Since 2001, CPJ has documented the cases of 340 journalists forced into exile after their reporting exposed them to harassment, violence, or imprisonment. They face many difficulties in their new homes, from language and cultural adjustments to emotional and economic hardships. Here are five snapshots of journalists in exile.
Reporter, Sygeplejersken (The Nurse)
Country of origin: Uzbekistan
New home: Denmark
Date of exile: 2001
Reason for leaving: Yafasova fled after she was threatened with imprisonment during an interrogation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in
Life in exile: Yafasova won asylum in Denmark in 2002 and was joined by her family. She has continued writing but has suffered the effects of her persecution in Uzbekistan. Eventually, she spent 11 months at the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims in
On the freedom of exile: “Exile freed me from shackles. In exile, I could achieve a much greater degree of human freedom, which never could be achieved under dictatorship in my homeland. And this feeling of being a free person has a much bigger value for me than a feeling of belonging to the place where I was born.”
Country of origin: Bangladesh
New home: Canada
Date of exile: 2004
Reason for leaving: Samad was under constant surveillance by military security forces following his January 2003 release from prison, where he had spent two months on antistate charges. The accusations stemmed from his work with a documentary crew for Britain’s Channel 4 “Unreported World” series. In 2004, security agents raided his home, questioning his family about his whereabouts, and threatening to “greet” him at the airport if he returned from a conference in Canada.
Life in exile: Samad opted to remain outside the country and to seek asylum, which he won in January 2005. His family joined him in Canada in 2006, and he has held various non-journalism jobs since—as a security guard, a concierge, and a salesman. Once a prominent voice in Bangladesh, he was met with closed doors when he tried to continue working for Bangladeshi papers while in exile. He now contributes pieces to expatriate news Web sites and runs the pro-democracy blog Bangladesh Watchdog.
On the professional cost of exile: “After I lost my steady job with the Bangladesh Observer, the international press stopped requesting contributions of articles about the region.”
Country of origin: Ethiopia
New home: Kenya
Date of exile: 2007
Reason for leaving: Tesfaye fled from the harassment and threats that followed his release from prison in 2007. He had spent 18 months in custody on antistate charges stemming from critical coverage of a flawed 2005 election. Tesfaye was under regular surveillance and was receiving phone calls warning that if he “acted against the constitution,” he would be killed.
Life in exile: Tesfaye has spent the past year in
On the hardest part of life in exile: “Survival. There is no work here in
ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ RAGA
Country of origin: Cuba
New home: Spain
Date of exile: 2008
Reason for leaving: González Raga boarded a flight to Spain immediately following his February release from prison, where he had served five years of a 14-year sentence on a charge of threatening “the territorial integrity of the state.” He was among 29 writers and editors jailed in the Cuban government’s March 2003 crackdown on the independent press. His release, along with that of fellow reporter José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, followed negotiations between the Spanish and Cuban governments. Prior to those talks, CPJ provided the Spanish government with information supporting the reporters’ release. Life in exile: González Raga is now publishing his prison writings, and he makes occasional contributions to Spanish media outlets. He struggles to provide for his seven family members in Spain, although he still seeks to have his father and a son, both of whom remain in Cuba, join him as well.
On the emotional adjustment after prison: “When you are unjustly imprisoned, when you are taken away from your family, there are no tools to mend the pain.”
Blogger and editor
Country of origin: Iran
New home: United States
Date of exile: 2008
Reason for leaving: Sigarchi escaped to the United States while on medical leave from prison in Rashat, where he was serving a three-year sentence on charges that included espionage, engaging in propaganda against the system, and undermining national security. The charges followed interviews he gave to BBC World Service radio and the U.S. government-funded Radio Farda.
Life in exile: Sigarchi lives outside
On the decision to go into exile: “Maybe you expect I’d complain about exile, but I’m satisfied here because this is my choice. I had two options: one, to stay in Iran and be in prison under torture, and two, to be in exile.”
To help journalists in exile, go to Journalist Assistance.
Karen Phillips is CPJ’s journalist assistance associate.