for international news outlets, but his identity became known to Syrian intelligence officers.

Amer Matar, freelance

Imprisoned: September 3, 2011

Security forces in Damascus arrested Matar, a contributor to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, according to local news outlets and CPJ interviews. Authorities did not disclose any formal charges or trial proceedings by late year.

Matar had covered protests in Damascus and was himself politically active, calling for peaceful anti-regime demonstrations on his Facebook page. He had previously been detained for more than two weeks in April 2011.

Jihad Jamal, freelance

Imprisoned: October 14, 2011

Jamal was arrested at a Damascus café along with Sean McAllister, a British reporter working for Channel 4. McAllister was released six days later, Channel 4 reported. McAllister said he last saw Jamal blindfolded and on his knees in an interrogation room in an unmarked building in central Damascus.

Jamal, a contributor to local news websites, also aggregated news stories for dissemination to international outlets, McAllister told CPJ. He had been arrested twice before in 2011, in March and August, the latter detention lasting for 60 days, McAllister said.

Hussein Ghrer, freelance

Imprisoned: October 24, 2011

Security forces arrested the prominent blogger Ghrer and brought him to a central Damascus prison, according to the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression and several journalists. Ghrer appeared before a magistrate on November 20, when he was charged with “weakening national sentiments,” “forming an association without a permit,” and “inciting demonstrations,” according to the Syrian Center. He was transferred to the central prison in Adra, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Damascus.  

Days before he was detained, Ghrer wrote on his blog: “Silence doesn’t serve us after today. We don’t want a country where we get imprisoned for uttering a word. We want a country that embraces and welcomes words.” His blog featured stories about other detained bloggers in Syria, the country’s popular uprising, and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territories, among other topics.

The Syrian Center said Ghrer suffers from coronary disease and high blood pressure and requires daily medications. 

Alaa al-Khodr, Syrian Arab News Agency

Imprisoned: November 18, 2011

Security forces detained al-Khodr, local director for the official Syrian Arab News Agency in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, according to news reports. On the day of his arrest, al-Khodr had resigned from his post to protest “the regime's human rights violations against civilians," Agence France-Presse reported. At a demonstration that day, he wore a sign on his chest that read “I am a Syrian journalist” and a sticker on his mouth to signify the regime’s brutal repression.

The Syrian news agency has disputed reports of al-Khodr’s arrest and the circumstances of his resignation. Al-Khodr’s whereabouts, well-being, and legal status were unknown in late year.

^ Show all country summaries

Thailand: 1

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Voice of Taksin

Imprisoned: April 30, 2011

Somyot was arrested on April 30 at a Thai border checkpoint at Aranyaprathet province while attempting to cross into neighboring Cambodia. Agence France-Presse reported that police first issued a warrant for his arrest on April 12. He was held without bail in a Bangkok detention center for 84 days, the maximum period allowable under Thai criminal law, before formal lѐse majesté charges were filed against him on July 26.

The charges stemmed from two articles deemed critical of Thai monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej that were published in the now-defunct Voice of Taksin, a highly partisan newsmagazine affiliated with the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship street protest group. (The magazine had been accused in the past of running articles that incited UDD followers to violence.)

Somyot, a labor activist and political protest leader, was founder and editor of the controversial publication. According to local media reports, he refused to reveal the identity of the author who wrote the contested articles in February and March 2010, both of which were published under the pseudonym Jit Polachan, according to local news reports.

On November 1, a criminal court refused a bail application submitted by Somyot’s lawyer. He faced a possible prison term of 30 years. Lѐse majesté charges in Thailand carry a maximum of 15-year jail terms and have been abused for political purposes by both sides of Thailand’s protracted political conflict. His trial began in late year.

^ Show all country summaries

Turkey: 8

Vedat Kurşun, Azadiya Welat

Imprisoned: January 30, 2009

Kurşun, former editor-in-chief of Azadiya Welat, Turkey’s sole Kurdish-language daily, was arrested at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, according to the press freedom group Bia. He was charged under the country’s Anti-Terror Law with spreading propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in the paper’s 2007 and 2008 coverage.

In May 2010, Kurşun was sentenced to 166 years and six months in prison on 103 counts of spreading “propaganda on behalf of the terrorist organization” and “committing crimes on behalf of the organization,” according to Dogan News Agency. In 2010, the Journalists Association of Turkey honored Kurşun with its Press Freedom Award.

In a special supplement titled “Arrested Newspaper,” written by jailed journalists and distributed by several dailies in July 2011, Kurşun wrote that “my file has no other evidence in it but newspapers.” He also faulted the official translation of his work, saying it was done by someone not fluent in Kurdish.

Barış Açıkel, Devrim Yolunda İşçi Köylü

Imprisoned: March 29, 2009

Açıkel, news editor for the now-inactive daily Devrim Yolunda İşçi Köylü (Worker Peasant on the Path to Revolution), was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of propagandizing for the Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army of Turkey, according to Justice Ministry records. The government has labeled the organization a terrorist group because it has targeted counterterrorist operatives for attack. The paper, which focused on workers’ rights and labor news, was an official organ of the group.

In a July statement, Açıkel said he had actually been sentenced to a 13-year prison term and a fine of 78,000 Turkish lira (US$44,735).

In a July 2011 supplement titled “Arrested Newspaper,” written by jailed journalists and distributed by several dailies, Açıkel described intense official harassment prior to his sentencing. He wrote that prosecutors had opened separate criminal cases for each new issue of his newspaper, a situation that led to multiple hearings on a daily basis. CPJ research shows that Turkish authorities often file repetitive and duplicative charges against critical journalists as a means of harassment.

Ahmet Birsin, Gün TV

Imprisoned: April 14, 2009

Birsin, general manager of a regional pro-Kurdish television news station in southeastern Turkey, faced trial in late year for assisting an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), attending PKK events, possessing PKK documents, and assisting the PKK in its press work, according to Justice Ministry documents. His lawyer, Fuat Coşacak, told CPJ that the charges were retaliatory and without basis.

Birsin described his arrest in a May 2009 letter published in the daily Gündem. He said police came to his office on the night of April 13, searched the building and confiscated archival material, computer hard drives, laptops, cameras, and other broadcast equipment.

Birsin was imprisoned for 14 months before an indictment was issued against him.

Bedri Adanir, Hawar and Aram

Imprisoned: January 5, 2010

Adanir, owner of the pro-Kurdish publishing house Aram and editor-in-chief of the daily Hawar, faced trial in late year on charges of spreading propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in books and the articles published by his company, Justice Ministry records show.

Adanir, who was being held in Diyarbakir Prison, was rebuffed in his requests to be released on bail while his case was pending. The charges could bring 50 years in prison.

Adanir already served a 15-month prison sentence, imposed in 2009, on similar propaganda charges, the state Anatolian Agency reported. Those charges stemmed from a book published by Aram and written by PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, titled Kültür-Sanat Devrimi Üzerine (On the Revolution of Culture and Art), according to Bia, a Turkish press freedom group.

Hamdiye Çiftçi, Dicle News Agency

Imprisoned: June 20, 2010

Çiftçi, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, which closely follows Kurdish issues in the southeastern province of Hakkari, faced trial in late year on charges of attending demonstrations organized by Koma Civakên Kurdistan, an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, according to Justice Ministry documents. Handwritten notes about the Koma Civakên Kurdistan and Kurdistan Workers Party were found in her home, the government said.

In a July 2011 newspaper supplement written by jailed journalists and distributed by several dailies, Çiftçi wrote that merely being a Kurdish journalist had made her a terrorist collaborator. Her lawyer, Fahri Timur, told CPJ that evidence brought against his client was directly linked to her work: “Her doing her job at a political rally, for example, is portrayed as an endorsement of its political content.” He said the handwritten notes reflected what any journalist would compile while covering a meeting or rally.

Ozan Kilinc, Azadiya Welat

Imprisoned: July 22, 2010

Kilinc, editor-in-chief of the Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat, Turkey’s sole Kurdish-language daily, was charged under the country’s Anti-Terror Law with spreading propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

A criminal court in Diyarbakir sentenced the journalist to 21 years in prison, the BBC reported. Yuksekova Haber, a local news website, said Kilinc was being held at Diyarbakir Prison. Verdat Kurşun, a predecessor in the paper’s top editorial post, was also in prison when CPJ conducted its annual census on December 1.

Ahmet Şık, freelance

Imprisoned: March 6, 2011

Şık, a prominent reporter who had written for the dailies Cumhuriyet and Radikal and the weekly Nokta, went on trial in late year on charges of aiding the Ergenekon conspiracy, an alleged nationalist military plot to overthrow the government.

Şık, co-author of a 2010 book on Ergenekon, had been known throughout his career for his critical writings about the “deep state,” the purported secular, nationalist forces operating within the army, security agencies, and government ministries. Before being arrested, Şık was writing a new book with the working title, The Imam’s Army, which was to allege the existence of a shadowy organization operating within police and other government agencies and said to be populated by members of the Sufi Muslim religious community known as Fettullah Gülen.

A draft of the new book was deleted from the computers of his publishing house and that of a colleague during police raids, Hürriyet Daily News reported. The interrogations of Şık focused almost exclusively on the unfinished book, according to the paper. The government’s indictment, which appeared months after the arrest, focused on Şık’s journalistic activities, especially in regard to the book, the local press freedom group Bia said.

“Criticizing the government and drawing attention to the dangerous network of people in the police and judiciary who are members of the Gülen community is enough in today’s Turkey to become an Ergenekon suspect,” Şık told CPJ from prison through his lawyer, Tora Pekin. 


Nedim Şener, Posta

Imprisoned: March 6, 2011

Şener, a columnist for the daily Posta and author of two books detailing the 2007 assassination of journalist Hrant Dink, went on trial in late year on charges of aiding the Ergenekon conspiracy, an alleged nationalist military plot to overthrow the government.

Şener said he believes the charges were retaliation for his work on the Dink murder. Ongoing trials of defendants in the Dink murder are widely viewed as insufficient because they involve only the accused gunman and other low-level participants. Evidence presented by Şener and other journalists points to police and national intelligence officials being neglectful, if not complicit, in the murder.

^ Show all country summaries

Uzbekistan: 5

Muhammad Bekjanov, Erk
Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Erk

Imprisoned: March 15, 1999

Bekjanov, editor of the opposition newspaper Erk, and Ruzimuradov, a reporter for the paper, continued to serve lengthy prison terms in Uzbekistan. Regional press reports said Bekjanov was serving his term at a penal colony outside Kasan in southwestern Uzbekistan, while Ruzimuradov was being held at a penal colony outside Navoi in central Uzbekistan.

Bekjanov and Ruzimuradov were detained in Ukraine—where they had lived in exile and produced their newspaper—and were extradited at the request of Uzbek authorities. Six months after their arrest, a Tashkent court sentenced Bekjanov to 14 years in prison and Ruzimuradov to a 15-year term on charges of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper. Both reporters were also convicted of participating in a banned political protest and attempting to overthrow the regime.

According to CPJ sources and news reports, both men were tortured before their trial started. After the verdict was announced in November 1999, the two were jailed in high-security penal colonies for individuals convicted of serious crimes.

In a 2003 interview conducted at a prison hospital where he was being treated for tuberculosis, Bekjanov described being beaten and tortured in prison. He suffered a broken leg and hearing loss as a result, according to The Associated Press and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

Bekjanov’s wife, Nina Bekjanova, visited him in 2006 in prison, and told the independent news website Uznews that the journalist had lost most of his teeth due to repeated beatings. Exiled Uzbek journalists, local human rights workers, and other CPJ sources in the region said they had unsuccessfully tried to obtain updated information about the well-being of the journalists. Officials at the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington did not respond to CPJ’s October 2011 request seeking information about the well-being of the two reporters.

Gayrat Mehliboyev, freelance

Imprisoned: July 24, 2002

Mehliboyev, a contributor to the state-owned weekly Hurriyat, was being held in a penal colony in the central city of Zarafshan. He was arrested in the capital, Tashkent, while reporting on a rally held in support of the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

In February 2003, seven months after his arrest, a court in Tashkent convicted Mehliboyev of anti-constitutional activities, participating in extremist religious organizations, and inciting religious hatred. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, a term that an appeals court reduced by six months.

Prosecutors introduced a 2001 Hurriyat article as evidence of his alleged crimes. In the article, Mehliboyev argued that instead of building a Western-style democracy in Uzbekistan, authorities should consider introducing religious rule. Prosecutors insisted in court that his arguments reflected the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir. At trial, Mehliboyev repeatedly said he was assaulted by guards at the pretrial facility where he was being held, local and international human rights groups reported at the time.

Mehliboyev was later sentenced to an additional prison term. In September 2006, the Tashkent regional court sentenced him to six more years on extremism charges, the independent news website Uznews reported. Prison authorities claimed the journalist advocated Hizb ut-Tahrir ideas to other inmates and kept religious writings in his cell. Mehliboyev denied the accusations; he said he had kept only private notes detailing mistreatment in prison.

Officials at the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington did not respond to CPJ’s October 2011 request seeking updated information about Mehliboyev’s status and well-being.

Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, Uznews

Imprisoned: June 7, 2008

Abdurakhmanov, 61, a reporter for the independent news website Uznews, was being held at a penal colony outside the southern city of Karshi after he was convicted in a politicized prosecution on charges of possessing drugs with intent to sell. CPJ has determined the charges were fabricated.

Authorities in Nukus, in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic, detained Abdurakhmanov after traffic officers stopped his car and claimed they found four ounces (114 grams) of marijuana and less than a quarter ounce (about five grams) of opium in his trunk, Uznews reported. Abdurakhmanov denied possessing the drugs, and said police had planted them in retaliation for his reporting on corruption in the agency. Police questioned Abdurakhmanov extensively about his journalism, searched his home, and confiscated his personal computer, CPJ sources said.

The prosecution was marked by irregularities. Investigators failed to maintain chain of custody for the seized drugs, and they did not present fingerprints or other evidence that Abdurakhmanov ever handled the material, defense lawyer Rustam Tulyaganov told CPJ. Ignoring the lack of evidence, a court in Nukus convicted the journalist in October 2008 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Higher courts denied his appeals.

Abdurakhmanov had reported on corruption in regional law enforcement agencies, including the traffic police, for Uznews. He also contributed to the U.S. government-funded broadcasters Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

In September 2011, authorities rebuffed Abdurakhmanov’s application for amnesty, citing alleged violations of penal colony rules, according to Uznews. Ilhom Nematov, Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the United States, did not respond to CPJ’s October 2011 request for information on Abdurakhmanov’s well-being.

Dilmurod Saiid, freelance

Imprisoned: February 22, 2009

Saiid was serving a prison term of 12 and a half years on fabricated charges of extortion and forgery. Authorities arrested Saiid in his hometown, Tashkent, and placed him in detention in the central city of Samarkand after a local woman accused him of extorting US$10,000 from a local businessman. The accuser soon withdrew the accusation, saying she had been coerced, but authorities refused to release the journalist, according to Saiid’s lawyer, Ruhiddin Komilov.

In March 2009, Samarkand prosecutors said new witnesses had come forward to accuse Saiid of extortion, the independent regional news website Fergana News reported. Prosecutors also said several local farmers had accused Saiid of using their signatures to create fraudulent court papers. At Saiid’s trial, Fergana News reported, the farmers publicly recanted and said prosecutors had pressured them to testify against the journalist.

Komilov told CPJ that authorities failed to notify him of court hearing dates. In July 2009, a Tailak District Court judge sentenced the journalist in a closed proceeding without Komilov, Saiid’s family, or the press in attendance. Saiid was being held in a high-security penal colony outside the city of Navoi in central Uzbekistan.

Saiid was imprisoned in retaliation for his journalism, CPJ’s analysis found. Before his imprisonment, Saiid had reported on official abuses against farmers for the independent regional news website Voice of Freedom as well as for a number of local publications. As a member of the Tashkent-based human rights group Ezgulik, Saiid had also helped local farmers defend their rights in regional courts, local sources told CPJ.

In November 2009, the journalist’s wife and 6-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident while on their way to visit him in prison, regional press reports said. Ezgulik appealed for Saiid’s release on humanitarian grounds, but the appeal was denied. In September 2011, authorities rejected Saiid’s application for amnesty, citing alleged violations of penal colony rules, Uznews reported.

Officials at the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington did not respond to CPJ’s October 2011 request seeking updated information about Saiid’s well-being.

^ Show all country summaries

Vietnam: 9

Nguyen Van Hai (Nguyen Hoang Hai), freelance

Imprisoned: April 19, 2008

Hai was arrested and held without charge for five months, according to news reports. A closed court convicted him of tax evasion on September 10, 2008.

Hai, who also goes by the name Nguyen Hoang Hai, was an outspoken commentator on his political blog Dieu Cay (The Peasant’s Pipe). He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for failing to pay 10 years of taxes on the part of a building he had rented to an optical shop. International news reports quoted his lawyer as saying the taxes should have been paid by the tenant, according to the rental agreement.

Several of Hai’s blog entries had touched on politically sensitive issues. He had reported on national protests against China, which disputed Vietnam’s claim to sovereignty over the nearby Spratly and Paracel islands. He also called for demonstrations against the Beijing Olympic torch relay, which was to pass through Ho Chi Minh City, according to the website of Viet Tan, an exiled pro-democracy organization.

In April 2009, Hai was transferred to the southern Cai Tau Prison, several hours from his home in Ho Chi Minh City, and was denied family visits, according to Viet Tan and international human rights groups. He was scheduled for release after serving his sentence on October 20, 2010, but authorities continued to detain him on the grounds that he was still under investigation.

According to the Free Journalists Network of Vietnam, his family filed 12 different formal requests, petitions, and appeals for visitation in 2011, none of which the authorities acknowledged. Canadian Embassy officials were also refused permission to visit Hai in prison, according to the network.

Pham Thanh Nghien, freelance

Imprisoned: September 13, 2008

A Haiphong city court sentenced online writer Nghien on January 29, 2010, to four years in prison and three years of house arrest on charges of spreading antistate propaganda. She was first arrested when more than 20 police officers raided her home on September 13, 2008, during a government crackdown on dissidents. She was originally charged with staging a protest at her home, erecting banners protesting government policy in a maritime dispute involving China, and posting the images on the Internet.

State prosecutors dropped those initial charges and instead singled out an online article Nghien had written for foreign media in which she criticized public officials for siphoning off compensation funds intended for survivors of fishermen killed by Chinese maritime patrols in 2007, according to international news reports.

Nghien was also accused of criticizing the government in interviews with Western media outlets, including the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia. Her half-day trial was closed to foreign media and diplomats, news reports said. She was held in solitary confinement until her sentencing in January 2010.

On July 4, 2008, before her arrest, Nghien was severely beaten by four plainclothes police officers who threatened her and her family if she continued her outspoken criticism of government policies, according to Front Line, a human rights group. Nghien wrote several online articles in promotion of human rights, democracy, and better treatment of landless peasants, according to international news reports. She was being held at Thanh Liet Detention Center in Hanoi.

Pham Minh Hoang (Phan Kien Quoc), freelance

Imprisoned: August 13, 2010

Hoang, a university mathematics professor and political blogger associated with the exiled Viet Tan pro-democracy party, was first arrested in Ho Chi Minh City and charged under Article 79 of the penal code for activities aimed at overthrowing the government.

On August 10, 2011, Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Court sentenced him to three years in prison and another three years of house arrest for “activities aimed at overthrowing the government,” according to local and international news reports. The prison term was later reduced on appeal to 17 months, according to Viet Tan.

The national security-related charges referred to 33 articles written under Hoang’s penname, Phan Kien Quoc, according to news reports. The entries focused on corruption, environmental degradation, and perceived government failures to protect the country’s territorial sovereignty from Chinese intervention, according to Viet Tan. The journalist was also convicted on charges of having membership in Viet Tan.

The courts ruled that the year Hoang spent in pre-trial detention at the Ministry of Public Security’s Detainment Center in Saigon District 1 would count against his sentence.

Phan Thanh Hai (Anh Ba Saigon), freelance

Imprisoned: October 18, 2010

Hai, a political blogger who wrote under the penname Anh Ba Saigon, was first taken into custody on a provisional four-month detention while authorities conducted further investigation. He was held without formal charge throughout 2011.

Police raided his Ho Chi Minh City home, seizing computers, documents, and articles he had downloaded from the Internet, Agence France-Presse reported. According to his wife, Nguyen Thi Lien, police said they had evidence that he had written and published “false information” on his blog.

Hai’s blog often touched on issues considered sensitive by the Vietnamese authorities, including a scandal at state-run shipbuilder Vinashin, maritime and territorial disputes with China, and a controversial Chinese-supported bauxite mining project in the country’s Central Highlands.

On April 23, 2011, his wife and three children were allowed to visit him at Ho Chi Minh City’s Phan Dang Luu Detention Center but were not permitted to give him needed medications, according to a BBC report. No trial date had been set when CPJ completed its prison census on December 1, 2011.

Lu Van Bay (Tran Bao Viet), freelance

Imprisoned: March 26, 2011

Bay, also known as Tran Bao Viet, was arrested after police raided his house and confiscated his computers and copies of his published articles, according to news reports. On August 22, 2011, he was sentenced by a court in southern Kien Giang province to four years in prison and three years of house arrest on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state,” a penal code offense. 

The court’s judgment cited 10 articles Bay posted on overseas websites—including Dam Chin Viet (Vietnamese Birds), Do Thoa (Dialogue), and To Quoc (Fatherland)—that were critical of Vietnam’s one-party system and called for multi-party democracy.

Dang Xuan Dieu, freelance
Ho Duc Hoa, freelance

Imprisoned: July 30, 2011

Dieu and Hoa, religious activists and contributors to the news website Vietnam Redemptorist News, were detained on July 30 at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam Redemptorist News, an online publication run by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, reports on the plight of the country’s persecuted Catholic minority.

Dieu and Hoa were detained on unspecified charges under Article 79 of the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Under Vietnamese law, the maximum penalties for violations are life imprisonment or capital punishment. The two were both also accused of membership in the outlawed, exile-run Viet Tan party.

Dieu and Hoa were both being held at Hanoi’s B14 Detention Center, according to Viet Tan.

Paulus Le Van Son, freelance

Imprisoned: August 3, 2011

Son, a blogger and contributor to the news websites Vietnam Redemptorist News and Bao Khong Le (Newspaper Without Lanes), was arrested in front of his home in the capital, Hanoi. News reports, citing an eyewitness, said police knocked him from his motorcycle to the ground, grabbed his arms and legs, and threw him into a waiting police vehicle.

He was detained on unspecified charges under Article 79 of the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Under Vietnamese law, the maximum penalties for violations are life imprisonment or capital punishment. Son was also accused of membership in the outlawed, exile-run Viet Tan party.

Vietnam Redemptorist News, an online publication run by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, reports on the plight of the country’s persecuted Catholic minority. Bao Khong Le focuses on issues such as corruption and sovereignty conflicts with China. In the months before his arrest, Son posted a number of sensitive entries to his own blog, addressing anti-China protests and territorial disputes with China.

Son had been briefly detained earlier, in April 2011, when he attempted to attend a court hearing for pro-democracy dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu. Son’s personal blog covered sensitive political and social issues, including anti-China demonstrations, government harassment of prominent pro-democracy and Catholic Church activists, and violence in schools.

Son was being held at Hanoi’s B14 Detention Center, according to news reports.

Nguyen Van Duyet, freelance

Imprisoned: August 7, 2011

Duyet, a contributor to the news website Vietnam Redemptorist News and president of the Association of Catholic Workers, was detained in Vinh city, Nghe An province. Vietnam Redemptorist News, an online publication run by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, reports on the plight of the country’s persecuted Catholic minority.

He was detained under Article 79 of the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Under Vietnamese law, the maximum penalties for violations are life imprisonment or capital punishment. Duyet was also accused of membership in the outlawed, exile-run Viet Tan party.

He was being held at Hanoi’s B14 Detention Center, Viet Tan reported.

^ Show all country summaries

Yemen: 2

Abdulelah Hider Shaea, freelance

Imprisoned: August 16, 2010

Shaea, a freelance journalist and a frequent commentator on Al-Jazeera, was sentenced in January 2011 to five years in prison for “belonging to an illegal armed organization” and “recruiting young people, including foreigners, to the organization by communicating with them via the Internet.”

In February, after social unrest erupted in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh pardoned Shaea among other prisoners, according to local news reports. In a phone call to Saleh, however, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concern that Shaea should not be released, according to a White House statement that did not elaborate on the reasons.

In a 2010 interview with CPJ, Shaea said that government interrogations had focused on his reporting and that agents had directed him to stop working on counterterrorism topics.

Shaea, known for his coverage of extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, was critical of Yemen’s counterterrorism policies. Using his tribal affiliation to gain access, he conducted several interviews with senior members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In December 2009, Shaea interviewed the U.S.-born militant Anwar Awlaki for ABC News. Awlaki was killed in a September 2011 U.S. drone attack.

Abd al-Karim Thail, 3feb

Imprisoned: October 14, 2011

Security forces arrested Thail, editor-in-chief of the news website 3feb, as he was leaving his Sana’a home, according to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate and local news reports. His brother, Bassam, and a friend, Hamir al-Muqbeeli, were detained with him, according to news accounts.

No charges had been disclosed in late year. The journalists syndicate said it formed a committee to monitor the cases of Thail and another detained journalist, Abdulelah Hider Shaea. The website 3feb published news about the country’s popular uprising. The site was only sporadically accessible in late year.

^ Show all country summaries

Published

Like this article? Support our work

Journalists in Jail: Archives
Multimedia