As of December 1, 2014
Analysis: Global tally second worst on record
Blog: In China, mainstream media as well as dissidents under increasing pressure
Click on a country name to see summaries of individual cases.
- Algeria: 1
- Azerbaijan: 9
- Bahrain: 6
- Bangladesh: 3
- Belarus: 1
- Cameroon: 2
- China: 44
- Cuba: 1
- Democratic Republic of Congo: 1
- Egypt: 12
- Eritrea: 23
- Ethiopia: 17
- Gambia: 1
- India: 1
- Iran: 30
- Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: 4
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Freelance / Staff
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Abdelhai Abdessamia, Mon Journal, Djaridati
Abdessamia, a correspondent for the daily Mon Journal and its Arabic counterpart, Djaridati, was held in administrative detention and accused of participating in the allegedly illegal departure of his editor, Hicham Aboud, from the country, according to his lawyer, colleagues, and family.
Abdessamia’s lawyer, Mohamed al-Gawasemeh, told CPJ that Abdessamia was at first accused of “smuggling immigrants,” which is a criminal offense, as well as “facilitating smuggling,” a misdemeanor. In April 2014, al-Gawasemeh said, an investigative judge dropped the “smuggling immigrants” allegation, but kept the journalist under investigation for the misdemeanor, which carries up to three years in prison. Al-Gawasemeh told CPJ that authorities refused four requests to release the journalist.
Mon Journal and Djaridati were shut down in late 2013 after covering President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s deteriorating health, news reports said. An Algerian prosecutor also ordered a judicial investigation into Aboud, owner and editor of Mon Journal and Djaridati, accusing him of “endangering state security, national unity, stability and proper functioning of institutes.”
Aboud told CPJ that the allegations against Abdessamia stem from an August 2013 meeting between the two in which they discussed opening a branch for the publications in the city of Tébessa.
In early June 2013, Aboud was forbidden from traveling to a conference in Tunisia, he said. Then, in late June, an investigative judge dismissed the investigation against him, he said. Aboud told CPJ that after he met with Abdessamia in August, he crossed the border into Tunisia. He said he crossed legally and that his passport held exit and entry stamps.
Abdessamia was being held at Tebessa prison. He began waging a hunger strike in early November to protest his detention, according his family and news reports. No trial date was set for him in late 2014, according to his lawyer.
CPJ did not include Abdessamia’s case in its 2013 imprisoned census because news of his arrest was only reported by his family in November 2014. His lawyer, Mohamed al-Gawasemeh, told CPJ that authorities warned Abdessamia’s family not to publicize his imprisonment.
Avaz Zeynally, Khural
Zeynally, editor of the independent daily Khural, was arrested in October 2011, after a parliament member, Gyuler Akhmedova, accused him of bribery and extortion. Akhmedova alleged that the editor had tried to extort 10,000 manat (US$12,700) from her in August 2011, according to regional and international press reports. After Zeynally was arrested, authorities confiscated all of Khural‘s reporting equipment, citing the newsroom’s inability to pay damages in a separate 2010 defamation lawsuit filed by presidential administration officials. Khural now publishes online only.
Zeynally denied the accusations and described a much different encounter with Akhmedova, the independent regional news websiteKavkazsky Uzel reported. In September 2011, Zeynally reported in Khural that Akhmedova had offered him money in exchange for his paper’s loyalty to authorities. He reported that he had refused the offer.
According to news reports and CPJ sources, Zeynally’s trial, which started in May 2012, was marred by procedural violations and lack of evidence. Zeynally’s lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, told Kavkazsky Uzel that the prosecution witnesses had failed to support with credible evidence any of the charges lodged against Zeynally.
In September 2012, Akhmedova resigned from parliament after a video surfaced on the Internet that purported to show her demanding a bribe from a potential candidate in exchange for a seat in parliament. Although she was imprisoned on swindling charges, authorities did not drop the charges against Zeynally.
Emin Huseynov, director of the Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, told CPJ that weeks before Zeynally’s arrest, his paper had criticized President Ilham Aliyev’s repressive policies toward independent journalists and opposition activists. Zeynally had published two commentaries in Khural that were especially critical of the administration. In the first, he disparaged comments made by Aliyev in an Al-Jazeera interview that painted a glowing picture of the country’s development. In the second, Zeynally accused the government of retaliatory prosecution against Khural, Huseynov told CPJ.
On March 9, 2013, the Baku-based Court for Grave Crimes sentenced Zeynally to a nine-year prison term after convicting him on criminal charges including tax evasion, bribery, and extortion. The tax evasion charges were introduced after tax authorities alleged that Zeynally had avoided tax payments since 2008, according to reports.
CPJ believes the charges to be fabricated in retaliation for Zeynally’s reporting and commentary.
Zeynally was being held at Azerbaijan’s Prison No. 10, according to an August 2014 report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan by a group of lawyers, human rights defenders, and non-governmental organizations.
Nijat Aliyev, Azadxeber
Baku police arrested Aliyev, editor-in-chief of the independent news website Azadxeber, near a subway station in downtown Baku, and charged him with possession of illegal drugs. A local court ordered Aliyev to be held in pretrial detention; since then, authorities extended his imprisonment several times.
Colleagues disputed the charges and said they were in retaliation for his journalism. Aliyev’s deputy, Parvin Zeynalov, told local journalists that the outlet’s critical reporting on the government’s religion policies, including perceived anti-Islamic activities, could have prompted the editor’s arrest.
CPJ has documented a pattern in which Azerbaijani authorities file questionable drug charges against journalists whose coverage has been at odds with official views.
Aliyev’s lawyer, Anar Gasimli, told the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety that investigators tortured the journalist in custody and pressured him to admit he had drugs in his possession. According to the institute, Gasimli said police also threatened to plant narcotics in the editor’s apartment and file “more serious” charges against him.
In January 2013, authorities slapped Aliyev with additional charges of illegal import and sale of religious literature, making calls to overturn the constitutional regime, and incitement to ethnic and religious hatred, the institute reported. In March 2013, investigators finished the investigation against the editor.
On December 9, 2013, the Baku Court for Grave Crimes sentenced him to 10 years in jail, according to the independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel. In June 2014, Azerbaijan’s Court of Appeals denied Aliyev’s appeal, the report said. He was being held in Azerbaijan’s Prison No. 2.
Hilal Mamedov, Talyshi Sado
Baku police detained Mamedov, editor of the minority newspaper Talyshi Sado (Voice of the Talysh), on June 21, 2012, alleging they had found drugs, about five grams of heroin, in his pocket, the Azeri-language service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. Following his arrest, Baku police declared that they had found an additional 30 grams of heroin in Mamedov’s home, which they searched the same day, news reports said. A day later, a district court in Baku ordered Mamedov imprisoned for three months before trial on drug possession charges, the reports said. Mamedov’s family claimed police had planted the drugs, and his colleagues said they believed the editor had been targeted in retaliation for his reporting, the reports said.
Talyshi Sado covered issues affecting the Talysh ethnic minority group in Azerbaijan. Mamedov’s articles have been published in Talyshi Sado and on regional and Russia-based news websites, according to Emin Huseynov, director of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety. Huseynov told CPJ that Mamedov had investigated the 2009 death in prison of Novruzali Mamedov, Talyshi Sado‘s former chief editor.
In July 2012, authorities lodged another set of charges against Mamedov, including treason and incitement to ethnic and religious hatred, news reports said. Azerbaijan’s interior ministry said in a statement that Mamedov had undermined the country’s security in his articles for Talyshi Sado, in interviews with the Iranian broadcaster Sahar TV, and in unnamed books that he was alleged to have translated and distributed. The statement also denounced domestic and international protests against Mamedov’s imprisonment and said the journalist had used his office to spy for Iran.
In September 2013, Mamedov was convicted on charges of drug possession, treason, and incitement to ethnic and religious hatred, and was sentenced to five years in jail, regional press reported. His trial was marred by procedural violations, and authorities failed to back up their charges with credible evidence, news reports said.
Local human rights defenders said they believe the conviction was in retaliation for Mamedov’s criticism of the authorities’ failure to investigate the death in custody of Novruzali Mamedov. News reports said Novruzali Mamedov had been denied adequate medical treatment for several illnesses. After his death, human rights and press freedom groups including CPJ repeatedly called in vain for an independent investigation into his death.
According to the independent regional news websiteKavkazsky Uzel, the court ruled that Hilal Mamedov was to serve his sentence in a strict penal colony. Mamedov was being held at Prison No. 17, outside Baku, according to an August 2014 report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan by a group of lawyers, human rights defenders, and non-governmental organizations.
In June 2014, Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court denied Mamedov’s appeal, the report said. His lawyers told local journalists that they were planning to file another appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Araz Guliyev, Xeber 44
Guliyev, chief editor of news website Xeber 44, was arrested on hooliganism charges in September 2012 while reporting on a protest in the southeastern city of Masally, news reports said. Local residents were protesting dancers at a festival who they perceived to be not properly clothed, the reports said. Police arrested the demonstrators, who were calling on the festival organizers to respect religious traditions.
During Guliyev’s pretrial detention, authorities expanded his charges to include “illegal possession, storage, and transportation of firearms,” “participation in activities that disrupt public order,” “inciting ethnic and religious hatred,” “resisting authority,” and “offensive action against the flag and emblem of Azerbaijan.”
Guliyev’s brother, Azer, told the independent regional news websiteKavkazsky Uzel that his brother’s imprisonment could be related to his coverage of local protests against an official ban on headscarves and veils in public schools. Xeber 44 covers news about religious life in Azerbaijan and international events in the Islamic world. The journalist’s lawyer told Kavkazsky Uzel that investigators claimed to have found a grenade while searching Guliyev’s home, but his lawyer said the investigators had planted it.
In April 2013, the Lankaran Court on Grave Crimes convicted Guliyev of all charges and sentenced him to eight years in jail.
Guliyev’s lawyer, Fariz Namazli, told the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety that the charges against the journalist were not substantiated in court and that the testimony of witnesses conflicted. The lawyer also said that Guliyev had been beaten by authorities after his arrest and that he was not immediately granted access to a lawyer.
News reports said that Guliyev filed an appeal, which was denied by regional courts. In July 2014, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan upheld the journalist’s sentence.
Guliyev was being held at Prison No. 14, outside Baku, according to Kavkazsky Uzel and an August 2014 report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan by a group of lawyers, human rights defenders, and non-governmental organizations.
Tofiq Yaqublu, Yeni Musavat
Police arrested Yaqublu, a columnist for the leading opposition daily Yeni Musavat, when he arrived at the town of Ismayilli to interview local residents about the causes of riots in the town, according to news reports.
On February 4, 2013, the Nasimi District Court in Baku ordered Yaqublu jailed for two months pending trial on charges of organizing mass disorder and violently resisting the police. Ilgar Mammadov, an opposition politician who was arrested with Yaqublu, was imprisoned on similar charges, according to news reports. Authorities extended Yaqublu’s pretrial detention several times during the year.
The independent regional news websiteKavkazsky Uzel reported that the charges against the journalist were in connection with the riots in Ismayilli on January 23, 2013. Thousands of local residents demonstrated to demand a local governor’s resignation after regional authorities refused to shut down a motel that allegedly housed a brothel, the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. News reports said the motel, which protesters later burned to the ground, allegedly belonged to the family of a high-ranking government official. Authorities sent police to quell the demonstrations; more than 100 residents were detained, the radio station’s Azeri service said.
Rauf Ariforglu, Yeni Musavat‘s chief editor, told Kavkazsky Uzel that his newspaper had sent Yaqublu to Ismayilli to report on the riots and that the journalist had his press card with him at the time of his arrest. Emin Huseynov, head of the Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, confirmed that Yaqublu was in the town to report on the unrest, telling CPJ that staff members from the institute saw the journalist working there.
On March 17, 2014, a regional court in Ismayilli convicted Yaqublu on charges of mass disorder and sentenced him to five years in jail, according to news reports. His appeal was denied in September, reports said. He was being held at Prison No. 13 in late 2014, Kavkazsky Uzelreported.
Sardar Alibeili, P.S. Nota
On July 31, 2013, Baku police took Alibeili, chief editor of the independent newspaper P.S. Nota, to a police station, where a local resident accused the editor of having attacked him. Alibeili denied the allegation but was held nonetheless.
Two days later, a district court in Baku ordered Alibeili imprisoned for two months pending an investigation into a criminal hooliganism charge, according to news reports.
Alibeili has frequently criticized President Ilham Aliyev and his administration in P.S. Nota and has published commentary by exiled politicians and army officers who accused the president of corruption, human rights abuses, and authoritarianism. The independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported that in a recent Facebook post Alibeili had published a collage that depicted Aliyev in handcuffs.
Alibeili, who previously edited the independent newspaper Nota Bene, has been imprisoned in retaliation for his work before, CPJ research shows. In July 2009, a court in Baku convicted Alibeili on criminal defamation charges and imprisoned him for three months. In April 2007, the editor was convicted of defaming Interior Minister Ramil Usubov and served 18 months of corrective labor.
On November 14, 2013, the Khatai District Court in Baku convicted Alibeili on hooliganism charges. The journalist’s lawyers said prosecutors did not provide substantive evidence or identify a motive, news reports said. The court sentenced Alibeili to four years in jail.
The journalist denied the allegations and appealed the verdict, according to news reports. After the appeals court upheld the conviction in May 2014, Alibeili and his lawyers disputed the ruling at the Supreme Court. No hearing date was set by December 1, 2014.
Alibeili was being held at Prison No. 14, outside Baku, according to an August 2014 report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan by a group of lawyers, human rights defenders, and non-governmental organizations.
Parviz Hashimli, Moderator, Bizim Yol
Agents with the National Security Agency, or MNB, arrested Hashimli, the editor of the independent news website Moderator and a reporter for the independent newspaper Bizim Yol, outside the offices of the Moderator in Baku. The same day, agents also raided his home, without presenting a court order and in the absence of a lawyer, and claimed to have found a pistol and several hand grenades, according to news reports.
Agents also raided the newsrooms of the Moderator and Bizim Yol and confiscated their equipment, the independent news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. Both outlets are known for coverage of corruption and human rights abuses as well as for critical reporting on the government of President Ilham Aliyev.
On September 19, 2013, the Sabail District Court in Baku ordered Hashimli imprisoned for two months pending an investigation into accusations of smuggling and the illegal possession of weapons, according to news reports. Hashimli denied the allegations.
Emin Huseynov, director of the Baku-based press freedom group Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, told CPJ that he believed the charges against Hashimli were fabricated and that his arrest was meant to be a threat to the local press in the run-up to the October 2013 election. Aliyev was subsequently declared the winner of a third term in the voting.
Citing Hashimli’s lawyer, Huseynov told CPJ that agents had orchestrated the detention of the journalist. He said that a man named Tavvakyul Gurbanov had called Hashimli to meet him outside the Moderator offices in connection with what he said was a personal matter. When Hashimli went outside and sat in Gurbanov’s car, agents surrounded the vehicle and searched it. The agents claimed to have found six guns as well as ammunition. News reports said that Gurbanov said he had brought the weapons on Hashimli’s request, which the journalist denied. Hashimli also denied ever having met Gurbanov before.
Gurbanov was also detained and faced similar charges, news reports said.
In November 2013, Hashimli’s pretrial detention was extended for three months, according to news reports. He was held at the MNB detention facility, reports said.
On May 15, 2014, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes sentenced Hashimli to eight years in prison, the Azerbaijani service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. His appeal was denied.
Hashimli was being held at Prison No. 1, outside Baku, according to an August 2014 report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan by a group of lawyers, human rights defenders, and non-governmental organizations.
Rauf Mirkadyrov, Zerkalo
Azerbaijan’s national security service, the MNB, detained Mirkadyrov when he arrived in Baku from Ankara, according to regional and international press reports. Mirkadyrov, who worked as the Turkey correspondent for the independent Azerbaijani daily newspaper Zerkalo for three years, had been deported from Turkey the day before at the request of Azerbaijani authorities, the reports said.
Mirkadyrov was arrested and charged with espionage, according to news reports. Mirkadyrov was ordered into pre-trial detention for three months, the independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
In July, authorities extended his detention for four months, until November 21, Kavkazsky Uzel said. When the term was about to expire, the Nasimi District Court ordered Mirkadyrov to be kept in pretrial detention for another five months, regional press reported.
The espionage charges stemmed from Mirkadyrov’s trips to Armenia and Georgia, as well as his time in Turkey, during which he was accused of meeting with Armenian security services and handing them information of a political and military nature, including state secrets, the independent news website Contact reported, citing the Azerbaijani prosecutor-general’s office.
Mirkadyrov denied all the accusations and said they were politically motivated and in retaliation for his work. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison, Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
While reporting for Zerkalo in Turkey, Mirkadyrov often criticized both Turkish and Azerbaijani authorities for human rights abuses, news reports said.
Kavkazsky Uzel reported, citing Mirkadyrov’s wife, that Turkish police detained the family in Ankara on April 18 and accused them of being in the country on expired travel documents. She said their documents were valid through the end of the year. Mirkadyrov was deported the next day.
Mirkadyrov was also involved in nongovernmental projects on improving dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to news reports. The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since the early 1990s, due to a dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Mirkadyrov is being held at the MNB detention facility, Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
Seymur Hazi, Azadliq
Police in the eastern Absheron district arrested Hazi, who also uses the name Haziyev, a reporter for the opposition newspaper Azadliq, on August 29 after accusing him of hooliganism and alleging that he had attacked a man at a bus stop, the independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. The day after his arrest, the Absheron District Court ordered the journalist to be imprisoned for two months pending trial, the report said. He was charged with hooliganism.
At the trial in Absheron District Court on November 11, the journalist’s lawyer requested that the judge be disqualified because authorities continued to hold Hazi even though his pretrial detention had expired, Kavkazsky Uzel reported. The judge denied the request.
Authorities said that while waiting for a bus on his way to work, Hazi attacked and beat a Baku resident named Magerram Hasanov, according to the Kavkazsky Uzel report.
Hazi said in court that he had scuffled with Hasanov, but in self-defense, Kavkazsky Uzel reported. He said Hasanov insulted and attacked him. Elton Guliyev, the journalist’s lawyer, told Kavkazsky Uzel that he believed authorities had orchestrated the altercation because the police arrived just moments after it started. Guliyev said he believed that Hazi had been imprisoned in retaliation for his journalism.
Hazi’s trial was ongoing in late 2014.
Hazi often criticized the Azerbaijani government’s domestic and foreign policies in his reports for Azadliq, according to Kavkazsky Uzel. As a host for Azadliq‘s online TV program “Azerbaijan Saati” (Azerbaijani Hour), he was critical of government corruption and human rights abuses in the country.
Guliyev told Kavkazsky Uzel that authorities did not explain why they had jailed Hazi instead of implementing other, less harsh sanctions against him. He is being held at Baku Investigative Prison No. 1 outside Baku, which is widely known as the Kurdakhani pre-trial detention facility.
Authorities arrested Hasanov, the other participant in the altercation, a few days later, but put him under house arrest. When the journalist requested similar treatment, the court refused, news reports said. Hasanov has since been jailed again, local media reported.
Abduljalil Alsingace, Freelance
Alsingace, a journalistic blogger and human rights defender, was among a number of high-profile government critics arrested as the government renewed its crackdown on dissent after pro-reform protests swept the country in February 2011.
In June 2011, a military court sentenced Alsingace 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.
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 Shia-dominated opposition Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy. He was first arrested on anti-state conspiracy charges in August 2010 as part of widespread reprisals against political dissidents, but was released in February 2011 as part of a government effort to appease a then-nascent protest movement.
In September 2012, the High Court of Appeal upheld Alsingace’s conviction and life sentence, along with those of his co-defendants. Four months later, on January 7, 2013, the Court of Cassation, the highest court in the country, also upheld the sentences.
Ahmed Humaidan, Freelance
Humaidan, a freelance photojournalist, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on March 26, 2014, in a trial of more than 30 individuals charged with participating in a 2012 attack against a police station on the island of Sitra, according to news reports. The reports said three defendants were acquitted, and the rest were given between three and 10 years in prison.
Humaidan was at the station to document the attack as part of his coverage of unrest in the country since anti-government protests erupted in February 2011, according to news reports. His photographs were published by local opposition sites, including the online newsmagazine Alhadath and the news website Alrasid.
Adel Marzouk, head of the Bahrain Press Association, an independent media freedom organization based in London, told CPJ that Humaidan’s photographs had exposed police attacks on protesters during demonstrations. Humaidan’s family said authorities had sought his arrest for months and had raided their home five times in an attempt to arrest him, news reports said.
The High Court of Appeals upheld Humaidan’s sentence on August 31, 2014, despite calls to throw out the conviction by CPJ and other human rights organizations.
In 2014, the U.S. National Press Club honored Humaidan with its John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award.
Hussein Hubail, Freelance
Hubail, a photographer, was sentenced to five years in prison on April 28, 2014, on charges of inciting protests against public order, according to news reports. Eight other individuals were sentenced in the same trial, including online activist Jassim al-Nuaimi and artist Sadiq al-Shabani, the reports said.
Hubail was arrested at the Bahrain International Airport and held incommunicado for six days before being transferred to the Dry Dock prison on August 5, 2013, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights reported.
The arrest came amid political tension in Bahrain over an opposition protest planned for August 14, 2013, that was modeled after the demonstrations that led to the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa decreed new measures to crack down on protesters who the government believed were engaging in terrorist activities.
On August 7, 2013, Hubail was interrogated by the public prosecutor who accused him of incitement against the regime and calling for illegal gatherings. Hubail’s lawyer, Ali al-Asfoor, said in a series of Twitter posts that investigators had questioned Hubail about his photography and purported posts on social media that had called for the protests on August 14.
Hubail, who photographs opposition protests, has had his work published by Agence France-Presse and other news outlets. In May 2013, the independent newspaper Al-Wasat awarded him a photography prize for his picture of protesters enshrouded in tear gas.
Hubail said he was tortured in custody by the Criminal Investigation Department, according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. The center said Hubail told of being beaten, kicked, forced to stand for long periods of time, and deprived of sleep. The Bahraini Information Affairs Authority told CPJ on August 28, 2013, that the government was investigating the torture claims.
In a video published on YouTube in August 2014, Hubail’s family said his health had deteriorated from a lack of medical care in Jaw Central Prison, where he was being held.
The High Court of Appeals upheld Hubail’s conviction on September 21, 2014, according to news reports.
Ali Mearaj, Freelance
Bahraini security forces arrested Mearaj at his home in the village of Nuwaidrat and confiscated his computer and phone, according to news reports. On April 8, 2014, he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on charges of “insulting the king” and for “misusing communication devices” in relation to posts on the opposition website Lulu Awal, the reports said.
Lulu Awal publishes news and information in opposition to the Bahraini government. The website’s YouTube page has posted hundreds of videos showing peaceful protests and violent clashes between protesters and police. Anti-government protests have become a near-daily occurrence in the country since the government cracked down on large-scale demonstrations in 2011.
According to news reports citing court documents, Mearaj said he posted news and pictures of demonstrations on several websites, but he denied insulting the king or being responsible for Lulu Awal. Authorities said that a computer seized from his home had been used to post on Lulu Awal, the reports said. It was not clear if any specific posts on the website led to the arrest and conviction.
Mearaj’s sentence was under appeal in late 2014.
Sayed Ahmed al-Mosawi, Freelance
Authorities raided al-Mosawi’s home on February 10, 2014, and arrested him along with his brother, Mohammed, according to news reports. The freelance photographer was transferred to Dry Dock jail after being interrogated about his work as a photographer.
Al-Mosawi’s internationally recognized photographs, most of which he posts on social networking sites, have won several awards. His work includes a wide variety of subjects such as wildlife and daily life in Bahrain in addition to opposition protests. Anti-government protests have become a near-daily occurrence in Bahrain since the government cracked down on large-scale demonstrations in 2011.
The journalist told his family in a phone call from prison that he had been beaten and given electric shocks, according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
By late 2014, the government had not announced any charges against al-Mosawi or his brother.
Ammar Abdulrasool, Freelance
Plainclothes security officers arrested freelance photographer Ammar Abdulrasool and confiscated his camera during a house raid on July 24, 2014, news reports said. The early-morning raid was one of several in the village of Eker.
Abdulrasool, an award-winning photographer, had captured many iconic images of the popular uprising against the Bahraini government that began in the spring of 2011, including a photograph of a police officer refusing a flower from a protester.
Abdulrasool told his family he was tortured during interrogations about his work as a photographer. According to the news websiteBahrain Mirror, Abdulrasool said his interrogators insulted his Shia religion and bound, blindfolded, beat, stripped, and threatened him with sexual molestation and electric shocks.
While Abdulrasool was being held in Dry Dock jail, he said his interrogators sought to force him to confess to these charges while he was under torture, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights reported.
On October 28, 2014, Abdulrasool was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, along with six other defendants, on charges of participating in illegal protests and possessing Molotov cocktails, according to news reports. His lawyer said that evidence of his torture while in government custody was not considered during the trial, the reports said. He is being held in Jaw Central Prison.
Mahmudur Rahman, Amar Desh
Rahman, 60, acting editor and majority owner of the opposition Bengali-language daily Amar Desh, was arrested at his office on April 11, 2013, according to news reports. Rahman was charged with publishing false and derogatory information that incited religious tension. The government cited what it said was critical coverage of the Shahbagh movement, which calls for the death penalty for Islamist leaders on trial on war crimes charges.
News reports cited a February 2013 article published in Amar Desh as an example of the daily’s critical coverage during heightened political and religious tension. The article, headlined “Bloggers committing contempt of religion and court,” criticized self-described atheist bloggers, who helped amplify support for the Shahbagh movement, and called them “enemies of Islam” and their work “vulgar, objectionable propaganda.”
Rahman was also charged with sedition and unlawful publication in connection with his paper’s reports in December 2012 that questioned the impartiality of a war crimes tribunal set up by the government to investigate mass killings during the war of independence. The paper’s reports included leaked Skype conversations of a judge presiding over the tribunal. The controversy led to the judge’s resignation.
At his initial hearing in late 2013, Rahman refused to request bail in protest, news reports said.
Rahman was indicted on corruption charges alleging he failed to submit his wealth statement despite being served several legal notices. The charges relate to his tenure as energy adviser in the previous Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led government, according to reports. The party, now in opposition, is aligned with Islamist parties.
His trial was pending in late 2014, according to reports. He is being held at the Kashimpur Jail in Gazipur. Details about the state of his health have not been disclosed.
Rahman was previously arrested in June 2010 and spent 10 months in prison for contempt of court in connection with Amar Desh reports that accused the country’s courts of bias in favor of the state.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, Weekly Blitz
A Dhaka court sentenced Choudhury, an editor of the Bangladeshi tabloid Weekly Blitz, to seven years in prison in connection with his articles about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh.
Choudhury was convicted of harming the country’s interests under section 505(A) of the penal code, having been found to have intentionally written distorting and damaging materials, reports said. Choudhury had written about anti-Israeli attitudes in Muslim countries and the spread of Islamist militancy in Bangladesh.
The prosecutor in the case, Shah Alam Talukder, told Agence France-Presse that Choudhury was taken to prison after the verdict. The editor’s family said they would appeal the decision in the High Court, news reports said. No details about his state of health, or where he is being held, have been disclosed.
The sentence was linked to Choudhury’s arrest in November 2003 when he tried to travel to Israel to participate in a conference with the Hebrew Writers Association. Bangladesh has no diplomatic relations with Israel, and it is illegal for Bangladeshi citizens to travel there. Choudhury was released on bail in 2005.
He was charged with passport violations, but the charges were dropped in February 2004 and he was accused of sedition, among other charges, in connection with his articles, according to news reports. The editor was not convicted on the sedition charge, the reports said. He was arrested again in 2012, and the current charges relating to his writing were filed. In Bangladesh, judicial proceedings can take years to resolve.
Rabiullah Robi, Daily Inqilab
Police arrested Robi, news editor of the Daily Inqilab, after a raid on the Dhaka offices of the paper on August 19, 2014, according to news accounts. Robi was charged with violating the country’s Information and Communication Technology Act in connection with a story published in the paper’s print edition and on its website, the report said. A court denied Robi bail in late September, according to reports. He was being held in a Dhaka jail and was reported to be in good health. His trial was pending in late year.
The story alleged that Assistant Inspector-General Pralay Kumar Joardar abused his authority in recruiting and transferring officials at police headquarters and in his selection of officers participating in U.N. peacekeeping missions, according to news reports. The story also alleged that Joardar, a member of Bangladesh’s Hindu minority and a former official under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, had created an “unofficial Hindu league” in the police force in a predominantly Muslim country, reports said.
Joardar denied the allegations and began legal proceedings against the publisher, reporter, editor, a correspondent, and Robi, accusing them of “hurting religious sentiments” and “attempting to cause disorder within the administration,” according to news reports. Police officials said they would be arresting the others accused in connection with the story, according to news reports. It was unclear if any arrest warrants were issued.
The Daily Inqilab is aligned with Islamist parties and often publishes reports that are critical of the ruling Awami League.
Robi had also been arrested in January 2014 along with Rafiq Mohammad, the paper’s deputy chief correspondent, and Ahmed Atik, the paper’s diplomatic correspondent, and accused of violating the Information and Communication Technology Act. At the time, police seized the paper’s printing equipment and computers, and sealed off access to its printing press, reports said. The journalists were released on bail, Mainul Islam Khan, co-director of the press freedom group Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication, told CPJ. It was unclear whether they were charged in that case. The paper continued to publish. It was unclear how long staff were barred access to the printing press.
Aleksandr Alesin, Belorusy i rynok
Aleksandr Alesin, reporter and military analyst with the Minsk-based independent newspaper Belorusy i rynok (Belarusians and the Market), went missing and stopped answering his phone on November 25. The independent news website Charter 97 reported, citing unidentified sources, that Alesin was detained by agents of the Belarusian national security service, known as the KGB, at a coffee shop in Minsk, where he met with a friend.
On December 8, 2014, the security agency informed the journalist’s family that he was in KGB custody and charged with espionage and treason, his daughter, Olga Alesina, told the independent news website Nasha Niva. Olga Alesina said the KGB also told the family that her father was detained while meeting with a foreign diplomat, who the KGB did not name.
According to Nasha Niva, if convicted, Alesina could be imprisoned for up to 15 years.
Alesin is known for analytical reports on Belarus’ military-industrial complex, as well as commentary on developments in the conflict in neighboring Ukraine. In commentary for Charter 97, he spoke about deployment of Russian military jets and S-300 surface-to-air missiles as deterrence to NATO.
Amungwa Tanyi Nicodemus, The Monitor
A court in the northwestern city of Bamenda convicted Nicodemus, publisher and editor of the private weekly The Monitor, on March 10, 2014, of defaming the Cameroon Co-operative Credit Union League (CAMCCUL), an umbrella body of cooperative credit unions, Yijofmen Kol, his lawyer, told CPJ. He was sentenced to four months in prison and ordered to pay 10 million CFA francs (US$21,000) in damages, the lawyer said.
Kol told CPJ that Nicodemus remained in prison after his four-month term had passed because on July 18, 2014, the court converted the damages into jail time of two years and three months upon request by CAMCCUL’s lawyers.
Nicodemus’ conviction stemmed from a complaint filed by CAMCCUL over a series of articles published in The Monitor in 2014 that alleged, among other things, that the microfinance institution had used and distributed unlicensed software, embezzled funds, and engaged in bribery, according to Kol and a copy of the court judgment obtained by CPJ. CAMCCUL denied the allegations.
The court also accused Nicodemus of failing to respond to a summons that had allegedly been served to him on December 16, 2013, according to the judgment. Kol told CPJ the journalist never received notice of proceedings against him.
Nicodemus’ applications for bail and appeal were scheduled to be held on December 16, 2014. He was being held at Bamenda Central Prison, according to Kol and local journalists.
‘Flash’ Zacharie Ndiomo, Le Zenith
Police arrested Ndiomo, the publisher of the bi-monthly newspaper Le Zenith, on October 13 and held him for a week before remanding him to Kondengui Central Prison in the capital, Yaounde, according to news reports.
The police initially charged Ndiomo with defamation in connection with a complaint filed by Urbain Ebang Mve, the secretary-general of Cameroon’s finance ministry, over a series of articles in Le Zenith, according to news reports. The articles, which were published earlier in the year, also featured pictures of property owned by Mve. The articles alleged that the official had used his position as secretary general to illicitly amass wealth, according to Ndiomo’s wife and news reports.
Mve denied the allegations to CPJ. He told CPJ that he had taken loans to build that property during his 28-year career in various government positions and not during his tenure as secretary-general.
In October 2014, Ndiomo was charged with blackmail and issuing threats, according to news reports. He denied all the charges, Christian Nsang, Ndiomo’s lawyer, told CPJ.
Ndiomo’s bail application was denied, and he was scheduled to appear in court on December 15, 2014, Nsang told CPJ.
Yang Tongyan (Yang Tianshui), Freelance
Yang, commonly known by his pen name 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 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 said that he had been elected to the leadership of the fictional government without his prior knowledge. 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, a Chinese dissident who had been convicted of endangering state security and jailed. Yang’s defense lawyer argued that this money was humanitarian assistance to Wang’s family 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 had received the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.
Amnesty International reported that relatives who visited Yang in prison in September 2013 said that while he continued to suffer from chronic diseases, his health seemed to be improving. They had complained earlier that he was receiving poor treatment for a number of conditions including tuberculosis, arthritis, and diabetes according to international news reports.
He is being held in Dantu District Detention Centre in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, according to the freedom of expression organization PEN American Center.
Qi Chonghuai, Freelance
Qi, a journalist of 13 years, was arrested by Tengzhou police and charged with fraud and extortion. He was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison on May 13, 2008. The arrest occurred about a week after police detained Qi’s colleague, Ma Shiping, a freelance photographer, on charges of carrying a false press card.
Qi and Ma had 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, 2007, the two posted photographs on the Xinhua news agency’s anti-corruption Web forum that showed a luxurious government building in the city of Tengzhou.
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 scheduled for release in 2011, but in May that year, local authorities told him that the court had received new evidence against him. On June 9, 2011, less than three weeks before the end of his term, a Shandong provincial court sentenced him to an additional eight years in prison, 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 China Security Produce News, a former employer. 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.
Ma was also sentenced in late 2007 to one and a half years in prison. He was released in 2009, according to Jiao.
Qi was being held in Tengzhou Prison, a four-hour trip from his family’s home, which limited visits. Jiao told international journalists in 2012 that her husband had offered her a divorce, but that she declined. As of late 2014, no new information about his legal status or health had been disclosed.
Ekberjan Jamal, Freelance
On two occasions in November 2007, Ekberjan used his cell phone to record sounds of riots in his home town of Turpan. The audio files, which included the noise of rioters, sirens, and a voice-over of Ekberjan describing what was happening, were sent to friends in the Netherlands, and later used in news reports by Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Phoenix News in Hong Kong. Ekberjan posted links to the news reports on his blog, which was closed by authorities on December 25, 2007, according to rights group World Uyghur Congress.
In an April 2009 RFA report, Ekberjan’s mother said he had made the recordings on two occasions but that he faced 21 counts of sending information abroad at his trial. She told RFA she believed he may have been motivated to send the files to help achieve his ambition of studying abroad. The Turpan Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison on February 28, 2008 for “splittism”-trying to break away from the Communist Party- and revealing state secrets, crimes under articles 103 and 11 of the Criminal Law.
As of April 2009, he was being held in the Xinjiang Number 4 prison in Urumqi, RFA reported. No information about his health or whether he remains in the same prison has been disclosed, according to RFA.
Ekberjan did not appear on CPJ’s prison census prior to 2014 because the organization had not learned of his case.
Liu Xiaobo, Freelance
Liu, a longtime advocate of political reform and the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was imprisoned on charges of 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 No. 1 Intermediate Court in December of that year. Diplomats from the U.S., U.K., 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, has been kept under house arrest in her Beijing apartment since shortly after her husband’s detention, according to international news reports. Authorities said she could request permission to visit Liu every two or three months, the BBC reported.
In March 2013, unidentified assailants beat two Hong Kong journalists as they filmed an activist’s attempt to visit Liu Xia at her home. In February 2014, Liu Xia spent a brief period in a hospital for treatment of heart problems, depression, and other medical conditions. She remained under house arrest in late 2014.
In June 2013, Liu’s brother-in-law, Liu Hui, a manager of a property company, was convicted of fraud in what the journalist’s family said was reprisal for Liu Xiaobo’s journalistic work. The conviction stemmed from a real estate dispute that his lawyers said had already been settled. Liu Hui was sentenced to 11 years in prison, news reports said. A court rejected his appeal in August 2013.
Liu Xiaobo was being held in Jinzhou Prison in northeastern China’s Liaoning province, according to news reports.
Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang, Chomei
Public security officials arrested Tsang, an online writer, in Gannan, a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the south of Gansu province, according to Tibetan rights groups. Tsang ran the Tibetan cultural issues website Chomei, according to the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. Kate Saunders, U.K. communications director for the International Campaign for Tibet, told CPJ 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 international reporters were barred from the region.
In November 2009, a Gannan court sentenced Tsang to 15 years in prison for disclosing state secrets, according to The Associated Press.
Tsang served four years of his sentence in Dingxi prison in Lanzhu, Gansu province, before being transferred in August 2013 to another prison in Gansu where conditions are harsher and where there are serious concerns for his health, according to PEN International. His family is allowed to visit every two months, but is permitted to speak with him only in Chinese via intercom through a glass screen. Not being allowed to converse in Tibetan is difficult for many of his family members, PEN International said. Prisoners held for politically charged reasons are frequently moved and, according to PEN, as of late 2014 it was unclear in which prison Tsang was being held.
Memetjan Abdulla, Freelance
Abdulla, editor of the state-run China National Radio Uighur service, was detained in July 2009, accused of 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 international journalists in Beijing about the riots, and translating articles on the Salkin website, Radio Free Asia reported. The World Uyghur Congress, a Uighur rights group based in Germany, confirmed the sentence with sources in the region, according to The New York Times.
Abdulla is in an unspecified prison in Xinjiang, according to the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which monitors human rights and law in China.
Tursunjan Hezim, Orkhun
Details of Hezim’s arrest after the 2009 ethnic unrest in northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region first emerged in March 2011. Police in Xinjiang detained international 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, 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 the Uighur website Orkhun. Erkin Sidick, a U.S.-based Uighur scholar, 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 undisclosed charges in a trial closed to observers, according to Sidick, who learned the news by telephone from sources in his native Aksu. Hezim’s family was informed of the sentence but not of the charges against him, Sidick said. Chinese authorities frequently restrict information on sensitive trials, particularly those involving ethnic minorities, according to CPJ research.
Hezim’s whereabouts in late 2014 were unknown, according to the World Uyghur Congress, a Uighur rights group based in Germany.
Gulmire Imin, Freelance
Imin was one of several administrators of Uighur-language Web forums who were arrested after the 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. She also 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. Omer confirmed the date of his wife’s initial detention in a broadcast statement given at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in 2011.
Authorities accused Imin of being an organizer of demonstrations on July 5, 2009, and of using the Uighur-language website to distribute information about the event, Radio Free Asia reported. Imin had been critical of the government in her online writings, readers of the website told Radio Free Asia. The website was shut down after the July riots and its contents were deleted.
Imin 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, 2009, but only to check that 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, and hundreds of protesters were arrested, according to international human rights organizations and local and international media reports.
Imin was being held in the Xinjiang women’s prison (Xinjiang No. 2 Prison) in Urumqi, according to the Uighur rights group World Uyghur Congress.
Niyaz Kahar, Golden Tarim
Kahar, a reporter and blogger, disappeared during ethnic rioting in Urumqi in July 2009. According to the Uighur service of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia, his family announced for the first time in February 2014 that he had been detained and convicted of separatism and was being held in Shikho prison outside Shikho city in the far north of Xinjiang.
Kahar worked as a local reporter before launching the Uighur-language website Golden Tarim, which featured articles on Uighur history, culture, politics, and social life.
With the unrest surrounding the riots, it is difficult to determine the exact date of his arrest or where he was initially held. His family had questioned police and government authorities after his disappearance, but received no information, and assumed he had been killed until they were informed of his conviction in 2010, Radio Free Asia reported.
The family was told that Kahar was sentenced to 13 years in prison during a closed court session in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, though they did not know the date of the trial. Kahar’s sister Nurgul told RFA that during their search for Kahar, the family was told by court officials in Urumqi that he “published illegal news and propagated ideas of ethnic separatism on his website. He was charged with the crime of splitting the nation.”
According to RFA, Kahar’s family was given one 15-minute visit with the journalist in late 2010. “My son was very weak and thin and could not say a word, only weeping silently,” RFA reported his mother as saying.
Thousands of Uighurs remain unaccounted for in Xinjiang. Many were detained during the 2009 crackdown or other security sweeps by Chinese authorities.
Nijat Azat, Shabnam
Nureli Obul, Salkin
Authorities imprisoned Azat and another journalist, Obul, in an apparent crackdown on managers of Uighur-language websites. Azat was sentenced to 10 years and Obul to three years on charges of endangering state security, according to international news reports. The Uyghur American Association reported that the pair were tried and sentenced in July 2010.
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 relatives 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.
Obul’s three-year sentence should have been completed in 2013. Although prisoners in China are generally released at the completion of their sentence, CPJ was not able to confirm as of late 2014 that Obul had been freed-neither the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress nor the U.S.-based Congressional-Executive Commission of China have been able to confirm his release. Former prisoners in China are often ordered not to discuss their detention or are afraid to do so.
According to the Independent Chinese PEN Center, Azat’s whereabouts were unknown as of October 2014. As is the case with many Uighur prisoners, the government releases little information on where they are being held.
Dilshat Parhat (Dilixiati Paerhati), Diyarim
Parhat, who edited the popular Uighur-language website Diyarim, was one of several online forum administrators arrested after ethnic violence in Urumqi in July 2009. Parhat was sentenced to a five-year prison term in July 2010 on charges of endangering state security, according to international news reports. He has previously appeared on CPJ’s prison census as Dilixiati Paerhati, which is the pinyin transliteration of his Chinese name.
Parhat was detained and interrogated about riots in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on July 24, 2009, but was released without charge after eight days. Agents seized him from his apartment on August 7, 2009, although the government issued no formal notice of arrest, his U.K.-based brother told Amnesty International. News reports citing his brother said Parhat was prosecuted for failing to comply with an official order to delete anti-government comments on the website.
As is the case with many Uighur prisoners, the government released few details on the case. No information on where he was being held had been disclosed in late 2014.
Gheyrat Niyaz (Hailaite Niyazi), Uighurbiz
Security officials arrested Niyaz, a website manager who is sometimes referred to as Hailaite Niyazi, in his home in the regional capital, Urumqi, according to international news reports. He was convicted 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 before ethnic unrest broke out in July 2009 in China’s far-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
Niyaz, who once worked for the state newspapers Xinjiang Legal News and Xinjiang Economic Daily, managed and edited the website Uighurbiz until June 2009. A statement posted on the website quoted Niyaz’s wife as saying that while he had given interviews to international 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. In September 2014, Uighurbiz founder Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment for separatism, according to international news reports.
According to the Independent Chinese PEN Center, in late 2014 Niyaz was being held in the Tianshan Detention Center, Urumqi, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The state of his health and the conditions under which he was being held were unknown.
Dokru Tsultrim (Zhuori Cicheng), Freelance
Tsultrim, a monk at Ngaba Gomang Monastery in western Sichuan province, was detained in April 2009, according to CPJ research, in connection with writing alleged to be anti-government and articles in support of the Dalai Lama, according to the India-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 India-based Tibet Post International.
No formal charges or trial proceedings were disclosed, though the Independent Chinese PEN center cited the charge of “inciting split of the country”-trying to break away from the Communist Party.
Tsultrim was sentenced on May 5, 2011 to four years and six months in prison, and is due to be released in November 2015. At the time of his 2010 arrest, security officials raided Tsultrim’s 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 writing of Tibetan youths detailing an April 2010 earthquake in Qinghai province, the relative said.
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.
As is the case with many ethnic minority prisoners, the government released few details. The Independent Chinese PEN Center reported that Tsultrim was last being held in the Detention Center of Barkam county, Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province. Details about the state of his health were not disclosed.
Liu Xianbin, Freelance
A court in western Sichuan province sentenced Liu 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 article was titled “Constitutional Democracy for China: Escaping Eastern Autocracy,” according to the BBC.
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 U.S.-based prisoner rights group Laogai Foundation. He was sentenced in 2011 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 sentence handed down in 1999 after he founded a branch of the China Democracy Party, according to The New York Times.
No information about where Liu was being held had been disclosed as of late 2014.
Lü Jiaping, Freelance
Jin Andi, Freelance
Beijing police detained Lü, a military scholar in his 70s, his wife, Yu Junyi, and his colleague, Jin, on allegations of inciting subversion in 13 online articles they wrote and distributed together, according to international news reports and human rights groups.
A court sentenced Lü to 10 years in prison and Jin to eight years in prison on May 13, 2011 for subverting state power, according to the Hong Kong-based advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Yu, 71, was given a suspended three-year sentence and kept under residential surveillance, which was lifted in February 2012, according to the group and the English-language, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and the U.S. government-funded Voice of America.
An appeals court upheld the sentences. maintaining that the three defendants “wrote essays of an inciting nature” and “distributed them through the mail, emails, and by posting them on individuals’ Web pages. [They] subsequently were posted and viewed by others on websites such as Boxun News and New Century News,” according to a 2012 translation of the appeal verdict published online by William Farris, a lawyer in Beijing. The 13 offending articles, which were principally written by Lü, were listed in the appeal judgment, along with dates, places of publication, and number of times they were reposted. One 70-word paragraph was reproduced as proof of incitement to subvert the state. The paragraph said in part that the Chinese Communist Party’s status as a “governing power and leadership utility has long since been smashed and subverted by the powers that hold the Party at gunpoint.”
Court documents said Lü and Jin were being held in the Beijing No. 1 Detention Center. Early in his incarceration Lü suffered a heart attack and other health problems, leaving him barely able to walk, according to the Hong Kong-based advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders. An application for medical parole was rejected, and the Independent Chinese PEN Center reported that Lü remains in poor health. In January 2014, the U.S.-based prisoner advocacy group Dui Hua Foundation reported that Lü had been granted a 22-month sentence reduction for good behavior and is expected to be released on March 14, 2019.
Li Tie, Freelance
Police in Wuhan, Hubei province, detained 52-year-old freelancer Li in September 2010, according to international news reports. The Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court tried him behind closed doors on April 18, 2011, but did not announce the verdict until January 18, 2012, when he was handed a 10-year prison term and three additional years’ political deprivation, according to news reports citing his lawyer. Only Li’s mother and daughter were allowed to attend the trial, news reports said.
The court cited 13 of Li’s online articles to support the charge of subversion of state power, a more serious count than inciting subversion, which is a common criminal charge used against jailed journalists in China, according to CPJ research. Evidence in the trial cited articles including one headlined “Human beings’ heaven is human dignity,” in which Li urged respect for ordinary citizens and called for democracy and political reform, according to international news reports. Prosecutors argued that the articles proved Li had “anti-government thoughts” that would ultimately lead to “anti-government actions,” according to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
Jian Guanghong, a lawyer hired by his family, was detained before the trial, and a government-appointed lawyer represented Li instead, according to the group. Prosecutors also cited Li’s membership in the small opposition group the China Social Democracy Party, the group reported.
No information about where Li was being held had been disclosed as of late 2014.
Chen Wei, Freelance
Police in Suining, Sichuan province, detained Chen among the dozens of lawyers, writers, and activists jailed nationwide after 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, 2011, 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, 2011, according to the rights group and the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia. Radio Free Asia reported that police had selected four pro-democracy articles Chen had written for overseas websites as the basis for criminal prosecution.
In December 2011, a court in Suining sentenced Chen to nine years in prison on charges of “inciting subversion.”
He was being held in Suining City Detention Centre in Sichuan province, according to Amnesty International.
Gartse Jigme, Freelance
Police arrested Jigme, a Tibetan author and monk, in his room at the Rebgong Gartse monastery in the Malho prefecture of Qinghai province, according to news reports. His family was unaware of his whereabouts until a Qinghai court sentenced him to five years in prison on May 14, 2013. The charges have not been officially disclosed, but the Independent Chinese PEN Center says he was accused of “inciting split”-trying to break away from the Communist Party.
The conviction was in connection with the second volume of Jigme’s book, Tsenpoi Nyingtob (The Warrior’s Courage), according to Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. The book contained chapters expressing Jigme’s opinions on topics such as Chinese policies in Tibet, self-immolation, minority rights, and the Dalai Lama, according to news reports.
Jigme had also been briefly detained in 2011 in connection with the first volume of his book, Tsenpoi Nyingtob, according to the Hong Kong-based group Chinese Human Rights Defenders and Tibetan rights groups. He had written the book as a reflection on widespread protests in Tibetan areas in the spring of 2008, Tibetan scholar Robert Barnett told CPJ. China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
Authorities did not disclose any information on Jigme’s health or whereabouts. According to the Independent Chinese PEN Center he may be in prison in Xining, a city in Qinghai province.
Liu Wei’an, Freelance
Hu Yazhu, Nanfang Daily
The Shaoguan People’s Procuratorate, a state legal body, issued a statement in June 2013 that said Hu and Liu had been arrested in Guangdong province after confessing to accepting bribes while covering events in the northern city of Shaoguan.
Hu, a staff reporter for the official Guangdong Communist Party newspaper Nanfang Daily, and Liu, a freelance writer, had both written articles published in 2011 in Nanfang Daily and on news websites about a dispute involving the illegal extraction of rare minerals in Shaoguan, according to news reports.
The prosecutors’ statement said Hu had accepted 95,000 yuan (US$16,000) in bribes, but did not offer a specific amount for Liu. The statement did not offer further details. The pair were stripped of their press cards and banned from journalism for life, according to the state-run paper China Daily.
Users on Weibo, China’s microblog service, said they suspected the reporters had been arrested in an act of revenge by local authorities because their reports had exposed problems in the government and judiciary, according to CPJ research.
Shaoguan authorities had not disclosed the health, whereabouts, or legal status of the journalists by late 2014.
Dong Rubin, Freelance
Dong was detained in Kunming city, Yunnan province, on accusations of misstating his company’s registered assets, according to statements from his lawyer. On July 23, 2014, he was sentenced by Wuhua Court in Kunming to six years and six months in prison on charges of illegal business activity and creating a disturbance, according to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
Dong, who runs an Internet consulting company, had used the name “Bianmin” on his microblog to criticize authorities and raise concerns about local issues. He also used the microblog to campaign in 2009 for an investigation into the death of a young man in police custody. Authorities had initially said it was accidental but later admitted the man had been beaten to death, according to news reports. In 2013, Dong raised safety and environmental concerns about a state-owned oil refinery project planned near the city of Kunming and expressed support on his microblog for a protest against the project by Kunming residents in May 2013.
Dong predicted his own arrest when he wrote on his microblog, which had about 50,000 followers, that strangers had raided his office in late August and taken away three computers. “What crime will they bring against me?” Dong wrote. “Prostituting, gambling, using and selling drugs, evading tax, causing trouble on purpose, fabricating rumors, running a mafia online?”
Dong’s friend, Zheng Xiejian, told Reuters in September 2013, “If they want to punish you, they can always find an excuse. They could not find any wrongdoing against Dong and had to settle on this obscure charge.”
Although Dong is not a professional journalist, CPJ determined that he was jailed in connection with his news-based commentary published on the Internet. Authorities detained scores of people starting in August 2013 in a stepped-up campaign to banish online commentary that, among other issues, casts the government in a critical light, according to Chinese media and human rights groups. Many were released, but some were still being held on criminal accusations.
Dong was being held in the Detention Center of Wuhua District, Kunming City, Yunnan province. According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, during his trial Dong said that before the trial began he was chained to a chair and interrogated for seven to eight hours at a time for more than 70 days. He is in frail condition, the Hong Kong-based group stated.
Chen Yongzhou, The New Express
Zhuo Zhiqiang, Freelance
On October 17, 2014, Chen, who wrote a series of reports critical of a state-controlled construction equipment maker, and Zhuo, who co-wrote some of the articles, were found guilty of defamation and bribery, and accused of fabricating and spreading falsehoods to damage the business reputation of others, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Zhuo, a freelancer, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and fined 10,000 yuan (US$1,600). Chen, whose trial attracted media coverage, was sentenced to 22 months in jail with a 20,000 yuan fine, (US$3,200).
The case involved reports on the finances of one of the country’s largest construction machinery companies, Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Company, according to The New York Times.
Chen, a journalist for the state-run New Express newspaper in the southern city of Guangzhou, had written 15 articles, published between September 2012 and June 2013, that questioned Zoomlion’s revenue and profit figures, news reports said. Chen alleged that the company, which is partly owned by the Hunan government, had exaggerated profits and manipulated the market, reports said. Zoomlion denied the allegations. International and local media reports alleged that Chen might have been writing about Zoomlion at the request of the company’s hometown competitor, Sany Group Co. Ltd., which allegedly sought to discredit Zoomlion by saying the larger company engaged in sales fraud, exaggerated profits, and used public relations to defame its competitors. Zoomlion denied the allegations, and Sany Group denied planting the stories.
Chen was summoned to a Guangzhou police station on October 18, 2013, and was taken into custody by police officers visiting from Changsha, 700 kilometers (435 miles) to the north. Four days later, police announced his arrest on their official Sina Weibo microblog, saying he was being held on criminal charges of damaging commercial reputation, the Hong Kong-based China Media Project reported.
After failed attempts to secure Chen’s release behind closed doors, The New Express published a front-page appeal in October 2013 for his release. It was one of the few times a Chinese newspaper has openly demanded the release of one of its journalists. The paper’s editors said they had thoroughly vetted Chen’s stories and found only one factual error.
However, on October 26, 2013, Chen appeared in handcuffs on the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) and confessed to having filed false information in exchange for money. He said the stories on Zoomlion had been written by someone else, according to news reports. The state-run CCTV broadcast did not name the intermediary who allegedly bribed Chen or offer any evidence or details on the amounts received. According to Caixin magazine, a close-up shot of Chen’s signed confession aired during the CCTV interview clearly showed the name of Zoomlion’s chief competitor, Sany Heavy Industry Co., a subsidiary of the Sany Group.
The New Express subsequently published an apology. The national journalists’ rights organization All-China Journalists Association, which had pledged to investigate Chen’s arrest, later condemned his actions, a Hong Kong University-based research group, China Media Project, reported.
News reports offered few details about Zhuo’s role in the Zoomlion coverage or about his arrest. He did not appear on CPJ’s 2013 prison census because the organization was unaware of his case.
As of late 2014, it was unclear where either journalist was being held.
Yao Wentian (Yiu Man-tin), Morning Bell Press
Yao Wentian, a Hong Kong publisher and honorary member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, was placed under residential surveillance in Shenzhen, in China’s southern Guangdong province, by state public security officers on October 27, 2013, on “suspicion of smuggling ordinary goods” before he was detained on November 2 and formally arrested on November 12, 2013. Yao’s son, Edmond Yao, said his father had been preparing to publish a book titled Chinese Godfather Xi Jinping by the exiled, U.S.-based Chinese author Yu Jie. A previous book Yao published by Yu, which criticized former Premier Wen Jiabao, is banned in China.
Yao was not counted in CPJ’s 2013 prison census because his detention was not made public until January 2014.
Yao was accused of falsely labeling and smuggling industrial chemicals. His family claimed he was delivering industrial paint to a friend in Shenzhen. At his trial, prosecutors said the cost of the industrial chemicals Yao was accused of smuggling from Hong Kong amounted to more than 1 million yuan (US$163,000), according to reports.
On May 7, 2014 during a closed-door trial at the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court, Yao was sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison. According to family members, he is being held in Dongguan Prison in Shilong in Guangdong province. The elderly Yao’s health is poor, the family says, because he is forced to do hard labor and is not receiving medical treatment.
Yao started his publishing business in Hong Kong in the 1990s. The small Morning Bell Press has published many books by Chinese dissident writers.
Ilham Tohti, Uighurbiz
Perhat Halmurat, Uighurbiz
Shohret Nijat, Uighurbiz
Luo Yuwei, Uighurbiz
Mutellip Imin, Uighurbiz
Abduqeyum Ablimit, Uighurbiz
Akbar Imin, Uighurbiz
Tohti, a Uighur scholar, writer, and blogger, was taken from his home by police on January 15, 2014, and the Uighurbizwebsite he founded, also known as UighurOnline, was closed. The site, which Tohti started in 2006, was published in Chinese and Uighur, and focused on social issues.
Tohti was charged with separatism by Urumqi police on February 20, 2014. He was accused of using his position as a lecturer at Minzu University of China to spread separatist ideas through Uighurbiz. On September 23, 2014, at the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court, Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment. He denied the charges.
Several foreign governments and human rights organizations protested the sentence. The European Union released a statement condemning the life sentence as unjustified. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. was concerned by the sentencing and called on Chinese authorities to release him, along with seven of his students.
Tohti’s appeal request was rejected at a hearing in a Xinjiang detention center on November 21 that was scheduled at such short notice that his lawyer was unable to attend.
A secret trial was held in November for seven of his students. Perhat Halmurat, Shohret Nijat, Luo Yuwei, Mutellip Imin, Abduqeyum Ablimit, Atikem Rozi and Akbar Imin were all charged with being involved with Uighurbiz, according to Tohti’s lawyer Li Fanping. Many were administrators for the site, according to state media. According to the political prisoner database of the Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC), an organization set up by Congress to monitor human rights and laws in China, Rozi and Imin wrote for the site. Imin, who is from Xinjiang and enrolled at Istanbul University in Turkey, has a personal blog too. He was arrested as he tried to leave China. According to the CECC, Rozi is being held in an undisclosed prison near Beijing, and Imin is being held in Hetian prefecture in Xinjiang. According to The New York Times, three of the students made televised confessions on the state-run China Central Television in September, saying they worked for the site. Halmurat claimed to have written an article, Nijat claimed to have taken part in editorial policy decisions, and Luo, from the Yi minority, claimed to have done design work. According to CECC, Halmurat is in an unspecified prison in Urumqi in Xinjiang. The whereabouts of the remaining students have not been released.
Tohti has asked to be moved to a Beijing prison to be nearer his wife and children, his lawyer told The Washington Post. As of late 2014, he had not had contact with his wife since being detained.
Tohti is a member of Uighur PEN, an honorary member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, and PEN America.
Shen Yongping, Freelance
Shen, an independent filmmaker, producer, and head writer of the documentary “100 Years of Constitutionalism,” was questioned several times by authorities when he started to crowd-source money on the microblogging site Weibo to complete the project. On April 28, 2014, after he made 1,000 DVD copies of “100 Years of Constitutionalism” for his donors, he was placed under criminal detention on suspicion of illegal business activities. He was officially arrested on June 4 and his trial was scheduled for November 4, 2014. His lawyer later announced that the trial was delayed to an unspecified date. Official court documents said he was being held in adetention center in Chaoyang District, Beijing.
Shen was the chief editor of the electronic monthly Constitutionalism. He also wrote a book, Include and Exclude CPC: The Truth of China‘s National Revolution, and edited websites before being arrested.
Gao Yu, Freelance
Gao, a reporter and columnist, was detained by Beijing police on April 24, 2014, and charged with illegally providing state secrets abroad, according to the Independent Chinese PEN Center.
In a televised confession on state-run China Central Television on May 8, Gao Yu expressed “deep remorse.” But in October, her lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said she had told him she was forced to give the confession. According to a report by the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Voice of America, Mo said, “She thinks she did not illegally provide state secrets to [someone] overseas. When we asked why she admitted to this before, she explained that the public security authority threatened her with her son, saying that if she didn’t confess, her son will be involved… But now she [has] completely overturned her original statement, not just to lawyers but… in front of prosecutors.”
Chinese authorities claimed that in August 2013, Gao sent a copy of a confidential document to an overseas website. Official state media did not say which document Gao was accused of leaking, but her lawyer at the time, Teng Biao,and others have speculated that it is Document 9, an internal Party communique that outlines seven political “perils,” including freedom of the press, civil society, and universal values. The overseas Chinese-language magazine Mingjing published Document 9 in full as an exclusive in September 2013. The magazine’s editors denied reports that they had obtained the document from Gao.
Gao previously spent more than seven years in prison. She was given a six-year prison sentence in 1993 for “leaking state secrets” and served a 15-month sentence after the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement in Beijing.
After her release, Gao wrote articles for Chinese media in Hong Kong and overseas Chinese media about politics, economy, and social trends in China. She has been honored with international awards, including the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, presented to her in 1997 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
At a closed trial that began on November 21, 2014, Gao’s lawyers entered a not guilty plea, Mo told The Washington Post. A verdict had not been handed down by December 1, 2014. Gao is being held in Beijing’s No. 1 Detention Center. A few days before her trial, the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle said Gao, 70, was in poor health. According to her lawyer, Mo, a pretrial meeting was interrupted so she could take medication. If convicted, she could face a life sentence.
Guo Zhongxiao, New-Way Monthly and Multiple Face
Wang Jianmin, New-Way Monthly and Multiple Face
Wang, publisher of two Chinese-language magazines in Hong Kong, New-Way Monthly and Multiple Face, and Guo, a reporter for the magazines, were detained by police in the southern city of Shenzhen on May 30, 2014 for operating an illegal publication and suspicion of illegal business operations.
According to a Hong Kong media report, Wang’s wife was also placed under criminal detention on May 30, and her house was raided the same day. She was held overnight and released on bail. Oiwan Lam, founder of Inmedia, an independent media outlet promoting free speech, told CPJ that Wang and Guo were known as politically well-connected journalists who frequently reported insider information and speculation on political affairs in China. In an editorial, the Hong Kong- and Taiwan-based newspaper Apple Daily described Wang’s magazines as “close” to the political factions of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and former Vice President Zeng Qinghong.
The chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Sham Yee Lan, told CPJ that the arrest of Wang and Guo was a part of a wider attempt to suppress the freewheeling publishing industry in Hong Kong. Both men were charged with conducting illegal business and were awaiting trial in a detention center in Shenzhen in late 2014.
Lü Gengsong, Freelance
Lü, a freelance writer, was detained on July 7, 2014 and his home was raided by Hangzhou city security officers. He was charged with subversion of state power on August 13, according to Human Rights in China. Two fellow activists told Radio Free Asia that his detention was likely linked to writing he had published online in previous days about corruption and petitioners.
Lü lost his teaching position at Zhejiang Higher Professional School of Public Security in 1993 for his support of the pro-democracy movement. In 2000 his book, Corruption in the Communist Party of China, was published by Hong Kong Culture and Arts Studio. In March 2007 his article “China’s Biggest Spy Organization: The Political and Legal Affairs Commission” appeared in Beijing Spring, an overseas democracy magazine. On February 5, 2008, the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him to four years in prison and one year’s deprivation of political rights on inciting subversion of state power. A lower court had found him guilty of publishing “subversive essays” on foreign websites, according to the Congressional Executive Commission on China.
After his release on August 23, 2011, Lü wrote a series of articles on corruption, organized crime, and other topics. Lü has also reported on the sentencing of rights activists, and frequently voiced support for the protection of basic rights. In October 2013, Lü and others wrote an open letter and petition against China’s presence on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
No trial date had been set as of late 2014. Lü was being held at Xinjiang No. 3 Prison, according to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a U.S.-based organization with a legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the rule of law in China.
Dawa Tsomo, Freelance
Tsomo, an online writer from Zatoe County in Qinghai’s Yushul Prefecture, was arrested by public security officers at her home at Chiza Sachen village in Zatoe County in Qinghai’s Yushul Prefecture, on August 23, 2014.
She was accused of violating China’s cyber laws by publishing politically sensitive articles online. Tsomo had written several Chinese language essays on websites and Chinese social media sites. Shortly before her arrest, she wrote about poor living conditions of Tibetans in an area devastated by an earthquake, according to the Tibetan service of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia.
As of late 2014, she had not been charged and it was not clear where she was being held, according to the international human rights support group Save Tibet.
Chen Shuqing, Freelance
Chen, a freelance writer and member of the China Democratic Party and the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, was detained on September 11, 2014, in Hangzhou city, Zhejiang province, on suspicion of subversion of state power, and his home was raided by agents from the Hangzhou Public Security Bureau. He had written several articles for the overseas Chinese-language website Boxun about pro-democracy advocates, many of them in hospitals or in detention. According to Human Rights in China, Chen was formally arrested on October 22.
Chen has been jailed before. He was placed under criminal detention on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power on September 14, 2006. On August 16, 2007, he was sentenced by Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court to four years in prison and one year’s deprivation of political rights for subversion of state power. After the original verdict was upheld at the appellate court, Chen was jailed at Qiaosi Prison in Hangzhou City. He was released on September 13, 2010 after serving his term.
Late in 2014, Chen was being held at the Hangzhou Detention Center, and no official charge had been disclosed.
Huang Zerong (Tie Liu), Freelance
The reporter and writer Huang, 81, known by his pen name Tie Liu (Iron Flow), was placed under criminal detention by Beijing police on September 13, 2014. On October 23, Beijing police charged Huang with illegal business activities and “creating a disturbance,” according to The New York Times. Tie’s detention could be linked to an essay he wrote claiming that Liu Yunshan, director of propaganda, was undermining the president’s purported liberal tendencies, Tie’s lawyer told The New York Times. Huang’s work was published on the Internet and in Chinese publications based outside the country.
Huang spent 1957-1980 in labor camps for being a “rightist.” In July 2007, Tie Liu started Wangshi Weihen (Scars of the Past), a magazine circulated among non-governmental organizations, for others labeled “rightists” to exchange ideas. The closing of the magazine was announced on August 25, 2011. Tie Liu declared in September 2010 that he would set up the Tie Liu Journalism Fund with one million yuan [US$163,000] to support journalists and writers persecuted for their reporting. In October of the same year, Tie Liu joined a group of Chinese journalists in signing an open letter to the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Congress calling for control over media to be lifted.
Late in 2014, he was being held in Beijing No. 1 Detention Center, waiting for a trial date to be set. According to his lawyer, Tie Liu was interrogated around the clock and suffered shock and incontinence as a result.
Zhang Miao, Die Zeit
Zhang, an arts reporter for the German magazine Die Zeit, was detained on October 2, 2014, and accused on October 13 of picking quarrels and causing trouble. Zhang had helped Die Zeit in its coverage of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. She returned to Beijing on October 1, the day before she was arrested, according to Die Zeit‘s China correspondent, Angela Köckritz. Köckritz wrote in Die Zeit that Zhang had been denied access to her lawyer and that her family was not told about the detention for days.
In a news conference on October 13, Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said Zhang, as a Chinese citizen working for a German outlet in Beijing, had not complied with the proper regulations.
According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC), police did not comply with the law that says they can hold suspects for no more than 30 days without charge or a court appearance. As of early November, Zhang had not been allowed to meet with her lawyer, her brother told the FCCC. She was being held in Beijing Municipal No. 1 Detention Center. According to her brother, she has now been officially arrested, accused of picking quarrels and causing trouble, but not yet charged. She has not yet been able to see a lawyer.
According to the FCCC, Chinese citizens are forbidden to work as reporters for foreign outlets. Foreign correspondents are able to hire Chinese citizens as assistants or drivers and only through the state.
Xu Xiao, Caixin
Xu, the culture and books editor at the Beijing-based business magazine Caixin, is being held in Beijing Number One Detention Center on suspicion of “endangering national security,” according to Didi Tatlow, a New York Times reporter who also writes blog posts on China. A friend of Xu’s found her apartment vacant and her telephone turned off, Tatlow wrote.
Caixin, which is published in English and Chinese,is recognized internationally as one of China’s more outspoken news organizations. It is unclear why Xu, who focused in the magazine on poetry and the arts, was detained. Art and culture reporters are seldom arrested for their work. Xu was imprisoned for two years in the 1970s for being a counterrevolutionary, and in 2005 recounted her experiences in a collection of essays, Half a Life, in which she described the hardships and absurdities of detention, according to the Times. The book was reissued in 2012. The Times reported that late in 2014, propaganda officials had ordered certain books removed from store shelves and prohibited some authors, including Xu, from publishing new titles. Xu said at the time that she did not know why she was on the list because she had no plans to publish any book of her own, the Times reported.
A censorship directive was handed down on December 2 saying “The media are not to report on the investigation of Caixin magazine editor Xu Xiao,” according to a translation by the U.S.-based China Digital Times. The China Digital Times reported that Xu’s arrest came after President Xi Jinping told artists, writers, and performers at the Beijing Forum on Literature and Art in October that “literature and art undertaking is an important undertaking of the Party and the people” and called on them to promote Party ideology.
Ángel Santiesteban Prats, Freelance
In late 2012, a court sentenced Santiesteban, a Cuban writer and blogger, to five years in jail on domestic violence and trespassing charges brought by his former wife, according to news reports. He denied the charges. Santiesteban’s conviction was upheld on appeal on January 28, 2013. On February 28, 2013, he was taken into custody.
Santiesteban, an award-winning author, told CPJ before his imprisonment that the charges were fabricated and that he believed the government had pursued the case in reprisal for the writing on his blog.
In 2008, Santiesteban started his own blog, Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted), on which he repeatedly criticized the Castro government. He said that although he had previously won accolades from the government, after he began to write on his blog, officials forbade him from traveling for cultural events and participating in official occasions. In the years between his blog being started and the charges being filed against him, Santiesteban said he suffered a campaign of harassment-attacks on the street by men he suspected of being undercover agents, being branded an “enemy of the revolution” by a government television program, and pressure from officials to change the tone of his writing, according to a chronology of his case posted on the blog.
Weeks before Santiesteban’s imprisonment, Amelia Rodríguez Cala, his lawyer at the time, appealed his conviction, citing irregularities in the case, including the use of false testimony, inconsistencies between witness testimony and authorities’ reports on the case, and the refusal to allow testimony from witnesses on behalf of the defense, according to legal documents posted on the blog. As part of the appeal, the defense team presented a video in which a man who had claimed to witness Santiesteban attacking his wife appears to recant his testimony.
In its 2013 census, CPJ could not find sufficient evidence to confirm a link between the author’s imprisonment and his writing, but in July 2014, Santiesteban’s 16-year-old son, Eduardo Ángel Santiesteban, said in an interview with the Miami-based TV Martí that he had been manipulated and pressured by Cuban authorities to testify against his father. He denied having witnessed any assault on his mother. Santiesteban’s wife has not spoken publicly about the case but has stood by the charges.
Prominent Cuban independent journalist Miriam Celaya told CPJ in 2014 that authorities “didn’t present evidence to confirm the crime and they didn’t follow due process. I think the prosecution has been in reprisal for his criticism of the Cuban government. Santiesteban frequently criticized them on his blog, and that evidently bothered them. The prosecution was irregular, and there are many of us who believe it was retribution for his critical reporting.”
The writer’s friend, Elisa Tabakman, has maintained the blog during Santiesteban’s imprisonment. Santiesteban has continued to write stories for his blog from prison.
Democratic Republic of Congo: 1
Michael Mukebayi, CongoNews
Police arrestedCongoNews editor Michael Mukebayi at his home in the capital, Kinshasa. He was charged with defamation in connection with a column published in the private bi-weekly, according to local journalists and news reports.
The police had an arrest warrant for Mukebayi and the paper’s publication director, John Tshingombe, according to the local press freedom group, the Africa Observatory for the Freedom of the Press (OLPA). The group said that Tshingombe went into hiding to avoid arrest.
The arrest stemmed from a public insult complaint filed on August 4, 2014, by Senator Francis Kaniki over an article he claimed was critical of Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, news reports said. Kaniki is the cardinal’s younger brother. The article, which was published on July 18, 2014, with no byline, accused the archbishop of misusing the name of the Catholic Church to solicit funds and of missing a forum held in July by the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, a faith-based civil society group, according to news reports.
The archbishop issued a statement denying involvement in the defamation case, according to reports. He has not publicly responded to the allegations made in the original report.
On September 15, 2014, police sealed the offices of CongoNews with a warrant from the prosecutor general, according to news reports.
A Kinshasa court denied Mukebayi bail on three separate occasions, the journalist’s lawyer, Serge Mayamba, said, according to news reports.
Mukebayi was being held at Malaka Central Prison, news reports said. The trial was ongoing in late 2014.
Mahmoud Abdel Nabi, Rassd
Abdel Nabi, a correspondent for the critical news website Rassd, was arrested while covering clashes between supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and supporters of the Egyptian army in the Sidi Beshr neighborhood in Alexandria, according to news reports. At least four people were killed and 84 injured in the clashes, reports said.
A prosecutor charged Abdel Nabi and at least 14 others with possessing weapons and inciting rioting, according to the state-run paper Al-Ahram. The journalist was being held at Burg Al-Arab prison outside Alexandria, according to Rassd.
Abdel Nabi’s trial, which was delayed several times, was ongoing in late 2014.
After Morsi’s ouster on July 3, 2013, the military-supported government detained dozens of local and international journalists. Most have been freed.
Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Shawkan), Freelance
Abou Zeid, a freelance photographer, was detained while covering clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi during the dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo, according to news reports.
Abou Zeid has contributed to the U.K.-based citizen journalism site and photo agency Demotix and the digital media company Corbis. After his detention, Demotix sent a letter to the Egyptian authorities confirming that Abou Zeid had been covering the clashes for the agency, the photographer’s brother, Mohamed Abou Zeid, told CPJ.
Abou Zeid was first detained by police and held in Cairo stadium with other protesters and foreign correspondents who were released the same day.
In September 2013, the Egyptian general prosecutor’s office extended the journalist’s pre-trial detention, accusing him of weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder, and attempted murder, the journalist’s brother, Mohamed Abou Zeid, told CPJ. The same allegations were levied against hundreds of protesters detained during the clashes. As of late 2014, no official charges had been filed against him. Human rights groups said Abou Zeid’s health had deteriorated in prison.
After Morsi’s ouster on July 3, 2013, the military-supported government detained dozens of local and international journalists. Most have been freed.
Mohamed told CPJ that Abou Zeid’s lawyer and the legal team at the Arab Network for Human Rights Information had appealed for his release. The appeal was denied. The journalist is being held at Tora Prison.
Samhi Mustafa, Rassd
Abdullah al-Fakharny, Rassd
Mohamed al-Adly, Amgad TV
Mustafa, co-founder of the news website Rassd, Rassd Executive Director Abdullah al-Fakharny, and Amgad TV presenter Mohamed al-Adly were arrested on August 25, 2013, in the home of the son of a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The three journalists were being held in Tora prison, southeast of Cairo.
In February 2014, the three were indicted in a Cairo criminal court along with 51 other defendants on charges of “spreading chaos” and “forming an operations room to direct the Muslim Brotherhood to defy the government” during the dispersal of the sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo, where Egyptians had gathered to decry the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. The dispersal left hundreds dead, according to news reports. The Egyptian government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization.
The prosecutor-general also accused the Muslim Brotherhood of using several media outlets, including Rassd and Amgad TV, to support its plot to take over the government and spread lies about the military and the government.
Ahmed Helmy, Mustafa’s lawyer, denied all of the charges against the journalists. Their trial was ongoing in late 2014.
CPJ did not include the three in its 2013 census because the organization had not determined that the allegations against them were related to their work as journalists.
Ahmed Gamal, Yaqeen
Gamal, a photojournalist for the online news network Yaqeen, was arrested on December 28, 2013, while covering student protests at Al-Azhar University in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo, according to news reports.
Yahya Khalaf, Yaqeen‘s executive director, told CPJ that Gamal was accused on April 10, 2014, of participating in an illegal demonstration and assaulting a police officer. He had not been officially charged. A court postponed his hearing until late 2014. No trial date had been set as of late 2014, according to his lawyer.
Khalaf told CPJ that Yaqeen had submitted documents that showed Gamal was working for the network at the time of his arrest. He was being held at Abu Zaabal prison.
On July 26, 2014, Gamal sent a letter to the local press freedom group Journalists Against Torture in which he said that he had been beaten and attacked in Abu Zaabal prison, according to news reports. In August 2014, Gamal began waging a hunger strike to protest his detention, according to news reports.
Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Al-Jazeera
Peter Greste, Al-Jazeera
Baher Mohamed, Al-Jazeera
On June 23, 2014, a Cairo criminal court convicted Fahmy, the Cairo bureau chief of Al-Jazeera English, Al-Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer for Al-Jazeera, on charges of “distorting the country’s image abroad” and “fabricating news to aid the Muslim Brotherhood,” which the government has declared a terrorist organization, according to news reports. Fahmy and Greste were sentenced to seven years in prison. Mohamed was handed a 10-year prison term on those charges, with an additional three years on a separate charge of possessing ammunition, according to news reports.
The three were arrested on December 29, 2013, at the Marriott hotel in the Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo. During the trial, prosecutors aired footage that was unrelated to Egypt, according to news reports. Photographs of a Sky Arabia report on animal cruelty and footage of a Nairobi news conference were shown, purporting to be evidence, the reports said.
Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian journalist, had previously reported for other news outlets including CNN and The New York Times, according to news reports. Prior to working for Al-Jazeera, Greste, an Australian journalist, had worked for a number of other news outlets, including Reuters and the BBC, news reports said. Mohamed had worked for other news outlets, including Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, CNN, and Iran’s Press TV, before he joined Al-Jazeera in 2013, news reports said.
On August 21, 2014, the journalists’ lawyers appealed their convictions, according to news reports. The date for the appeals had not been set in late 2014.
Fahmy, Greste, and Mohamed are being held in Tora prison.
Ahmed Fouad, Karmoz
Fouad, a reporter for the news website Karmoz, was arrested while covering a demonstration by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the neighborhood of Sidi Beshr in Alexandria governorate, according to his employer and local press freedom groups. The protest led to violent clashes between protesters and security forces.
Fouad was charged with “joining a group that aims to disrupt the law,” “demonstrating without permission,” “blocking a road,” and “possessing a weapon,” according to news reports. His first hearing was scheduled for December 14, 2014, according to Karmoz‘s Facebook page.
Karmozdenied the allegations against Fouad and said he was doing journalistic work at the time of his arrest. The website covers local news and politics in Alexandria.
On September 27, Fouad announced that he had begun a hunger strike from Al-Grbuniat prison, known also as Burj Al Arab, in Alexandria, according to news reports.
Abdel Rahman Shaheen, Freedom and Justice Gate
Shaheen, a correspondent for Freedom and Justice News Gate, was arrested on the street in Suez City, according to news reports. Freedom and Justice News Gate is a news website affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government has declared to be a terrorist organization.
In June, a Suez court sentenced Shaheen to three years in prison and 10,000 Egyptian pounds (US$1,400) on charges of inciting and committing violence during protests.
Freedom and Justice News Gatecondemned the arrest and denied the allegations against Shaheen in a statement issued shortly after the journalist’s arrest. Shaheen’s wife said the court did not allow his defense lawyer to present his case and did not inform them of the verdict, news reports said.
Fouad is serving his prison term at Ataqa Prison in Suez Governorate in northeastern Egypt, according to news reports. His appeal was ongoing in late 2014.
Ayman Saqr, Almesryoon
Saqr, an editor for the news website Almesryoon, was arrested in the Mostorod neighborhood of Cairo while heading home after covering demonstrations in the Matareya neighborhood of the capital, according to his employer. The Salafi Front, a group of conservative Islamists, called for the nationwide demonstrations to protest the government’s crackdown.
Almesryoon is a news website supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to CPJ’s review of the website.
Saqr’s lawyer told the Freedom and Justice News Gate,a news website affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, that the journalist was accused of “taking pictures of police equipment without permission” and “joining the Muslim Brotherhood,” which the Egyptian government has declared to be a terrorist organization.
Fathy Magdi, editor-in-chief of Almesryoon, told the local press freedom group Journalists Against Torture that the website sent a letter to the prosecutor saying that Saqr was conducting journalistic work at the protest and had not been involved in the demonstration.
Cairo’s fifth district prosecutor denied Saqr’s appeal for release on December 1, 2014, and ordered his continued detention for 15 days pending investigation, according to news reports. Saqr is being held at Matareya police station. He had not been officially charged in late 2014.
Ghebrehiwet Keleta, Tsigenay
Security agents arrested Ghebrehiwet, reporter for the now-defunct private weekly Tsigenay, while he was on his way to work. He has not been heard from since. Sources told CPJ at the time that Ghebrehiwet was being held in connection with the government’s overall crackdown on the press.
CPJ listed Ghebrehiwet on its annual prison list until 2010, when exiled journalists told the organization that Ghebrehiwet may have been released.
But in 2013, one of Ghebrehiwet’s children, who had recently fled Eritrea, said Ghebrehiwet was still in government custody, according to another exiled journalist who spoke to CPJ.
The journalist’s relative told CPJ in 2014 that Ghebrehiwet was still in prison.
Amanuel Asrat, Zemen
Dawit Habtemichael, Meqaleh
Mattewos Habteab, Meqaleh
Medhanie Haile, Keste Debena
Said Abdelkader, Admas
Seyoum Tsehaye, Setit
Temesgen Ghebreyesus, Keste Debena
Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Tsigenay
Eritrean authorities have never accounted for the whereabouts, health, or legal status of several newspaper editors who were arrested after the government summarily banned the private press on September 18, 2001, in response to growing criticism of President Isaias Afewerki. CPJ has confirmed that at least one of the journalists has died in secret detention, and is investigating unconfirmed reports that others have also perished in custody.
The journalists’ papers had reported on divisions between reformers and conservatives within the ruling Party for Democracy and Justice and advocated for full implementation of the country’s democratic constitution. A dozen top reformist officials, whose pro-democracy statements had been relayed by the independent newspapers, were also arrested.
Authorities initially detained 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. Several CPJ sources said the journalists were confined at the Eiraeiro prison camp or at a military prison, Adi Abeito, based in Asmara.
The exact reasons behind the arrests of the journalists are not known. Local journalists said they suspected authorities arrested Seyoum Tsehaye, a photojournalist with Setit, for an interview he gave the paper in which he said the government was stifling press freedom. Seyoum was being held at Eiraeiro Prison, local journalists said.
Over the years, Eritrean officials have offered vague and inconsistent explanations for the arrests-accusing the journalists of involvement in anti-state conspiracies in connection with foreign intelligence, of skirting military service, and of violating press regulations. Officials, at times, 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.
Some of the journalists had been jailed previously. Mattewos Habteab, who originally worked with Setit but later founded his own independent weekly, Mekaleh, had written an opinion piece showing the Eritrean governments’ disdain for journalists during the country’s war of independence (1961-1991). This led to his arrest and detention for several months at the “Track B” military prison in Asmara. Eritrean security forces arrested Tsigenay founder Yusuf Mohamed Ali on October 14, 2000, for his criticism of the government and the generally critical content of his paper, and imprisoned him at Zara Prison in the Western lowlands of Eritrea, exiled Eritrean journalists told CPJ.
In February 2007, CPJ established that one detainee, Fesshaye “Joshua” Yohannes, a co-founder of the newspaper Setit and a 2002 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award, had died in custody at the age of 47.
CPJ is seeking corroboration of successive reports that several of the remaining detainees may have died in custody. In August 2012, the international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, citing a purported former prison guard, Eyob Habte, said Dawit Habtemichael and Mattewos Habteab had died at Eiraeiro in recent years. In 2010, the Ethiopian government-sponsored Radio Wegahta also cited a purported former Eritrean prison guard as saying that Mattewos had died at Eiraeiro. The same purported guard, Eyob Habte, also claimed Medhanie Haile had died in Eiraeiro Prison.
In August 2006, an un-bylined report on the Ethiopian pro-government website Aigaforum quoted 14 purported former Eiraeiro guards as reporting 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 published purported death certificates of Fesshaye, Yusuf, Medhanie, and Said.
CPJ continues to list the journalists on the prison census as a means of holding the government accountable for their fates. Relatives of the journalists have told CPJ that they maintain hope their loved ones are still alive.
Dawit Isaac, Setit
Dawit, co-founder of the newspaper Setit, was one of 10 prominent journalists imprisoned in the September 2001 government crackdown on the independent press. In April 2002, Dawit was reputedly hospitalized because of torture. According to his brother, Esayas Issak, he was once again released on November 19, 2005, for medical reasons, but was detained after two days.
Dawit, who has dual Eritrean and Swedish citizenship, has drawn considerable international attention, particularly in Sweden, where members of his family, including his brother, Esayas, live. He has won numerous awards and prizes after his arrest, including the Golden Pen of Freedom Award of the World Association of Newspapers.
When asked about Dawit’s crime in a May 2009 interview with Swedish freelance journalist Donald Boström, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki said, “I don’t know,” before asserting that the journalist had made “a big mistake,” without offering details. The president even dismissed the issue of Dawit being tried, stating, “We will not have any trial and we will not free him.” Isaias also claimed that since Dawit was Eritrean first, “the involvement of Sweden is irrelevant. … The Swedish government has nothing to do with this.”
In August 2010, Yemane Gebreab, a senior presidential adviser, said in an interview with Swedish daily Aftonbladet that Dawit was being held for “very serious crimes regarding Eritrea’s national security and survival as an independent state.”
In a January 2013 interview with a Swedish newspaper, former information minister and government spokesman Ali Abdu pleaded ignorance of Dawit’s fate.
In September 2011, on the 10th anniversary of Dawit’s imprisonment, the European Parliament adopted a resolution expressing “fears for the life” of Dawit, calling for his release, and urging the European Council to consider targeted sanctions against relevant top Eritrean officials. In September 2014, the European Union issued a statement calling for Dawit’s immediate release and citing Eritrea’s violation of international and domestic obligations regarding human rights.
Idris Abba Arre, Tsigenay
Idris was a contributor to the private weekly Tsigenay and also worked as a reporter at the Eritrean Ministry of Education. In either August or September 2001, Idris wrote an article in Tsigenay that criticized the government’s policy of educating individuals in the mother tongue, according to Eritrean journalists in exile. The journalists said he was arrested because of the article.
The exact date of the arrest is unknown, but the journalists said they believed he had been arrested in September 2001. Authorities have not disclosed Idris’ whereabouts or any charges against him, and the state of his health is unknown.
Idris did not appear on CPJ’s census of imprisoned journalists prior to 2014. His case only came to the organization’s attention as part of a fresh investigation in 2014 into the status of long-held prisoners in Eritrea.
Tesfay Gomorra, Setit
Tesfay was a contributor to the independent weekly Setit. Local journalists who have gone into exile said authorities arrested Tesfay after a Setit piece published in August 2001 alleged that an interview published by the state-owned newspaper Haddas Ertra, had been faked.
In the article, Tesfay said Yemane Gebreab, the head of political affairs for Eritrea’s ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, had fabricated an interview with the party’s secretary, Alamin Mohamed Said, in which the secretary criticized calls for political reform by an opposition group of veterans of Eritrea’s war of independence.
Tesfay, who had close ties to staff at Haddas Erta, claimed in a column that the interview was a fabrication, according to Eritrean journalists in exile, who said they believe the column was the reason behind his arrest.
The exact date of the arrest is unknown. Authorities have not disclosed Tesfay’s whereabouts or any charges against him, and his state of health is unknown.
Tesfay did not appear on CPJ’s census of imprisoned journalists prior to 2014. His case only came to the organization’s attention as part of a fresh investigation in 2014 into the status of long-held prisoners in Eritrea.
Hamid Mohammed Said, Eri-TV
Hamid, a reporter for the Arabic-language service of the government-controlled national broadcaster Eri-TV, was arrested without charge in connection with the government’s crackdown on the press, which began in September 2001, according to CPJ sources.
In a July 2002 fact-finding mission to Asmara, the capital, a CPJ delegation learned from local sources that Hamid was among three state media reporters arrested. At least one of the journalists, Saadia Ahmed, was later released, but Hamid was being held in an undisclosed location, CPJ was told.
The government has refused to respond to numerous inquiries from CPJ and other international organizations seeking information about Hamid’s whereabouts, health, and legal status.
While the government’s motivation in imprisoning journalists is unknown in most cases, CPJ research has found that state media journalists work in a climate of intimidation and absolute control. 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.
In 2014, local journalists who had fled into exile told CPJ that Hamid was still in prison.
Saleh Aljazeeri, Eri-TV
Aljazeeri, a journalist for the Arabic desk of the state broadcaster Eri-TV, was arrested in February 2002 for unknown reasons, although local journalists now in exile said they suspected the arrest was linked to his work. The journalists said they believed he was being held in Carceli prison in Asmara.
The exact date of the arrest is unknown. Authorities have not disclosed Aljazeeri’s health status, whereabouts, or any charges against him.
While the government’s motivation in imprisoning journalists is unknown in most cases, CPJ research has found that state media journalists work in a climate of intimidation and absolute control. 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.
Aljazeeri did not appear on CPJ’s census of imprisoned journalists prior to 2014. His case came to the organization’s attention as part of a fresh investigation in 2014 into the status of long-held prisoners in Eritrea.
Basilos Zemo, Radio Bana
Bereket Misguina, Radio Bana
Ghirmai Abraham, Radio Bana, Dimtsi Hafash
Meles Nguse, Radio Bana
Petros Teferi, Radio Bana
Yirgalem Fesseha, Radio Bana
Security forces raided government-controlled Radio Bana in February 2009 and arrested its entire staff, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable disclosed by WikiLeaks in November 2010.
The cable, sent by then-U.S. Ambassador Ronald McMullen and dated February 23, 2009, attributed 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 the capital and later being separated from them. The volunteer was not interrogated and was released the next day. According to the cable, some of the station’s staff members were released as well.
The reasons for the detentions were unclear, but CPJ sources said the journalists were either accused of providing technical assistance to two opposition radio stations broadcasting into the country from Ethiopia or of participating in a meeting in which Meles spoke against the government. The staff’s close collaboration with two British nationals on the production of educational programs may have also led to their arrests, according to the same sources.
Several of the detainees had worked for other state media outlets before beginning stints at Radio Bana, a station sponsored by the Education Ministry. Ghirmai was the producer of an arts program with government-controlled state radio Dimtsi Hafash, Bereket (also a film director and scriptwriter), Meles (also a poet), and Yirgalem (a poet as well) were columnists for the state-owned paper Haddas Erta. Basilos was the head of Radio Bana, and Petros a reporter for the station. CPJ learned from an exiled journalist in 2013 of their detention with the others in 2009.
Basilos, Bereket, and Meles are believed to be held at Mai Serwa Prison, based near the capital Asmara, according to exiled Eritrean journalists.
CPJ sources confirmed that at least eight of the journalists arrested in February 2009 were released in April 2013: Araya Defoch, Biniam Ghirmay, Ismail Abdelkader, Issak Abraham, Mohammed Dafla, Mohammed Said Mohammed, Mulubruhan Habtegebriel, and Simon Elias.
Sources told CPJ that the mental health of at least two of the detainees, Yirgalem and Meles, had seriously deteriorated in detention.
Ahmed Usman, Dimtsi Hafash
Mohamed Osman, Dimtsi Hafash
Nebiel Idris, Dimtsi Hafash
Several journalists working for the government-controlled radio station (“Voice of the Masses”) were arrested in early 2011, according to CPJ sources. Authorities did not disclose the basis of the arrests. Local journalists told CPJ one of the journalists, Eyob Kessete, was released after several weeks in prison. Eyob, who worked for the Amharic-language service of Dimtsi Hafash, was arrested on allegations that he had helped others flee the country.
The reporters worked for different services of Dimtsi Hafash: Nebiel for the Amharic-language service, Ahmed for the Tigrayan-language service, and Mohamed for the Bilen-language service.
While the government’s motivation in imprisoning the journalists is unknown in most cases, CPJ research has found that state media journalists work in a climate of intimidation, retaliation, and absolute control. 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.
Saleh Idris Gama, Eri-TV
Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi, Eri-TV
Tesfalidet, a producer for Eritrea’s state broadcaster Eri-TV, and Saleh, a cameraman, were arrested in late 2006 on the Kenya-Somalia border during Ethiopia’s invasion of southern Somalia.
The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry first disclosed the detention of the journalists in April 2007 and presented them on state television as part of a group of 41 captured terrorism suspects. 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 September 2011 press conference with exiled Eritrean journalists in Addis Ababa, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Saleh and Tesfalidet would be freed if investigations determined they were not involved in espionage, according to news reports and journalists who participated in the press conference.
But Tesfalidet and Saleh had not been tried by late 2014, and authorities disclosed no information about legal proceedings against them, according to local journalists. Authorities also did not disclose any information about their health or whereabouts.
Woubshet Taye, Awramba Times
Police arrested Woubshet, deputy editor of the independent weekly 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. The outlet’s top editor, CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Dawit Kebede, fled the country in November 2011 in fear of being arrested; the newspaper is published online from exile.
Government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said Woubshet was among several people accused of planning terrorist attacks on infrastructure, telecommunications, and power lines with the support of an unnamed international terrorist group and Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea, according to news reports. In January 2012, a court in Addis Ababa sentenced Woubshet to 14 years in prison, news reports said.
CPJ believes Woubshet’s conviction was in reprisal for Awramba Times‘ critical coverage of the government. Prior to his arrest, Woubshet had written a column criticizing what he saw as the ruling party’s tactics of weakening and dividing the media and the opposition, Dawit told CPJ. Woubshet had been targeted in the past. He was detained for a week in November 2005 during the government’s crackdown on news coverage of unrest that followed disputed elections.
Woubshet did not appeal his conviction and applied for a pardon, according to local journalists. In August 2013, the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice rejected the request for a pardon, the Awramba Times reported.
Authorities have transferred Woubshet between several prisons, including the remote detention facility in the town of Ziway, about 83 miles southeast of the capital, according to local journalists and the Awramba Times. At Ziway, prison officials placed him in a section for political prisoners known as “chelema bete,” where communication and access to open air are limited, according to local journalists and family members who visited him. In February 2014, prison authorities transferred him temporarily to solitary confinement for releasing a letter describing prison conditions, which was published in the private newspaper Ethio-Midhar.
Local journalists said Woubshet contracted a kidney infection while in Ziway, likely by drinking contaminated water. In October 2014, authorities transferred him to Kality Prison in Addis Ababa, where he finally received medical treatment and where he remained late in the year.
Woubshet published in September 2014 a book of essays written in prison called The Voice of Freedom, detailing his trial and the challenges Ethiopian journalists face. Police authorities restricted visits by friends and family after the book was released, local journalists said.
In October 2013, Woubshet was honored with the Free Press Africa Award at the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards in Cape Town, South Africa.
Reeyot Alemu, Freelance
Ethiopian security forces arrested Reeyot, a prominent, critical columnist for the leading independent weekly Feteh, at an Addis Ababa high school where she taught English. Authorities raided her home and seized documents and other materials before taking her into custody at the Maekelawi federal detention center.
Ethiopian government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said Reeyot was among several people accused 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 filed terrorism charges against Reeyot in September 2011, according to local journalists.
The High Court sentenced Reeyot in January 2012 to 14 years in prison for planning a terrorist act; possessing property for a terrorist act; and promoting a terrorist act. The conviction was based on emails she had received from pro-opposition discussion groups; reports she had sent to the U.S.-based opposition news site Ethiopian Review; and unspecified money transfers from her bank account, according to court documents reviewed by CPJ.
CPJ believes Reeyot’s conviction is due to columns she wrote that accused authorities of governing by coercion, by (for example) allowing access to economic and educational opportunities only to those who were members of the ruling party, according to CPJ’s review of the translations in 2013. In the last column published before her arrest, she wrote that the ruling party had deluded itself in believing it held the legitimacy of popular support in the way of late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, according to local journalists.
In August 2012, the Supreme Court overturned Reeyot’s conviction on the planning and possession charges, but upheld the charge of promoting terrorism. The court reduced her sentence to five years. In January 2013, the Ethiopian Court of Cassation, the last resort for legal appeals in Ethiopia, rejected Reeyot’s appeal, according to news reports. She is being held at Kality Prison in Addis Ababa.
In September 2013, prison officials limited Reeyot’s visitors to her parents, denying visits from her fiancé, relatives, and friends. The journalist waged a four-day hunger strike in protest. Kemal said that Reeyot was being disciplined for violating prison laws, but did not elaborate, according to news reports.
Reeyot’s health has deteriorated while in prison. According to a medical report shown to family members, she suffered from non-cancerous tumors in her breasts. Reeyot refused surgery in May 2014, saying she had not been allowed access to family or recovery care after receiving surgery in 2012.
In April 2013, Reeyot won the 2013 UNESCO-Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in recognition of her courage and commitment to freedom of expression.
Eskinder Nega, Freelance
Ethiopian security forces arrested Eskinder, a prominent online columnist and former publisher and editor of now-shuttered newspapers, on vague accusations of involvement in a terrorism plot. The arrest came five days after Eskinder published a column on the U.S.-based news website EthioMedia that criticized the government for misusing the country’s sweeping anti-terrorism law to jail prominent journalists and dissident intellectuals.
CPJ believes the charges are part of a pattern of government persecution of Eskinder in reprisal for his coverage. In 2011, police detained Eskinder and threatened him in connection with his online columns that drew comparisons between the Egyptian uprising and Ethiopia’s 2005 pro-democracy protests, according to news reports. His coverage of the Ethiopian government’s repression of the 2005 protests landed him in jail for 17 months on anti-state charges at the time. After his release in 2007, authorities banned his newspapers and denied him licenses to start new ones. He was first arrested in September 1993 in connection with his articles in the Amharic weekly Ethiopis, one of the country’s first independent newspapers, about the government’s crackdown on dissent in Western Ethiopia, according to CPJ research.
Shortly after Eskinder’s 2011 arrest, state television portrayed the journalist as a spy for “foreign forces” and accused him of having links with the banned opposition movement Ginbot 7, which the Ethiopian government designated a terrorist entity. In an interview with Agence France-Presse, government spokesman Shimelis Kemal accused the detainee of plotting “a series of terrorist acts that would likely wreak havoc.” Eskinder consistently proclaimed his innocence, but was convicted on the basis of a video of a public town hall meeting in which he discussed the possibility of a popular uprising in Ethiopia if the ruling party did not deliver democratic reform, according to reports.
In July 2012, a federal high court judge in Addis Ababa sentenced Eskinder to 18 years in prison, according to local journalists and news reports. Five exiled journalists were convicted in absentia at the same time.
Also in 2012, a U.N. panel found that Eskinder’s imprisonment was “a result of his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression,” according to a report published in April 2013.
In May 2013, Ethiopia’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal and upheld the sentence. Eskinder was being held at Kality Prison in Addis Ababa, with restricted visitation rights.
In January 2014, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers awarded him its annual Golden Pen of Freedom award.
Yusuf Getachew, Ye Muslimoch Guday
Police officers raided the Addis Ababa home of Yusuf, editor of the now-defunct Ye Muslimoch Guday (Muslim Affairs), as part of a broad crackdown on journalists and news outlets reporting on protests staged by Ethiopian Muslims. The Muslims were demonstrating against government policies they said interfered with their religious freedom. The government sought to link the protesters to Islamist extremists and tried to suppress coverage by arresting several local and international journalists and forcing publications to close down, according to local journalists and news reports.
After Yusuf’s arrest, other Ye Muslimoch Guday journalists went into hiding, and the publication ceased operations, local journalists told CPJ.
Yusuf spent weeks in pre-trial custody at the Maekelawi federal detention center without access to his family and limited contact with his lawyer, according to local journalists.
In October 2012, he was formally charged under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Law with plotting acts of “terrorism [and] intending to advance a political, religious, or ideological cause,” according to local journalists. Yusuf told the court he had been beaten in custody, local journalists told CPJ.
Prosecutors accused Yusuf of inciting violence in columns in Ye Muslimoch Guday by alleging that the government-appointed Supreme Council for Muslim Affairs was corrupt and lacked legitimacy, according to local journalists and court documents obtained by CPJ. The prosecution also used as evidence Yusuf’s CDs with Islamic teachings even though these were widely available in markets, according to local journalists.
The editor is being held at Kality Prison in Addis Ababa. The trial was ongoing in late 2014.
Solomon Kebede, Ye Muslimoch Guday
Police arrested the managing director of the now-defunct Ye Muslimoch Guday (Muslim Affairs), as part of a broad crackdown on journalists and news outlets reporting on peaceful protests staged by Ethiopian Muslims against government policies they said interfered with their religious freedom. The government sought to link the protesters to Islamist extremists and attempted to suppress coverage by arresting several local and international journalists and forcing publications to close down, according to local journalists and news reports.
Solomon was held at the Maekelawi federal detention center for weeks without access to his family and with limited contact with his lawyer, according to local journalists.
A few weeks after his arrest, Solomon was formally charged under the Ethiopian anti-terrorism law, according to local journalists. Authorities have not disclosed any evidence against him. He is currently being held at Kilinto Prison in Addis Ababa and his trial is ongoing in late 2014, according to local journalists.
Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Addis Guday
Edom Kassaye, Freelance
Tesfalem Waldyes, Freelance
Abel Wabella, Zone 9
Atnaf Berhane, Zone 9
Befekadu Hailu, Zone 9
Mahlet Fantahun, Zone 9
Natnail Feleke, Zone 9
Zelalem Kibret, Zone 9
Police raided the homes and offices of six bloggers who wrote critical online commentaries in a collective called “Zone 9” along with two journalists, freelancers Tesfalem Waldeyes and Edom Kassaye. Three of the bloggers were picked up at their offices while the rest were arrested in their homes, according to local journalists. On April 26, 2014, authorities also arrested the senior editor of the Amharic weekly magazine Addis Guday, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, the same sources told CPJ.
On April 27, 2014, a public prosecutor in the capital, Addis Ababa, accused the detainees of working with foreign human rights organizations and using social media to create instability in the country, according to news reports and local journalists. Authorities held the group at Maekelawi Federal Detention Center for nearly three months without charge, beyond the maximum period allowed under the anti-terrorism law, according to news reports. Some of those arrested complained of serious mistreatment by investigators and said their defense lawyer was excluded from some of the proceedings.
On July 17, 2014, an Ethiopian court charged the nine journalists with inciting violence and terrorism, according to local journalists and news reports. Subsequent court hearings were adjourned more than a dozen times, and the trial had not concluded as of late 2014.
Soleyana Gebremicheal, another member of Zone 9, was charged in absentia, according to news reports. In an October 15, 2014, hearing, Edom Kassaye and Mahlet Fantahun told the court that prison wardens were treating them like terrorists even though their trial was ongoing and that authorities had restricted their family members’ visits.
The arrests followed an April 23, 2014, announcement on Facebook by the bloggers in which they said they would resume publishing after seven months of inactivity. They had suspended publishing after being harassed by security agents, according to the Zone 9 blog. Local journalists said the other detainees–Asmamaw and freelancers Tesfalem and Edom-may have been arrested on suspicion of being affiliated with the Zone 9 journalists. Edom had been approached on several occasions and asked about her relationship to the Zone 9 journalists and the support they received from outside organizations, the same sources said.
Zone 9 is an independent collective that publishes news and commentary. The group was formed in May 2012 in response to the evisceration of the independent press and the narrowing of the space for free expression. Its name is derived from Kality Prison, the main jail where Ethiopia’s political prisoners, including several journalists, are held, news reports said. With the motto “We Blog Because We Care,” the group voiced concerns over issues including political repression and social injustice. The Zone 9 blogs were frequently blocked inside Ethiopia, but gained a following with Ethiopians in the diaspora, according to local reports.
On November 5, 2014, the journalists’ lawyers appealed at the Supreme Court for their release on bail, but the motion was denied, defense lawyer Ameha Mehonnen told CPJ.
Temesghen Desalegn, Fact
The Federal High Court in the capital, Addis Ababa,convicted magazine owner Temesghen on October 13, 2014, of incitement, defamation, and false publication in connection with a 2012 defamation case, according to local journalists and news reports. On October 27, 2014, a court sentenced Temesghen to three years’ imprisonment, according to news reports.
The conviction stemmed from a series of opinion pieces published in Temesghen’s former news magazine Feteh (“Justice”) in 2012, according to the charge sheet reviewed by CPJ. The articles discussed the peaceful struggle of Ethiopian youth movements for political change, and two columns criticized alleged government efforts to violently suppress student protests and ethnic minorities, according to the charge sheet.
The court also charged in absentia Mastewal Birhanu, the former publisher of Feteh, with inciting the public to violence by printing the magazine, according to the charge sheet.
Authorities briefly arrested Temesghen on August 23, 2012, in relation to the same articles but inexplicably dropped the charges and released the journalist five days later, according to news reports. In February 2013, a judge in the Federal High Court re-instated the charges without explanation. State prosecutors had announced in December 2012 that they would re-file unspecified charges against him, Temesghen told CPJ.
The government also ordered printers to block the distribution of Feteh in July 2012 in connection with a series of articles about the former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s health, local journalists said. Authorities blocked three other subsequent publications started by Temesghen, including Addis Times, Le’ilena (“Magnanimity”), and the latest, Fact, according to CPJ research.
The last edition of Fact was published in September 2014, local journalists told CPJ. In August 2014, the Justice Ministry accused Fact and five other independent weekly publications of inciting violence, publishing false news, and undermining public confidence in the government. All of the publications ceased printing.
“Chief” Ebrima Manneh, Daily Observer
Two plainclothes officers of the National Intelligence Agency arrested Manneh at the office of his newspaper, the pro-government Daily Observer, according to witnesses. The reason for the arrest was unclear, although some colleagues believe it was linked to his attempt to republish a BBC article critical of President Yahya Jammeh.
Despite dozens of inquiries from international organizations, the government has not provided a credible account of what happened to Manneh after he was taken into custody. In 2008, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ruled that Gambia had unlawfully seized Manneh and ordered his immediate release.
Sketchy and conflicting details have emerged about Manneh’s whereabouts, health, and legal status. Witnesses reported seeing Manneh 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 a nationally televised meeting with local media representatives in March 2011, Jammeh described Manneh as having died, but denied 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.
But Justice Minister Edward Gomez provided contradictory information just months later. In an October 2011 interview with the local newspaper Daily News, Gomez said that Manneh was alive. “Chief Ebrima Manneh is alive, and we will talk about this case later,” Gomez told AFP in a subsequent interview.
In February 2012, Reuters reported that Jammeh had asked the United Nations to investigate Manneh’s disappearance. “In response to civil society complaints about the disappearance of a journalist in the Gambia, the president of Gambia asked for the U.N. to come in and investigate,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, according to Reuters. In a subsequent interview with CPJ, a government spokesman denied having any knowledge of the request to the U.N.
On June 10, 2014, the ECOWAS court held that previous rulings against the Gambia, including Manneh’s case, proved the Gambian government was fostering a climate of impunity which in itself was a violation of freedom of expression.
Gambian authorities have not responded to CPJ’s inquiries about Manneh’s whereabouts, health, or legal status.
Jaikhlong Brahma, News Live
Brahma, a correspondent for the Guwahati-based privately owned news channel News Live, was arrested in Kokrajhar on September 2, and held by police for six days in the northeast Indian state of Assam for questioning, according to news reports.
Police accused Brahma of having links with a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) separatist group, and seized the journalist’s laptop and two cell phones from his home, according to reports. Police accused Brahma of providing information to the extremists about the movement of security forces, and “voluntarily [doing] the work of promoting and knowingly facilitating the violent acts of this banned organization…which compromises the national security and integrity,” according to news reports.
Brahma was denied bail on September 8, and is being held at Kokrajhar jail. Formal charges were not immediately filed, according to reports. He is at risk of being detained for 12 months without charge or trial under the National Security Act, according to Amnesty International. He faces possible anti-state charges over accusations that he promoted an outlawed separatist group after interviewing its commander, according to news reports.
Brahma has denied the allegations against him. The Journalists’ Union of Assam said the allegations against Brahma were false and came as a result of tension between local journalists and police.
Adnan Hassanpour, Aso
Security agents seized Hassanpour, 32, 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 him of anti-state charges and sentenced him to death. After a series of appeals and reversals, he was re-sentenced in May 2010 to 15 years in prison, his defense lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, told the independent press outlet Human Rights Activists News Agency.
The government’s case against Hassanpour amounted to a series of assertions by security agents, his defense lawyer, Sirvan Hosmandi, told CPJ in 2008. Hassanpour’s sister, Lily, told CPJ that she believed his critical writings were behind the charges.
He has not been allowed furlough during his time in prison despite repeated requests by his lawyer and family, news reports said. His sister told the Committee of Human Rights Reporters in 2013 that the journalist’s health had deteriorated in prison from lack of proper medical care.
Hassanpour was being held at Sanandaj Central Prison in Kurdistan province. In January 2014, he was abruptly transferred to Marivan Prison in Kurdistan province, then to Zabol Prison in Sistan and Baluchistan province, and on March 19, 2014, to Zahedan Prison, according to Radio Zamaneh. Hassanpour’s sister told Radio Zamaneh that the reason for the transfer could have been a letter he wrote to President Hassan Rouhani in August 2013 in which the journalist expressed hope that voting for Rouhani would help bring peaceful change to Kurdistan province and its citizens.
Hassanpour was transferred back to Marivan Prison on April 19, 2014, according to HRANA.
Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, Payam-e-Mardom
Plainclothes security officials arrested Kaboudvand, a 49-year-old journalist and human rights activist, at his Tehran office, according to Amnesty International and CPJ sources. He was being held at Evin Prison in Tehran.
Authorities charged Kaboudvand, head of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan and managing editor of the weekly Payam-e-Mardom, with 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 in 2008.
Kaboudvand’s health deteriorated in prison, and he was consistently denied requests for medical leave or family visits. His wife, Farinaz Baghban Hassani, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that when his family members were finally allowed to see him, they believed he had suffered significant heart problems in custody. News accounts also reported that the journalist had suffered from severe dizziness and disruption of speech and vision.
Kaboudvand has waged several hunger strikes to protest authorities’ refusal to grant him a furlough to see his son, who had been diagnosed with leukemia, according to news reports. After he waged a hunger strike that left him hospitalized, authorities temporarily released him to visit his son in December 2012 on bail of 700 million toman (about US$250,000). The journalist returned to prison after four days, news reports said.
In 2013, security forces told Kaboudvand that they would file additional charges against him in connection with letters they alleged he had written to senior officials calling on them to respect human rights in the country, according to news reports. No additional charges had been filed in late 2014.
On April 17, 2014, security and intelligence agents on Ward 350 of Evin Prison severely beat and injured several prisoners, according to news websites and human rights groups. Kaboudvand was badly injured. His wife, who visited him after the attack, told the reformist news website Kaleme that three of his ribs and two toes had been broken and that he had bruised knees and arms and swelling on the back of his head.
Mojtaba Lotfi, Freelance
Security forces arrested Lotfi, a blogger and clergyman, on a warrant issued by the Clergy Court in Qom. Authorities accused him of publishing the views of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the deceased cleric who had criticized then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s positions, but did not specify any articles or publications in which the views were supposedly cited.
In November 2009, Lotfi was convicted of several charges, including spreading anti-state information, and sentenced to four years in prison followed by a period of exile, according to news reports.
In July 2010, the Human Rights House of Iran reported that Lotfi had been transferred to a remote village, 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 that has worsened during his confinement, the reformist news website Norooz News reported.
Lotfi was still confined to Ashtian in late 2014, according to exiled journalists who spoke to CPJ.
Ahmad Zaid-Abadi, Freelance
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 news organization 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. Zaid-Abadi’s wife, Mahdieh Mohammadi, said conditions there were crowded and unsanitary, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported. She said she feared malnutrition and the spread of disease.
In 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, Zaid-Abadi was granted short furloughs after posting bail, according to news websites. He was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 2011 and the World Association of Newspapers’ Golden Pen of Freedom Award in 2010.
Kayvan Samimi, Nameh
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.
Samimi was subject to mistreatment while being held in Evin Prison. 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. In November 2010, the journalist was transferred to Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, which houses violent criminals, according to news reports.
Samimi suffers from liver problems, which have worsened in custody. He was briefly hospitalized in March 2012 for treatment, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
In September 2012, authorities at Rajaee Shahr Prison placed Samimi and fellow journalist Massoud Bastani in solitary confinement for several days after a photograph of the two detainees was published on the reformist news website Kaleme, the outlet reported. Since his arrest, Samimi has been allowed furlough only once. He has waged several hunger strikes to protest prison conditions and treatment.
Samimi, who suffers from heart and kidney disease as well as arthritis, was transferred to Tehran Heart Hospital on November 6, 2013, but was returned to prison on May 14, 2014, before he was able to complete his treatment, according to Kaleme.
Massoud Bastani, Farhikhtegan and Jomhoriyat
Bastani, a journalist with Farhikhtegan, a reformist newspaper, 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, who had been detained, according to local news reports.
Bastani was among more than 100 opposition figures and journalists who faced a mass, televised judicial proceeding in August 2009 on vague anti-state accusations, according to news reports. On October 20, 2009, the news website 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, 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.
In September 2012, authorities at Rajaee Shahr Prison placed Bastani and fellow journalist Kayvan Samimi in solitary confinement for several days after a photograph of the two detainees was published on the reformist news website Kaleme, the outlet reported.
Bastani’s wife, Amrabadi, was later sentenced to one year in prison on anti-state charges. She began serving her term in Evin Prison in May 2012, news reports said. Amrabadi was released on September 18, 2013.
Bastani was released on furlough in July 2013, and summoned back to Rajaee Shahr Prison on September 16, 2013, according to Kaleme.
In October 2014, Bastani wrote a story, published on the reformist news website Rooz Online, about followers of the Baha’i faith in the northern city of Gorgan, who had been imprisoned on charges related to national security. The Baha’i faith is outlawed in Iran.
Saeed Matin-Pour, Freelance
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. He was released on bail, then re-arrested in July 2009 amid the government’s massive crackdown on dissidents and the press.
A Revolutionary Court in Tehran convicted Matin-Pour in July 2011 of charges of having “relations with foreigners” and “propagating against the regime,” according to local news reports. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.
In September 2012, Matin-Pour’s wife, Atieh Taheri, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that her husband had been kept in solitary confinement for months, interrogated, and tortured. Reformist news websites reported that Matin-Pour had developed heart and respiratory problems.
The Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency reported on April 1, 2013, that Matin-Pour had also developed severe spinal pain and chronic headaches in prison. The agency said authorities had denied his repeated requests for transfer to a hospital.
In April 2014, security and intelligence agents raided Ward 350 and severely beat and injured several prisoners, including Matin-Pour, according to news websites and human rights groups. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported in August 2014 that Matin-Pour was one of 27 political prisoners who were transferred from Evin Prison’s Ward 350 to a quarantine unit inside the prison, where conditions were dire. Matin-Pour was transferred to Zanjan Prison on September 28, 2014, according to HRANA.
Matin-Pour has not been allowed a day of furlough in the more than five years he has been in prison, according to news reports.
Arash Honarvar Shojaei, Freelance
On October 2, 2011, nearly a year after Shojaei was first jailed, a special clerical court sentenced him to four years in prison and 50 lashes on multiple charges of “acting against national security,” “espionage,” and “cooperation with foreign embassies,” the reformist news outlet Radio Zamaneh reported.
Shojaei told the ICHRI in September 2013 that he had been sentenced to an additional year in prison on charges of “insulting Imam Khomeini” after he said in an interview during a previous furlough that Ayatollah Khomeini had “populist conduct.” He said that authorities considered the comment an insult.
Shojaei, a blogger and cleric, was also the 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 the Human Rights House of Iran and Radio Zamaneh. The journalist suffered from a heart condition, a hearing impairment, epilepsy, brain atrophy, spinal disc problems, and diabetes, all of which developed while he was in prison, reformist news websites said.
Shojaei was granted a medical furlough in November 2011 but was summoned back to Evin Prison in January 2012 before his medical treatment was completed, news reports said. He was briefly hospitalized in September 2012 after suffering a heart attack and seizure, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
The Human Rights Activists News Agency reported that Shojaei has waged multiple hunger strikes to protest his treatment in prison.
HRANA reported on July 28, 2014, that following an eight-day hunger strike, Shojaei was transferred to the infirmary in Evin Prison.
Alireza Rajaee, Freelance
Rajaee, a leader of Iran’s Journalists Association and an editor for several reformist publications, was being held at Evin Prison, according to reformist news outlets. He was summoned to serve a previously suspended three-year term that dated to a 2001 case in which he was convicted of “acting against national security.”
While in prison, Rajaee signed a number of letters calling for free elections and protesting detention conditions, which led to new charges of “propagating against the regime,” news reports said. In February 2012, he was sentenced to an additional four years in prison.
Rajaee served as a politics editor and editorial board member for reformist publications including Jame’eh, Iran-e-Farda, Payam-e-Hajar, and Iran Political.
Rajaee was allowed a short furlough on February 16, 2014, according to news reports. He returned to prison in early March 2014, according to the reformist news website Rooz Online.
Alireza Beheshti Shirazi, Kalameh Sabz
Authorities summoned Shirazi, the editor-in-chief of the now-defunct reformist daily Kalameh Sabz, to serve a five-year sentence in Evin Prison, according to reformist news websites. Kalemeh Sabz was one of the initial Green Movement publications, which arose after the disputed 2009 election and criticized the government’s policies, according to news reports.
Shirazi was first arrested in December 2009 and transferred to solitary confinement in Evin Prison, according to reformist news websites. He was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of “acting against national security,” but was released on bail in October 2010, the report said. He was summoned to begin serving his prison term in July 2011.
In May 2013, in an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani from prison, Shirazi expressed concern about the country’s economic policies and decisions made by Rouhani’s administration. The letter was published by the reformist website Kaleme.
According to Kaleme, Shirazi was released on a two-week furlough in September 2013. He returned to Evin Prison on October 6, 2013.
Ahmadreza Ahmadpour, Freelance
Ahmadpour, a journalist, blogger, and researcher at Qom Seminary, was serving a three-year prison term on anti-state charges stemming from a letter he wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, according to reformist news websites. In the letter, written in 2010 while he was serving an earlier prison term, Ahmadpour protested abuses of his rights. The Qom Special Clerics Court also imposed 10 years of exile, defrocking, and deprivation of any clerical position, according to the same reports.
Ahmadpour was a student of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the now-deceased cleric who had criticized then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s positions. He was arrested in December 2009 and sentenced to a year in prison on charges of “acting against national security” and “violating the dignity of the clergy” in his writings, reformist news websites said.
A disabled Iran-Iraq War veteran, Ahmadpour suffers from respiratory problems due to exposure to chemical warfare. His respiratory condition worsened and he suffered cardiac problems due to harsh prison conditions and lack of medical care, according to reformist news websites. Ahmadpour was being held at Khorram Abad’s Parsilon Prison, which is used to confine hardened criminals, according to news reports. Ahmadpour was released from prison on June 24, 2013, and was exiled to the southern town of Izeh for 10 years, according to news reports.
Ahmadpour has resumed writing in his blog, Pejvak-e Khamoosh (The Silent Echo). His 10-year exile was later reduced to two years, according to news reports.
Mostafa Abdi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Omid Behroozi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Mostafa Daneshjoo, Majzooban-e-Noor
Reza Entessari, Majzooban-e-Noor
Amir Eslami, Majzooban-e-Noor
Afshin Karampour, Majzooban-e-Noor
Hamid Reza Moradi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Farshid Yadollahi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Authorities arrested at least 30 members of the religious minority Gonabadi dervishes after 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 journalists affiliated with Majzooban-e-Noor, a website that reports news about the Gonabadi dervish community, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and the reformist news website Rooz Online.
The Majzooban-e-Noor website listed Daneshjoo, Karampour, Entessari, Moradi, and Yadollahi as directors, and Behroozi and Eslami as editors. The journalists are also lawyers who have represented Gonabadi dervishes in recent years. Abdi is listed on the site as a reporter.
On January 15, 2013, the journalists refused to attend their trial, saying the Revolutionary Court was not qualified to hear their case, news reports said. The journalists were put in solitary confinement in Evin Prison and charged with “publishing falsehoods,” “creating public anxiety,” “propaganda against the state,” and “acting against national security,” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Majzooban-e-Noor said agents had targeted the journalists in an effort to silence news coverage of the group. The wife of another Majzooban-e-Noor journalist told the campaign that her husband and his colleagues had established the website so that “people would know what is happening to the dervishes.” She said the charges against the journalists were unfounded.
In July 2013, the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced the journalists to three to 10 years each in prison on charges of “forming the illegal Majzooban-e-Noor group with the intent to disrupt national security,” “propaganda against the state,” “insulting the supreme leader,” and “participation in disrupting public order,” according to news reports. The journalists again refused to appear in court.
Moradi was given 10 years and six months in prison, and Entessari was given eight years and six months, according to news reports. Daneshjoo, Yadollahi, Eslami, Behrouzi, and Karampour were sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. Abdi was given three years in prison. Farhad Nouri, editor of Majzoonban-e-Noor, told CPJ in late 2014 that Abdi was still being held in Evin Prison. It is unclear why authorities are still holding him.
The journalists were also banned for five years from “membership in groups, parties, sects, and activities in publications, media, and virtual space.”
In an April 17, 2014, raid on Ward 350 of Evin Prison, security and intelligence agents severely beat and injured several prisoners, according to news websites and human rights groups. Behroozi was reported to have been severely beaten and injured during this attack.
The group began waging a month-long hunger strike in September 2014 to protest the abusive treatment of Gonabadi dervishes nationwide, according to the reformist news website Kaleme.
Saeed Madani, Freelance
Security forces arrested Madani, a former editorial board member of the long-defunct Iran-e-Farda magazine and the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly Refah-e-Ejtemaee (Journal of Social Welfare), and confiscated a computer hard drive from his home, news reports said.
The journalist was placed in solitary confinement after his arrest, Madani’s wife, Mansoureh Ettefagh, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in March 2012. She also said their family had not been told of his condition in prison. The reformist news website Kaleme reported that Madani had been subjected to violent interrogations.
Madani faced trial on January 16, 2013, at a Tehran Revolutionary Court on charges of “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion,” and offered a statement in his own defense, news reports said.
Madani’s wife told Kaleme in June 2013 that a Tehran Revolutionary Court had sentenced Madani to six years in prison in the southern city of Bandar Abbas and 10 years’ exile to the same city on charges of “assembly and collusion with the intent to commit a crime against national security” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic to benefit regime opposition groups.” An appeals court upheld Madani’s sentence on February 19, 2014, according to the BBC’s Persian service.
Kasra Nouri, Majzooban-e-Noor
Nouri, a reporter for the news website Majzooban-e-Noor, was charged with “propagating against the regime” and having unlawful contact with the U.S. government-funded Radio Farda, according to Majzooban-e-Noor. His family knew nothing about his whereabouts or condition until a month after his arrest, when they discovered he was being held at the Shiraz Intelligence Office’s Detention Center, his mother, Shokoofeh Yadollahi, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. After repeated attempts, she said, they were allowed to visit him.
Nouri awaited trial in prison on the initial counts. In a separate case, the Shiraz Criminal Court convicted Nouri of “creating public anxiety” and “publishing falsehoods” in connection with his work, according to Majzooban-e-Noor. The court sentenced him to one year in prison on those counts.
Majzooban-e-Noor covers the Gonabadi dervishes religious community. Nouri had reported that security and intelligence forces had incited local residents to attack the dervishes during a September 2011 confrontation, causing one death and several injuries, according to Majzooban-e-Noor. Many dervishes, including several other journalists with Majzooban-e-Noor, were imprisoned immediately after the 2011 crackdown.
Nouri has developed respiratory problems during his imprisonment at Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz, according to reformist news websites. The journalist began waging a hunger strike in April 2013 to protest the transfer to solitary confinement of several Majzooban-e Noor journalists, according to Majzooban-e Noor.
On April 24, 2013, a Shiraz Revolutionary Court convicted Nouri of “propaganda against the regime,” “acting against national security,” “insulting the supreme leader,” and “membership in the Majzooban-e-Noor group,” according to Majzooban-e-Noor. He was sentenced to four years and four months in prison. His sentence was upheld on appeal on August 30, 2013, according to Majzooban-e Noor.
Nassour Naghipour, Human Rights Activists News Agency
Naghipour, a reporter and Web editor for the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), was serving a seven-year term at Evin Prison on anti-state charges related to his work in documenting violations of human rights, according to news reports.
Naghipour also established and managed a website that collected Farsi articles in different areas of humanities, philosophy, politics, and literature, according to reformist news websites.
In early 2013, HRANA reported that Naghipour had developed gum disease in prison. The journalist was denied furlough in March 2013, the human rights agency said. He was released on furlough on July 28, 2014, and returned to prison on August 2, 2014, according to news websites and rights groups.
Mehrdad Sarjoui, Iran News
Sarjoui was initially arrested in July 2011 and sentenced by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran to 10 years in prison on charges of “cooperating with enemy states,” according to the reformist news site Kaleme. He was detained for 10 months and freed on bail in May 2012, the reports said. In August 2012, an appeals court reduced his sentence to three years in prison and seven years’ suspended imprisonment. He was summoned to begin serving his term in November 2012, news reports said.
Sarjoui covered international news for the English-language daily Iran News and other publications. He 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 had access to politically sensitive material, which placed them under intense scrutiny by government security agents.
The journalist is being held at Evin Prison.
In December 2013, Sarjoui’s wife told the opposition news website JARAS that authorities had not granted their family’s repeated requests for the journalist’s release or furlough.
Khosrow Kordpour, Mukrian News Agency
Massoud Kordpour, Freelance
Intelligence forces arrested Khosrow Kordpour, editor-in-chief of the Mukrian News Agency, an outlet that covers the arrests and prosecutions of Kurdish activists and documents human rights violations. The U.S. government-funded Radio Farda reported that authorities had a warrant for his arrest and also searched his home, but did not offer further details.
Kordpour’s brother, freelance journalist Massoud Kordpour, was arrested at the Boukan Intelligence Office the next day when he went to inquire about the imprisonment of his brother. Authorities later searched his home and confiscated personal items. Massoud Kordpour had frequently covered human rights in Kurdistan province, and his work has been published by RFI Persian, Deutsche Welle Persian, Voice of America Persian, and on local and Kurdish-language websites.
Massoud was initially held in solitary confinement before being transferred to Mahabad Prison in Azerbaijan province. Both journalists were then transferred to Orumiyeh Prison on March 26, 2013, according to the Kurdish news website Kurdpa and Radio Zamaneh.
Neither journalist has been allowed access to his lawyer or family members, according to the independent press service Human Rights Activist News Agency. Another brother, As’ad, told Kurdpa on April 11, 2013, that a judge had forbidden the journalists’ family from visiting the brothers.
The brothers were taken to court on September 16, 2013, and officially charged with “propaganda against the regime,” “insulting the supreme leader,” and “publishing falsehoods with the intent to create public anxiety,” according to the Mukrian News Agency. The judge did not issue a decision in relation to the defense lawyer’s request to release the journalists on bail. Massoud and Khosrow Kordpour were sent back to prison.
In November 2013, news accounts reported that the Mahabad Revolutionary Court had sentenced Massoud to three and a half years in prison and Khosrow to six years in prison, followed by exile for two years. An appeal court upheld the sentences in March 2014, according to the website Kurdpa.
Khosrow Kordpour was transferred to Tabriz Prison on March 19, 2014, according to Radio Zamaneh, and he was denied furlough, according to HRANA. Massoud Kordpour was allowed a short furlough in August 2014, according to HRANA.
Serajeddin Mirdamadi, Toos, Hayat-e No, Radio Zamaneh
Mirdamadi has been held in solitary confinement in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Ward 2-A at Evin Prison since his arrest on May 10, 2014, according to news reports. On July 27, 2014, the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced him to six years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion against national security,” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Mirdamadi’s lawyer told the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency on October 7, 2014, that the journalist had appealed the conviction, but no date had been set to hear the appeal.
Mirdamadi had worked for now-defunct reformist newspapers such as Toos and Hayat-e No, according to the reformist news website Kaleme. He left Iran after the disputed 2009 presidential election, but wrote for the reformist news outlet Radio Zamaneh, which is based in Amsterdam, and had also given guest interviews to Farsi media outside Iran, according to Radio Farda. In his work, the journalist criticized the views and policies of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Mirdamadi returned to Iran shortly after Rouhani’s election in 2013. He was summoned and interrogated several times before he was eventually arrested. News accounts did not specify which of Mirdamadi’s stories had led to the charges.
Mahnaz Mohammadi, Freelance
A documentary filmmaker and women’s rights activist, Mahnaz Mohammadi began serving a five-year prison sentence in Evin Prison in Tehran on June 7, 2014, on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state,” according to news reports.
On June 26, 2011, she was arrested by agents from the IRGC Intelligence Unit at her home, and was kept in IRGC’s Ward 2-A at Evin Prison before being released on bail on July 27, 2011, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. She was tried in October 2012 and sentenced to five years in prison, which an appeals court later upheld.
Before she was imprisoned, Mohammadi told the ICHRI that her documentary, “We Are Half of the Iranian Population,” was one of the reasons for the charge of “propaganda against the state.” The documentary is about women discussing the 2009 presidential election.
Mohammadi also said in variousinterviews before going to prison that she was accused of “making a film for BBC Persian network.” She denied ever working with the BBC and said none of her films had ever been broadcast on the BBC.
Iran has waged a campaign against the BBC in recent years, jamming its broadcasts in Iran and accusing its staff of “sexual assault, drug trafficking, and criminal financial behavior,” according to the BBC. Several BBC staff members have been detained or harassed in recent years.
Mohammadi was also arrested on July 30, 2009, when she, the Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, and a group of other documentarians gathered at a memorial service at the grave of Neda Agha Soltan, the young woman shot and killed during the violent crackdown on post-election protests in 2009. Mohammadi was released the next day.
Mahnaz Mohammadi is known for her 2006 film Travelogue, in which she interviews train passengers about why they are leaving Iran, as well as Ephemeral Marriage, released in 2011, and Crossing the Line, in 2012.
Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post
Rezaian, correspondent for the U.S.-based Washington Post, was arrested in Tehran along with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, a journalist for the UAE’s National newspaper, according to news reports. Rezaian, a U.S. citizen, and Salehi were arrested after their Tehran home was raided by security forces who confiscated their personal belongings, including laptops, books, and notes, news reports said. The Washington Post reported on October 6 that Salehi had been freed the week before.
Before becoming the Washington Post correspondent in Tehran, Rezaian was a freelance reporter who wrote for publications outside Iran including the San Francisco Chronicle and Slate.
Authorities had not disclosed the reason for Rezaian’s arrest or any charges against him by late 2014. Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s human rights commission, said officials were investigating activities believed to have gone “beyond the sphere of journalism,” according to news reports. He did not elaborate. On November 11, 2014, Hadi Sadeghi, Iran’s deputy judiciary chief, told the Guardian that Rezaian’s case was still under investigation.
Rezaian’s brother, Ali, told CPJ on November 7, 2014, that the journalist had been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest, which had taken a toll on his mental and physical health. Rezaian, who suffers from high blood pressure, had developed problems with his eyes and other body pains.
The journalist was being held in Evin Prison, according to news reports.
Mohammad Reza Pourshajari (Siamak Mehr), Freelance
Pourshajari, a blogger who wrote under the penname Siamak Mehr, was arrested in Orumiyeh in Azerbaijan province while on a trip to visit his family, according to the Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency.
Authorities did not disclose Pourshajari’s location or legal status. The journalist’s daughter, Mitra Pourshajari, said on Facebook that on October 30, the journalist called his family and said he was being held at Ghezel Hessar Prison in the city of Karaj and that he had been arrested for the same reasons that he had been imprisoned before.
Pourshajari’s daughter said she did not have any details about her father’s arrest or trial date.
The journalist had been released on August 23, 2014, after serving four years in prison. Pourshajari, who criticized Iran’s theological state on his blog Gozaresh be Khaak-e-Iran (Reports to the Soil of Iran), was arrested on September 12, 2010, at his home in Karaj, according to news reports and human rights groups. In December 2010, he was given three years in prison on charges of “propagating against the regime” and “insulting the supreme leader,” Human Rights and Democracy Activists of Iran reported. In April 2012, the Karaj Revolutionary Court sentenced Pourshajari to an additional year in prison on blasphemy charges. The journalist declined to file appeals, citing the lack of due process in the judicial system.
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 documents. The journalist wrote that he was taken to Rajaee Shahr Prison, where interrogators tortured him and subjected him to a mock execution. He said he was not allowed visitors, phone calls, or access to a lawyer.
Pourshajari’s daughter told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on April 1, 2013, that the journalist had suffered a heart attack in prison in the fall of 2012. She said her father would die in custody unless prison authorities allowed him to have open heart surgery. In August 2013, she told the Human Rights Activists News Agency that her father was also suffering from diabetes, and that prison authorities were still refusing to allow him out of prison for hospital treatment.
Ali Ghazali, Freelance
Agents from Iran’s Intelligence Ministry arrested Ghazali on November 29, 2014, and transferred him to Evin Prison, according to the reformist news website Saham News. He was charged with “publishing lies with the intent to create public anxiety,” the website said.
Ghazali was the managing editor of two news websites, Baztab Emrooz and Ayandeh Online, which published stories on alleged government corruption. In May 2013, authorities banned Baztab Emrooz, accusing it of publishing false news, according to news reports.
On April 27, 2013, in the lead-up to the 2013 presidential election in Iran, Baztab Emrooz had published an audio file that it claimed supported allegations of elections fraud during the 2009 presidential election. The next day, Ghazali was summoned and arrested. He was released on June 18, 2013, three days after Hassan Rouhani was elected president, according to the reformist news website Kaleme.
Several of the website’s staff members also worked for Ayandeh Online, which was banned in March 2014 with no reasons given, according to the reformist website JARAS.
In March 2014, after Ayandeh Online was shut down, Ghazali began publishing on his Facebook page stories on alleged government corruption, including embezzlement, according to news reports. Rooz Online reported that on August 15, 2014, Ghazali published a list on his personal Facebook page of more than 700 individuals who allegedly received illegal scholarships to study abroad in 2012. The journalist said he would continue to publish the names of more than 3,000 individuals who received illegal scholarships during the Ahmadinejad era.
Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: 4
Muhammad Anwar Muna, Quds Press News Agency
Israeli authorities arrested Muna in a dawn raid of his house in Nablus, the U.K.-based Quds Press News Agency reported. The authorities also confiscated his computer and cellphone, news reports said.
Muna was being held under administration detention at the Negev detention facility in late 2014. 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 official charges were filed against him.
A military court ruled on August 11, 2014, to extend Muna’s administrative detention for four additional months, Quds Press News Agency reported. The ruling came after Muna and other prisoners waged a hunger strike protesting the practice of administrative detention, news reports said. Muna’s health deteriorated and he was temporarily transferred to a hospital before being returned to the Negev detention facility in mid-2014, his agency reported.
Quds Press News Agency’s correspondent in the southern West Bank, Yousef Faqeeh, told CPJ in November 2013 that the reasons for Muna’s arrest were unclear but that the journalist had reported critically on allegations of Israeli human rights violations in the West Bank.
It was not clear which reports were written by Muna because Quds Press News Agency, which is critical of Israeli policies, does not use bylines.
In a separate development, a Palestinian magistrate court in Nablus sentenced Muna in absentia on April 3, 2014, to three months’ imprisonment on charges of inciting sectarianism, according to news reports. The sentence set off solidarity protests by journalists who denounced the court’s decision. The basis for the charge is not clear.
Muna’s wife told the regional press freedom group SKeyes in May 2014, “We have not received the judgment papers from the court about his charge or sentence, and we do not know anything about the foundation of the charges against him levied by the Palestinian judiciary.”
Aziz Kayed, Al-Aqsa TV
Kayed, the West Bank director of the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV, was arrested by Israeli security forces during a raid of his house in the early morning of June 17, the station reported. Kayed’s daughter, Maryam, told the Palestinian press freedom group MADA that Israeli security forces interrogated her father about his family members before taking him away.
On June 23, an Israeli military court ordered Kayed to be held for six months in administrative detention, Al-Aqsa reported. 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 30, an Israeli military court extended his administrative detention for another four months, the regional press freedom group SKeyes reported. He was being held in Negev detention facility, his daughter told SKeyes.
Israeli authorities have not disclosed any charges against him, but local Palestinian press freedom groups said Kayed’s arrest was part of an Israeli campaign to censor the press and prevent it from reporting on Israeli human rights violations.
Kayed’s daughter, Maryam, told CPJ in December 2014 that she believed her father was detained for his work at Al-Aqsa TV.
Kayed, who previously served as deputy secretary general of a Hamas-led government, was arrested in the intense crackdown against Hamas leaders and institutions in the West Bank. Hundreds of Palestinians were arrested in the sweep, called Operation Brother’s Keeper, as part of Israel’s attempt to find three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on June 12. The Israeli’s bodies were discovered on June 30, according to news reports.
Israeli officials have previously said that journalists working for Al-Aqsa cannot be considered legitimate because of the station’s relationship with Hamas, which the Israeli government considers a terrorist group. In addition to Kayed’s arrest in the West Bank, Israeli security forces raided two Palestinian media companies in June that it claimed provided services to Hamas-affiliated outlets, including Al-Aqsa TV, according to the international rights organization Human Rights Watch and news reports. Al-Aqsa’s cameraman Ahmad al-Khatib and correspondent Mustafa al-Khawaja were also arrested this year. Both remain in prison. Al-Aqsa TV facilities were targeted by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, part of the 50-day war that resulted from overflowing tensions in the aftermath of the murder of the three teenagers, the murder of a 17-year-old Palestinian, and escalating retaliatory violence committed by all sides, according to news reports.
CPJ believes Kayed, al-Khatib, and al-Khawaja were arrested in relation to their newsgathering for Al-Aqsa TV, whose broadcasts include anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli propaganda, including calls for violence.
Kayed has previously been arrested by both Israeli and the Palestinian Authority in connection with his leadership position in Hamas, according to news reports.
Ahmad al-Khatib, Al-Aqsa TV
Al-Khatib, a cameraman for the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV, was arrested at an Israeli checkpoint south of Nablus as he was driving from his home in Ramallah to his family home in Tulkaram, according to Al-Aqsa and other news reports.
He is being held in administrative detention, where he has been interrogated about his work for Al-Aqsa TV, the reports 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. No official charges have been filed against him.
Al-Khatib’s arrest came as authorities cracked down on Hamas leaders and institutions in the West Bank. Hundreds of Palestinians were arrested in the sweep, called Operation Brother’s Keeper, as part of Israel’s attempt to find three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on June 12. The Israelis’ bodies were discovered on June 30, according to news reports.
Israeli officials have previously said that journalists working for Al-Aqsa cannot be considered legitimate because of the station’s relationship with Hamas, which the Israeli government considers a terrorist group. In June, Israeli security forces raided two Palestinian media companies it claimed provided services to Hamas-affiliated outlets, including Al-Aqsa TV, according to the international rights organization Human Rights Watch and news reports. In the West Bank, Al-Aqsa’s West Bank director Aziz Kayed and correspondent Mustafa al-Khawaja were also arrested this year. Both remain in prison. Al-Aqsa TV facilities were targeted by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, part of the 50-day war that resulted from overflowing tensions in the aftermath of the murder of the three teenagers, the murder of a 17-year-old Palestinian, and escalating retaliatory violence committed by all sides, according to news reports.
CPJ believes al-Khatib, Kayed, and al-Khawaja were arrested in relation to their newsgathering for al-Aqsa TV, which has also broadcast anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli propaganda, including calls for violence.
Al-Khatib’s family has strong affiliations with Hamas. His father, Fathi al-Khatib, is serving 29 life sentences for his role in the 2002 suicide bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya that killed 30 people and injured more than 100 others, according to news reports. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the deadliest during the Second Intifada.
Mustafa al-Khawaja, Al-Aqsa TV
Al-Khawaja, a correspondent for the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV in the West Bank, was arrested at his home in Naalin village on the morning of October 20, 2014, according to his station and news reports.
Al-Khawaja’s brother, Firas, told the regional press freedom organization SKeyes that al-Khawaja had been taken to the Russian Compound detention facility in Jerusalem, where he was interrogated about his work for Al-Aqsa TV. The brother said that a lawyer had been allowed to visit al-Khawaja in the detention center.
Spokesmen for the Israeli Ministry of Public Security and the Israeli Prison Service did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment on why al-Khawaja was detained and what, if any, charges he faces.
In a statement on October 20, 2014, Al-Aqsa TV said that al-Khawaja’s arrest was the latest in an Israeli campaign to pressure the station.
Israeli officials have previously said that journalists working for al-Aqsa cannot be considered legitimate because of the station’s relationship with Hamas, which the Israeli government considers a terrorist group. In June, Israeli security forces raided two Palestinian media companies it claimed provided services to Hamas-affiliated outlets, including Al-Aqsa TV, according to the international rights organization Human Rights Watch and news reports. In the West Bank, Al-Aqsa’s West Bank director Aziz Kayed and cameraman Ahmed al-Khatib were also arrested this year. Both remain in prison. Al-Aqsa TV facilities were targeted by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, part of the 50-day war that resulted from overflowing tensions in the aftermath of the murder of three Israeli teenagers, the murder of a 17-year-old Palestinian, and escalating retaliatory violence committed by all sides, according to news reports.
CPJ believes al-Khawaja, Kayed, and al-Khatib were arrested in relation to their newsgathering for al-Aqsa TV, which has also broadcast anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli propaganda, including calls for violence.
Ayyad al-Harbi, Sabr
A court on January 7, 2013, convicted al-Harbi, a columnist for the local independent news website Sabr, on insult charges in connection with a series of tweets and retweets on his personal Twitter account, starting in October 2012, in which he criticized the government and called on authorities to stop oppressing Kuwaiti citizens, according to news reports. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment under Article 25 of the Kuwaiti penal code, which outlaws public criticism of the “rights and authority of the emir” and finding fault in him, news reports said. He was taken into custody immediately.
In May 2013, an appeals court suspended al-Harbi’s sentence pending a constitutional challenge to Article 25 and he was released on bail, news reports said. Two months later, Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, issued a pardon for those sentenced to jail terms for insulting him. The pardon was in commemoration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
On December 2, 2013, Kuwait’s Constitutional Court upheld the constitutionality of Article 25 and said that Article 54 of the constitution, which states that the emir is “immune and inviolable,” proved that “it is not acceptable that the highest position in the country should be treated like other individuals,” according to news reports.
After the Constitutional Court’s decision, an appeals court on May 22, 2014, upheld the original two-year sentence for al-Harbi, news reports said. He was arrested on October 22, 2014, and taken to Central Prison, his newspaper reported.
Al-Harbi wrote opinion pieces for Sabr, which publishes news and commentary. He wrote extensively about local issues, including corruption and freedom of speech, in the run-up to the December 2012parliamentary election. He has also written articles that called on the Shia minority to revolt against corruption and criticized the government in connection with its attitudes on freedom of speech and women’s rights.
On October 28, 2014, al-Harbi was beaten and left in a prison corridor with his hands and feet bound for hours, according to his lawyer, al-Humaidi al-Subaie, and Sabr. His mistreatment set off an outcry on social media, with Kuwaitis tweeting under Arabic hashtags that translate to “The torture of Ayad al-Harbi in Prison” and “The beating of Ayad al-Harbi.” Sabr reported that al-Harbi’s lawyer filed two official complaints, and the Ministry of Interior summoned two officers over the beating.
Nawaf al-Hendal, a prominent human rights activist, tweeted on October 22, 2014, that al-Harbi’s lawyer had filed an appeal, but that no court date had been set. CPJ could not confirm the information.
Azimjon Askarov, Freelance
Askarov, a contributor to independent news websites including Voice of Freedom and director of the local human rights group Vozdukh (Air), was sentenced to life in prison in September 2010 after being convicted on charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer. The charges were filed amid violence that swept across southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, pitting ethnic Kyrgyz residents against ethnic Uzbeks. Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek who had exposed law enforcement abuses for many years, was actively documenting human rights violations in his hometown of Bazar-Korgon in the midst of the unrest.
A number of human rights groups have concluded that the criminal charges against Askarov were fabricated. A June 2012 CPJ special report-based on interviews with Askarov, his lawyers, and defense witnesses, as well as review of court documents-found that authorities had retaliated against Askarov for his years of reporting on corrupt and abusive practices among regional police and prosecutors.
Authorities accused Askarov of inciting a crowd to kill a Kyrgyz police officer, a case built on the testimony of other officers who claimed the journalist had made provocative remarks. Yet no witness testified to having observed the murder of the officer or having seen Askarov participate in any act of violence.
The trial was held amid an atmosphere of intense intimidation of the defense-Askarov and his lawyer were both assaulted during the proceedings-and a general climate of fear among the Uzbek population. People who could have provided exculpatory testimony were ignored by authorities or too frightened to testify. Askarov’s wife and neighbors, for example, said the journalist was elsewhere at the time of the officer’s murder.
Authorities also accused Askarov of urging another crowd to take a local mayor hostage, although no hostage-taking ever took place, and claimed to have found 10 bullets in a search of Askarov’s home. The defense disputed the legitimacy of the evidence, noting that investigators failed to produce any witnesses to the search, a step required under Kyrgyz law.
Askarov told CPJ that authorities had long threatened to retaliate against him. Throughout his career, Askarov had exposed the fabrication of criminal cases, arbitrary detentions, and the rape and abusive treatment of detainees in his native Jalal-Abad region. Askarov’s exposés had led to overturned convictions and cost several officials their jobs.
Investigations conducted by the New York-based Human Rights Watch and a commission sanctioned by the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe each found a pattern of prejudicial law enforcement in the region after the unrest, with ethnic Uzbeks disproportionately targeted for arrest and imprisonment. “Ethnic Uzbeks constituted the large majority of victims of the June violence, sustaining most of the casualties and destroyed homes, but most detainees and defendants-almost 85 percent-were also ethnic Uzbek,” Human Rights Watch found. Although 19 people died and more than 400 buildings were burned down in Askarov’s hometown during the unrest, no other individuals were successfully prosecuted there, according to local human rights defenders.
Askarov endured prolonged brutality while in police custody before his trial, he told CPJ. A physician hired by the defense team examined Askarov in jail in December 2011 and concluded that he suffered “severe and lasting” effects from the brutality. Askarov told CPJ that he was beaten with a gun, a baton, and a water-filled plastic bottle, once so badly that he lost consciousness.
Askarov’s imprisonment has been challenged by the Kyrgyz government’s own human rights ombudsman, as well as by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez.
Even though Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev publicly pledged during a December 2012 visit to Brussels to review the case if new evidence emerged, prosecutors failed to pursue leads provided by Askarov’s lawyers and CPJ. No action followed after Askarov’s co-defendants in the case publicly said in July 2013 that authorities had forced them to testify against the journalist.
In November 2012, CPJ honored Askarov in absentia with its International Press Freedom Award.
CPJ submitted a report on Kyrgyzstan’s press freedom record, which included Askarov’s case, to the U.N. Human Rights Committee ahead of its 110th session in Geneva in March 2014, and called on the agency to hold Kyrgyzstan responsible for its violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In a July 2014 meeting in Washington, CPJ asked Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General Aida Salyanova to reopen Askarov’s case based on the statements made by defense witnesses. Salyanova told CPJ that prosecutors had declared the statements unfounded and that while her agency was committed to uprooting corruption and enforcing the rule of law, no corruption had been found in Askarov’s case. In September 2014, a judge again denied attempts by Askarov’s lawyer to have the case reopened, regional press said.
Askarov is being held at a prison colony outside Bishkek, his lawyertold CPJ.
Tomislav Kezarovski, Nova Makedonija
Police arrested Kezarovski, a critical reporter with the national daily Nova Makedonija, in his hometown of Veles and charged him with revealing the identity of a witness in a 2005 murder case. Authorities claimed the witness’ identity was protected, although the witness himself has disputed the claim.
Motions by Kezarovski’s lawyer for his release pending trial were rejected. Kezarovski’s trial started in early August 2013. On October 21, 2013, the Skopje First Basic Court convicted Kezarovski and sentenced him to four and a half years in prison.
A month after Kezarovski was sentenced, he was transferred to house arrest, regional media reported.
The conviction stemmed from Kezarovski’s coverage in 2008 of a 2005 murder case for the now-defunct independent weekly Reporter 92. Local journalists told CPJ that Kezarovski had criticized the Macedonian national security service for pressuring and intimidating people into giving false testimony in criminal cases. Kezarovski revealed the name of a witness in an article that criticized the way police handled the 2005 murder case.
But the witness that Kezarovski named did not have protected status at the time, according to news reports and local journalists. In February 2013, the witness told a court that he had received protected status only in 2010. The witness also testified that he had been pressured by police to give fabricated evidence in the murder case, exactly as Kezarovski had reported. Upon the witness’s testimony, the imprisoned defendants in the murder case were released, news reports said.
“My articles revealed only breaches of justice procedures and criticized the works of the interior ministry and the justice system,” Agence France-Presse quoted Kezarovski as saying during his trial.
At the time of his arrest in May 2013, Kezarovski was investigating the death of Nikola Mladenov, the owner of the critical independent paper Fokus, in a March 2013 car crash. On April 1, 2013, Kezarovski wrote an article, published in the daily paper Nova Makedonija, that raised questions about the police investigation into the crash and authorities’ treatment of the case as an accident. The circumstances of the crash also raised questions among Mladenov’s colleagues at Fokus.
Local journalists have repeatedly organized rallies in Kezarovski’s support.
His appeal was scheduled to be held on October 24, 2014, reports said. No ruling had been issued by late 2014.
Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, Freelance
Police arrested blogger and freelancer Mohamed in his home in the city of Nouadhibou on January 2, 2014, on charges of apostasy in connection with an article he wrote that was published on the news website Aqlame on December 31, 2013. The article, called “Religion, religiosity and craftsmen,” criticized Mauritania’s caste system, an extremely delicate subject, and said that followers of Islam interpreted the religion according to circumstance, Reuters reported.
Mohamed has frequently written articles for news websites that criticize Islamic religious beliefs and conservative practices in Mauritania. He was charged under Article 306 of the Mauritanian criminal code. If convicted, he could face the death penalty, according to news reports.
The editor of Aqlame, Riad Ould Ahmed, took down the article from the website and issued a statement on January 4, 2014, saying it had been posted accidentally.
The article led to nationwide demonstrations on January 10, 2014, in which protesters called for President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to punish Mohamed for what they saw as blasphemy. In response, Aziz told the protesters, “Websites, free TV stations, and journalists should respect our religion. … We will do everything that is necessary to protect the Islamic religion and to defend the Messenger of Allah,” according to news reports.
On January 11, 2014, Mohamed issued a statement from prison denying that he intended to insult the prophet.
Pedro Celestino Canché Herrera, Freelance
Canché, an independent journalist and activist for Mayan causes, was detained by state security forces and charged with sabotage, according to documents prepared by the freedom of expression group Article 19 that were provided to CPJ by Canché’s lawyer, Maria Araceli Andrade Tomala.
The charges against Canché stemmed from a criminal complaint brought against him by Fernando Alfonso Trujillo, the local manager of the state water commission, who accused Canché of inciting protesters to block access to the commission’s headquarters in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto on August 11. That demonstration came amid a series of protests in August against increased water bills in the state of Quintana Roo, according to news reports. A new state law passed this year criminalizes blockading public roads in protests, according to news reports.
The complaint alleged that witnesses saw Canché taking photographs on the days the protesters blocked the building and that he had personally encouraged people to close off the site, according to Canché’s lawyer. Canché said he had witnesses and evidence that placed him in Cancún on the day that the headquarters were blocked, according to his lawyer.
Canché had written posts about the protests on Twitter. He also posted videos of the protests on YouTube. In one widely viewed video, dated August 24, 2014, he harshly criticized policies of the state governor, Roberto Borge, toward the Mayan population, such as the poor quality of local hospitals in their cities and a rise in certain fees and taxes. A few of his photographs of the protests were published in the national magazine Proceso and then reprinted on the website of the daily Noticaribe.
Canché told CPJ in a telephone conversation in late September that he served as a source for correspondents for the outlets Luces del Siglo, Proceso and Noticaribe and provided them with information and photos that he said he was not paid for. He told CPJ that he had previously worked as a reporter for the Mexican news agency Notimex and other dailies and a radio station, and that at one point he had founded a small local magazine. Canché told CPJ he was speaking from a hospital room where he was being treated after being beaten by other prisoners in the jail where he was being held in Quintana Roo.
Noticaribe founder Vicente Carrera told CPJ that Canché was an “informal” contributor for the last six months and was both a journalist and an activist. Local journalists told CPJ that Canché had been the voice of the Mayans for many years, had worked in small local publications, and was an important source for journalists working in the region.
In December 2013 and January 2014, Canché posted videos to YouTube in which he criticized the governor’s treatment of a dengue virus outbreak and the official’s decision to build a new hospital in the tourist destination of Cancún rather than in Mayan communities.
Canché’s trial was ongoing in late 2014.
Mahmoud Lhaisan, Rasd TV
Police arrested Lhaisan, a reporter for Rasd TV, outside his home on July 4, 2014, according to news reports. Rasd TV, which is affiliated with the Sahrawi people in the Western Sahara region, broadcasts from Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria and is owned by the Polisario Front, a national liberation movement composed of native Sahrawis and supported by neighboring Algeria.
Lhaisan had reported on police abuse during the forced dispersal of Sahrawi demonstrators on June 30 after Algeria’s performance in the World Cup, according to Rasd TV and local news reports. He was charged with protesting illegally, obstructing traffic, and attacking police officers, according to news reports. He is being held at Lekhal prison in the northern city of Laayoune.
On July 21, 2014, authorities denied Lhaisan bail, according to news reports citing his family. On November 5, a Laayoune criminal court extended Lhaisan’s administrative detention to December 10, according to local news.
Lhaisan’s family said in a news conference, published on YouTube, that Lhaisan had been arrested in retaliation for his criticism of police abuse during the demonstrations. They said police surrounded their house after his arrest to discourage his colleagues from protesting.
On September 19, 2014, the Union of Saharawi Journalists and Writers reported that Lhaisan was waging a hunger strike to protest his detention and ill treatment.
Coverage of the Western Sahara is one of the most sensitive issues in Morocco, according to CPJ research. The Moroccan government has blocked coverage of Sahrawi protests since 2004. Foreign journalists were expelled from the area in 2010 when the city erupted in anti-government protests.
Lu Maw Naing, Unity
Paing Thet Kyaw (Aung Thura), Unity
Sithu Soe, Unity
Yarzar Oo, Unity
Tint San, Unity
Naing, Kyaw, Soe, and Oo were detained by police days after their Unity weekly news journal published an exposé on its front page on the alleged production of chemical weapons at a secret military facility in Myanmar’s central Magwe Division. All four journalists, as well as the journal’s chief executive, Tint San, were held in pretrial detention.
On July 10, the Pakokku Township Court sentenced all five to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labor under the 1923 Official Secrets Act, which criminalizes acts deemed as prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state. The criminal charges of divulging state secrets and trespassing were filed and prosecuted by the government’s President’s Office.
The January 25, 2014, story quoted villagers as saying that the facility was used for the production of chemical weapons and that technicians who appeared to be Chinese were frequently seen at the 3,000-acre complex. The report claimed that several senior military members, including former junta leader Senior General Than Shwe and current Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing, had visited the secret facility.
On October 2, the Magwe Divisional Court reduced all five of their sentences to seven years on appeal. On November 26, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal for full acquittal by Naing, Kyaw, Soe, and Oo, according to news reports. Their defense lawyer, Robert San Aung, said they would file an “appeal by special leave,” their last possible appeal option under Burmese law. The court denied on the same day San’s separate appeal for a reduction of his sentence to five years, reports said. All five were being held at Pakkoku Prison in late year. The publication closed down for financial reasons after the arrest of San.
Kyaw Zaw Hein, Bi Mon Te Nay
Kyaw Min Khaing, Bi Mon Te Nay
Aung Thant (Naing Sai Aung), Bi Mon Te Nay
Win Tin, Bi Mon Te Nay
Yin Min Tun, Bi Mon Te Nay
Editors Thant and Tin were arrested in the early morning of July 8 at their respective homes. Staff reporter Hein was arrested the following day after police raided and seized equipment and documents from the weekly newspaper’s Rangoon bureau. Khaing and Tun, the publishers, were arrested on July 16 after being deported from Thailand where Khaing, his wife, Ei Ei San, and Tun, had fled.
All five were sentenced on October 16, 2014, to two years in prison on anti-state charges. On October 27, a district court in Rangoon rejected an appeal to review their case and overturn their sentences. On August 4, Rangoon’s Pabedan district court had reduced earlier national security-related charges under the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act that carried possible seven-year prison terms to the less punitive charge of defamation of the state. The court also ordered the release of Bi Mon Te Nay editor Ye Min Aung due to lack of evidence. He had been held for nearly a month.
The state-lodged criminal charges stemmed from a Bi Mon Te Nay front-page story on July 7 that quoted an activist group’s statement that claimed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic group leaders had formed an interim government to depose President Thein Sein’s military-backed administration. Suu Kyi, currently a member of parliament, was held under house arrest for 15 out of 21 years under the previous ruling junta.
Bi Mon Te Nay stopped publishing after police raided its bureau and confiscated equipment and documents, according to local reports. All five journalists were being held at Rangoon’s Insein Prison after sentencing.
Sergei Reznik, Freelance
Regional authorities in Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia, jailed Reznik immediately after the Pervomaiskiy District Court convicted him of insulting a public official, bribery, and deliberately misleading authorities, the regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. The court sentenced him to jail for 18 months.
News reports said Reznik had maintained a personal blog on the popular platform LiveJournal and had contributed reporting to regional news outlets, including the website Yuzhnyi Federalnyi. His articles for the website criticized municipal and regional authorities and alleged widespread corruption and abuses.
Authorities filed charges against Reznik in November 2012, saying that an investigation of the blogger had shown that Reznik had staged threats he reported receiving in February 2012 as part of demands to stop publishing his articles. Officials accused Reznik of misleading them. Authorities also said that the blogger had bribed a car shop mechanic to get an inspection sticker for his vehicle.
Reznik was also charged with insult in connection with a series of articles he posted on his personal blog in which he accused the chairwoman of the Regional Arbitration Court of corruption and nepotism, local and international media reported.
He has denied all charges, according to news reports.
A month before he was sentenced, Reznik was attacked by two unidentified men outside his apartment building. The blogger and his wife were beaten and shot at, according to news reports. Authorities have failed to bring to justice those responsible for the attack.
Reznik and Yuri Kastrubin, his defense lawyer, appealed the sentence, but the Rostov Regional Court upheld the lower court’s ruling in April 2014, Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
In July 2014, authorities opened a new criminal case against the blogger. A regional prosecutor and two police agents filed separate complaints against Reznik, accusing him of libel and publishing deliberately false information about them, according to Kavkazsky Uzel and other reports, which did not specify which articles. Reznik denied the accusations in court.
The Leninsky District Court in Rostov began hearing the case in August, but closed the proceedings to the public and the press, Kavkazsky Uzel reported. If Reznik is convicted, his prison term could be extended for up to three years, reports said.
Reznik was being held at a pretrial detention facility in Rostov-on-Don, the independent Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported in August 2014.
Saudi Arabia: 4
Hussein Malik al-Salam, Al-Fajr Cultural Network
Security forces arrested al-Salam, manager of the critical news website Al-Fajr Cultural Network, in the city of Jubail in connection with the site’s coverage of pro-reform protests in Eastern Province, news outlets reported. Another site manager, Habib al-Maatiq, was arrested on the previous day. The website posts videos from Shia leaders including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, as well as Saudi sheikhs.
According to a court indictment, the two were charged under Article 6 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, which prohibits the production, storage, and transmission of material on information networks that disturbs public order, as well as establishing a website without a license.
On December 23, 2013 al-Maatiq was sentenced to one year in prison for establishing a website without a license, and al-Salam to three years, news reports said. Two other individuals who were accused of contributing to Al-Fajr and social media outlets were also sentenced: a teacher, Reda al-Baharna, to one year, and an engineer, Montazer al-Aqili, to five years.
On March 4, 2014, news reports said the Specialized Criminal Court increased sentences on appeal to two years for al-Maatiq and five years for al-Salam, according to news reports. The sentence for al-Baharna was increased to three and a half years and for al-Aqili to seven. In a final appeal in June, al-Salam’s sentence was increased yet again to six years and al-Aqili’s to eight, news reports said.
Al-Maatiq was released on August 5, 2014, after completing his sentence, according to news reports. The director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Ali Adubisi, told CPJ that al-Salam was being held at the General Intelligence Prison in the city of Dammam.
The kingdom has obstructed coverage of Eastern Province protests, which call for political reforms and greater rights for the country’s Shia minority, CPJ research shows. In the absence of independent reporting, coverage of the unrest was carried out by websites such as Al-Fajr Cultural Network.
Jassim al-Safar, Freelance
Al-Safar, a photographer from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, was arrested in July 2012, according to news reports. The government accused al-Safar of belonging to an 11-person terrorist cell, but it was not clear how the other defendants might have been connected.
On June 18, 2014, the Saudi Specialized Criminal Court sentenced al-Safar to seven years’ imprisonment and a seven-year travel ban on charges of sending materials over the Internet that would harm the country’s reputation, corresponding with a foreign journalist, and organizing protests, among other charges, news reports said. It is not clear which work of al-Safar’s led to his conviction.
Al-Safar took pictures for the website Awamphoto, which also identifies him as Jassim al-Awami. The website features pictures of cultural and religious events and rallies from Awamia, a Shia-majority town that has witnessed significant opposition protests against the Sunni Saudi government in recent years. The website has also published photos of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shia religious leader who was sentenced to death in October 2014 for “sowing discord” and “undermining national unity,” according to news reports. Al-Nimr had strongly supported anti-government protests in the Eastern Province since 2011. His arrest in 2012, in which he was shot by Saudi security forces, set off a new wave of protests.
The director of European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Ali Adubisi, told CPJ that al-Safar was being held at the General Intelligence Prison in the city of Dammam.
CPJ did not include al-Safar in its 2012 or 2013 prison census because it was unaware of the case.
Wajdi al-Ghazzawi, Al-Fajr Media Group
The Saudi Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh on February 4, 2014, sentenced al-Ghazzawi, owner of the religious satellite broadcaster Al-Fajr Media Group, to 12 years in prison for “harming the nation’s image,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency and regional human rights groups.
The prison sentence included a five-year term under Article 6 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, which criminalizes the production of material impinging on public order and public morals, among other issues. The court also banned al-Ghazzawi for life from appearing on media outlets and forbade him from leaving the country for 20 years.
The court said al-Ghazzawi had incited sedition and hurt the kingdom’s reputation. Beginning in 2011, al-Ghazzawi hosted seven episodes of a show called “Fadfadah,” in which he criticized the Saudi government and accused it of widespread corruption. In a few of the episodes, he also claimed that the kingdom had adopted a policy of slavery and that Al-Qaeda had been created by Saudi Arabia.
During the trial, al-Ghazzawi said his show was intended to educate Saudi citizens and repeated his belief that Al-Qaeda was a Saudi creation, according to news reports.
Al-Ghazzawi was also sentenced for receiving money from a hostile foreign power, the Saudi Press Agency reported. According to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, al-Ghazzawi was accused of taking approximately US$1.8 million from Libya’s ousted leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi. Al-Ghazzawi said the money was payment for the channel’s coverage of a Quran recitation contest.
Al-Ghazzawi, who managed Al-Fajr from Cairo, returned to Riyadh in November 2011 to help secure funding for his struggling station, he wrote in an extended statement posted to his Twitter account. In the statement, he accused Saudi officials of luring him back to the country under false pretenses of helping to financially secure his channel while in fact they intended to pressure it to close. He also said he was barred from leaving the country upon his return.
On August 10, 2012, he tweeted that he had been arrested. News reports said the arrest was related to the channel’s inability to pay its debt. It was not clear when prosecutors turned their attention to the station’s content and funding.
Over the next year, al-Ghazzawi’s account remained active with tweets originating from users claiming to be a friend or employee and tweeting updates about his status in prison. On March 4, 2014, the account tweeted that al-Ghazzawi was in good health and had been transferred to a prison in Mecca.
CPJ did not include al-Ghazzawi in its 2013 census because the organization could not confirm that the charges were related to journalism.
Jalal Mohamed al-Jamal, Al-Awamia
The Saudi Specialized Criminal Court on May 6, 2014, sentenced al-Jamal to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 riyals (US$13,330), according to local news reports. Al-Jamal, a manager of the Al-Awamia news website, was convicted on charges of establishing a website that called for protests, disobeying the king, and disrupting public security.
Twelve days later, on May 18, al-Jamal was taken into custody to begin serving his sentence, news reports said. His case was still under appeal in late 2014. He began a hunger strike to protest his prison conditions, according to local news reports.
The director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Ali Adubisi, told CPJ that al-Jamal was held at the General Intelligence Prison in the city of Dammam.
Al-Jamal was arrested in February 2012 and held without charge. In March 2013, he was released without explanation, according to news reports.
Al-Awamia covers pro-reform demonstrations in the predominantly Shia Eastern Province and was known for its criticism of the government, according to news reports. Al-Awamia was temporarily shut down after his arrest, the reports said. The kingdom has obstructed coverage of Eastern Province protests, which call for political reforms and greater rights for the country’s Shia minority, CPJ research shows.
Mohamud Mohamed, Shabelle Media Network
Mohamed Bashir, Shabelle Media Network
Security agents in the capital, Mogadishu, arrested 19 individuals at the Shabelle Media Network‘s offices on August 15, 2014, and removed the transmitters of Radio Shabelle and Sky FM, two stations part of the Shabelle Media Network, according to news reports and local journalists.
All but three of those arrested were released from the Somali National Security Services two days later, news reports said. Abdimalik Yusuf, owner of Shabelle Media Network; Mohamud Mohamed, Sky FM director; and Ahmed Abdi Hassan, host for Radio Shabelle, remained in custody.
Agents arrested Shabelle producer Mohamed Bashir two weeks later, after he publicly condemned the arrests, local journalists told CPJ.
On September 4, 2014, the Attorney General charged the journalists with “attack on the integrity of the unity of the Somali State,” defaming the head of state, incitement, and publishing false information, according to local journalists.
On October 21, a court released Abdimalik and Ahmed on bail, according to news reports.
Abdirahman Omar, a government spokesman, told CPJ the arrests were made after Shabelle Media Network incited the public to violence and urged clans to fight security forces. Shabelle’s broadcasts came at a time when authorities were attempting to disarm a militia in the capital, according to wire reports.
Shabelle journalists reported that the arrests may be connected to the network’s criticism of an interview Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud gave to the U.S. public broadcaster, PBS. In that interview, the president said most independent media companies in Somalia supported the insurgent group Al-Shabaab, news reports said.
Bheki Makhubu, The Nation
Makhubu, editor of the monthly news magazine The Nation, was arrested and charged with contempt of court and scandalizing the judiciary, according to news reports.
The charges were in connection with an article published in the February 2014 issue that criticized the detention of a government vehicle inspector on the order of Swaziland Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi. The article claimed Ramodibedi had abused his authority by issuing an arrest warrant for the vehicle inspector, Bhantshana Gwebu, on contempt of court charges after he had stopped and impounded a government vehicle used by another judge without authorization.
Makhubu was first arrested on March 18, 2014, on Ramodibedi’s order, according to news reports. He was released on April 6, 2014, after a judge rejected the arrest warrants for Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, a columnist for The Nation. Three days later, both Makhubu and Maseko were re-arrested after Judge Mpendulo Simelane appealed their release and reinstated the charges against them.
On July 25, 2014, after the pair had been detained for more than three months without bail, Judge Simelane sentenced Makhubu and Maseko to two years in jail without the option of a fine. According to news reports, the judge said the term was meant to be a deterrent to other journalists.
Both Makhubu and Maseko appealed their April 9 re-arrest. The appeal was ongoing in late 2014.
The two also appealed their conviction and sentence. That appeal had not been heard as of late 2014.
Tal al-Mallohi, Freelance
Al-Mallohi, a 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 charges of disclosing state secrets.
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.
In October 2013, a Syrian court ordered al-Mallohi’s release, news reports said. But the order was never carried out and she was transferred to the General Security Directorate in Damascus, according to Amnesty International and news reports. After several months, she was returned to Adra prison on the outskirts of Damascus, the reports said.
It is not clear why al-Mallohi remains in custody despite the court order for her release.
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.
Tariq Saeed Balsha, Freelance
Balsha, a freelance cameraman, was arrested in the coastal city of Latakia three days after he covered government troops opening fire on Al-Raml Palestinian refugee camp, according to local press freedom groups.
Balsha’s footage of demonstrations and authorities’ efforts to quash unrest had been posted to a number of websites, including the Shaam News Network, a citizen news organization that has published tens of thousands of videos documenting the popular uprising in Syria. Shaam’s footage has been used by international news organizations such as Al-Jazeera and the BBC.
In November 2011, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression reported that Balsha was being held at Latakia Central Prison. In 2012, Balsha was transferred to the Homs Central Prison, according to a friend who is campaigning for his release. Authorities had not disclosed information on Balsha’s health or legal status in late 2014.
Mazen Darwish, Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
Hussein Ghrer, Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
Hani al-Zitani, Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
Authorities raided the offices of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression in Damascus and arrested several journalists and press freedom activists. Among those still being held in late 2014 were the center’s president, Darwish, the prominent blogger Ghrer, and al-Zitani, another journalist for the center. Mansour al-Omari and Abd al-Rahman Hamada, two other journalists arrested the same day, were released in early 2013 pending trial, the center reported. It is unclear why the others continue to be held.
The center said the five journalists were indicted on February 27, 2013, on charges of publicizing acts of terror under Article 8 of the newly enacted counterterrorism law. The accused face up to 15 years each if convicted, human rights groups said. The trial was ongoing in late 2014.
On June 9, 2014, the government announced a general amnesty, which applied to the charges faced by the imprisoned members of the media center, according to a statement signed by the center, CPJ, and 77 other organizations. The journalists were not released.
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression was instrumental in documenting the deaths and detentions of journalists after the popular uprising began in March 2011. The group also disseminated reports about the government’s suppression of news and commentary, providing important context as the regime sought to impose an international media blackout.
Human rights groups have said the men were tortured in custody by Air Force intelligence agents. In 2013, officials moved them to Adra prison on the outskirts of Damascus and allowed their families to visit, news reports said.
Ghrer had been arrested previously, in October 2011, on charges of “weakening national sentiments,” “forming an association without a permit,” and “inciting demonstrations.” He was released on bail on December 1, 2011, according to Razan Ghazzawi, the U.S.-born blogger who was also arrested in the February 2012 raid on the center. Ghrer’s 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. Ghrer suffers from coronary disease and high blood pressure, requiring daily medication.
Since his detention, Darwish was has been honored with two international human rights awards in absentia: In 2012, he was awarded the Press Freedom Prize from Reporters Without Borders, and in June 2013 he was awarded the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Services to Human Rights.
Jihad Jamal, Freelance
Jamal, a contributor to local news websites, was detained at a Damascus café along with several human rights activists, according to local news websites. Jamal also aggregated news stories for dissemination to international outlets.
In May 2012, Jamal’s case was transferred to a military court, according to news reports. He waged a hunger strike that month to protest his detention, reports said. Authorities had not disclosed any other information about Jamal’s legal status, whereabouts, or well-being in late 2014.
Jamal had been arrested several times previously, including once in October 2011 when he was detained along with Sean McAllister, a British reporter working for the U.K.’s Channel 4. Local news websites said his repeated arrests stemmed from his reporting on human rights abuses and the popular uprising.
Ali Mahmoud Othman, Freelance
Othman, who ran a makeshift media center in the besieged Baba Amr district of Homs, was initially held by a military intelligence unit in Aleppo and then transferred to Damascus, Paul Conroy, a photographer for The Sunday Times, said in an interview with the U.K.’s Channel 4.
Conroy, who was injured in the government attack on the Baba Amr media center that killed journalists Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik, said Othman was instrumental in getting journalists in and out of the embattled district. He said Othman, originally a vegetable vendor, was one of the first Syrians to use video to document the unrest in Homs. Citizen journalists such as Othman filled the information void as the Syrian regime barred international journalists from entering the country to cover the civil war, CPJ research shows.
Authorities had not disclosed information on Othman’s health, whereabouts, or legal status in late 2014.
International reporters and diplomats, including U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, have expressed concern that Othman has been tortured while in custody, according to news reports. Othman appeared on Syrian state television in May 2012 for what the station described as an interview. The questioning was aimed at asserting a theory of an international media conspiracy against the Syrian regime.
Osama al-Habaly, Freelance
Al-Habaly, a freelance photojournalist, was arrested as he crossed from Lebanon back to his home country of Syria, according to his friends and colleagues.
Al-Habaly’s work is featured in several shorts for the Abounaddara Collective, a group of anonymous filmmakers that published short clips on the Syrian conflict once a week since 2011, a representative of the group told CPJ. Al-Habaly also served as both a protagonist and cameraman for the award-winning documentary “Return to Homs.” To protect his identity at the time, the film gave him the pseudonym Osama al-Homsi-in English, “Osama from Homs.”
A Facebook user posted in September 2012 that he had seen al-Habaly while being held in the military security branch in Homs. Amnesty International reported in October 2012 that an unnamed source told al-Habaly’s family he had been transferred to the military intelligence branch in Damascus.
A Syrian lawyer, who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution, told CPJ in August 2014 that al-Habaly had been referred to a military field court and was being held in Sednaya Prison near Damascus, but did not offer further details. CPJ could not independently confirm the claim.
Sednaya prison has long been known for the brutal treatment of its detainees, even before the Syrian conflict began. At least one journalist, Palestine Today TV reporter Bilal Ahmed Bilal, died in either late 2013 or early 2014 while in custody in Sednaya, his station reported. Reports by local human rights groups and news outlets said he had been tortured to death.
By late 2014, the Syrian government had not disclosed any information about al-Habaly’s health, whereabouts, and status.
CPJ did not include al-Habaly in its 2012 or 2013 prison census because his work as a journalist had not been publicly disclosed.
Fares Maamou, Freelance
Maamou, a contributor to the Damascus-based Shaam News Network, was arrested in Homs, according to accounts from local activists and press freedom groups. Maamou had been covering events in the Homs neighborhoods of Deir Baalba and al-Rabee al-Arabi for the network, contributing reporting and footage.
Shaam has posted tens of thousands of videos documenting the unrest in Syria since the uprising began in March 2011. The network’s footage has been used by international news organizations such as Al-Jazeera and the BBC.
Authorities had not disclosed any information on Maamou’s whereabouts, well-being, or legal status in late 2014.
Akram Raslan, Al-Fedaa
Raslan, a cartoonist who worked for the Hama-based newspaper Al-Fedaa and contributed to several other news websites, was arrested by intelligence officials at his workplace in Hama, according to news reports. Raslan’s cartoons, which criticized the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, had been published on his own blog and a number of websites, including that of Al-Jazeera.
Conflicting reports emerged about Raslan’s status. Cartoon Rights Network International (CRNI), which has closely tracked Raslan’s case, reported that he might have been executed by the Syrian regime after being sentenced to life imprisonment on July 26, 2013. But after reports emerged in October 2013 that Raslan was still alive and the family said it could not confirm his death, CRNI amended its statement and said it was working to verify those claims.
In June 2014, CRNI reported that the Syrian permanent mission to the United Nations admitted that Raslan had been arrested for publishing cartoons that “offended the state’s prestige” and that he was under investigation. The Syrian government had not released any more information on Raslan’s health, whereabouts, or legal status by late 2014.
Jihad As’ad Mohamed, Freelance
Mohamed was last seen being taken away by security forces on Revolution Street in Damascus in August, according to local and regional news reports and a Facebook page calling for his release.
Mohamed, a freelance writer, had contributed several critical articles to local news websites, including the pro-reform Alef Today. In his articles, he criticized the government’s crackdown on peaceful protests and called for reforms.
Mohamed was the editor-in-chief of the weekly Kassioun before leaving the paper in the summer of 2012, citing a disagreement with the paper’s editorial position, according to a staff member at Kassioun who spoke to CPJ. The paper is affiliated with the socialist Popular Will party, which has shown a willingness to engage with the Syrian government, which other opposition groups vehemently refuse to do.
Syrian state security forces had previously held Mohamed for questioning in connection with his journalistic activities after leaving Kassioun, according to news reports that did not specify the exact date of the earlier detention. The journalist had joined Kassioun in 2006, the reports said.
In late 2014, authorities had not disclosed Mohamed’s whereabouts, condition, or legal status.
Louay Hussein, Freelance
Louay Hussein, a prominent Syrian opposition figure and opinion writer, was arrested on the Lebanese-Syrian border as he was leaving the country to visit his family in Spain, according to news reports and his political organization, Building the Syrian State Movement (BSS). The BSS movement, which has been tolerated by the Syrian government, seeks the establishment of a civil, democratic state but rejects military action and international intervention to achieve that goal.
According to his lawyer, Michel Shammas, a Syrian judge ordered Hussein’s detention pending an investigation into charges of undermining national spirit and morale and “publishing false news,” the reports said. The lawyer said the investigation centered around an article Hussein wrote for the pan-Arab daily Hayat on June 24, 2014, called “The Syrians do not feel they need the state.” In the article, Hussein criticized the Assad regime, arguing that the government had turned state institutions into machines of oppression, thereby undermining any sense of national unity or responsibility in the process, according to an English translation published by the website Open Democracy.
According to Amnesty International, the Syrian government said it had imposed a travel ban on Hussein on July 7, 2014, pending an investigation into the charges, and that he had been arrested for attempting to leave the country. But Hussein’s wife told Amnesty that he was never informed of the ban and that he had traveled multiple times outside of the country since the ban had purportedly been imposed.
Some news reports suggested Hussein’s arrest could also be related to a statement issued by BSS 10 days prior to his arrest that claimed the Syrian regime was collapsing and called on the Syrian people to seek a political settlement through the establishment of a coalition authority to replace the current regime.
In an article written for Open Democracy, BSS co-founder Talal al-Mayhani wrote that the charges were “a canned accusation used routinely by the regime to suppress freedom of expression.” He said that “Louay, not being naïve, always expected his arrest (or even his murder) at any time-the price of being politically active in Syria.”
Hussein was being held in Adra prison. He has been arrested twice before, according to news reports. From 1984 to 1991, he was imprisoned for his affiliation with the banned Communist party. Shortly after the protests began in Syria in 2011, Hussein was detained for a few days after issuing a statement in support of the right to protest and freedom of expression. In 2004, the Ministry of Interior ordered Hussein to stop writing after he published an article about the difficulties of renewing his passport, according to news reports.
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Voice of Taksin
Somyot was arrested at a Thai border checkpoint at Aranyaprathet province while attempting to cross into Cambodia. 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, 2011.
Somyot faced a possible prison term of 30 years on two separate charges under the country’s lѐse majesté law, which prohibits material deemed offensive to the royal family. Convictions under the law carry a maximum 15-year jail term.
On January 23, 2013 a Bangkok criminal court sentenced Somyot to 11 years in prison for news articles judges deemed insulting to the Thai monarchy. The charges stemmed from two articles published in the now-defunct Voice of Taksin, a highly partisan newsmagazine affiliated with the political group United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship.
Somyot, a labor activist and political protest leader, was founder and editor of the controversial publication. He initially refused to divulge the name of the author of the articles, but during court testimony identified the individual as Jakrapob Penkair, a former government spokesman now living in self-imposed exile. The articles, published in February and March 2010, were written under the pen name “Jit Polachan.”
Days before his initial arrest, Somyot had started a petition to pressure parliament into amending the lѐse majesté law, known as Article 112 in the Thai penal code. Under the law, any Thai individual may file lѐse majesté charges; Thai royal family members have never personally filed charges.
Somyot filed an appeal on April 1, 2013. Throughout more than three years of his detention, he has been denied bail on 15 separate occasions on the grounds that he may flee the country.
On September 18, 2014, Thailand’s Court of Appeals upheld Somyot’s conviction and 10-year jail sentence. The court failed to inform Somyot, his defense lawyers, and his family that the hearing would take place on that day, according to local news reports. Somyot, who has hypertension, has been deprived of adequate medical treatment while in detention, according to the International Federation of Human Rights, a federation of rights groups. He was being held at Bangkok’s Remand Prison. Details of his health have not been disclosed.
Nut Rungwong, Thai E-News
Nut, the editor of online news aggregator Thai E-News, was sentenced by a military court on November 24, 2014, to nine years in prison on charges of defaming the country’s 86-year-old monarch, a criminal offense under the country’s lѐse majesté law.
He was arrested during a police raid on his house three days after the military seized power in a coup on May 22, 2014 according to news reports. He was refused bail and remained in jail until his trial.
Convictions under Thailand’s lѐse majesté law, outlined in Article 112 of the criminal code, carry maximum 15-year jail terms. Nut’s sentence was commuted to four and a half years because he pled guilty to the anti-royal charges, news reports said.
The charges stemmed from an article by Giles Ungpakorn that Nut published in 2009. Ungpakorn, a Thai university professor and political writer, faces separate lѐse majesté charges and lives in exile in the United Kingdom. Thai E-News is blocked inside Thailand by the Information and Communication Technology Ministry, but continued to operate after Nut’s arrest in May, reports said. He was being held at Bangkok’s Remand Prison.
Hatice Duman, Atılım
Duman, former owner and news editor of the socialist weekly Atılım (Leap), was serving a life term at Gebze Women’s Closed Prison in Kocaeli on charges of being a member of the banned Marxist Leninist Communist Party, or MLKP, producing propaganda, and “attempting to change the constitutional order by force.” Other charges against her included seizing weapons and forging an official document in relation to her alleged association with MLKP, according to a list of imprisoned journalists provided by the Turkish Justice Ministry in November 2013 at CPJ’s request.
CPJ believes the charges are baseless and unsubstantiated after viewing the available court documents, including the indictment.
As evidence of the membership and propaganda charges, authorities cited Duman’s attendance at MLKP demonstrations and the testimony of confidential witnesses. Duman’s lawyer, Keleş Öztürk, told CPJ that his client was targeted because Atılım had opposed administration policies.
The weapons and forgery charges were mainly pegged to the testimony of Duman’s husband, who later said he had been questioned under torture.
Duman was convicted on all charges on May 4, 2011, according to local press reports.
In October 2012, the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld Duman’s life sentence. Duman’s lawyers appealed to a higher appellate court, Turkey’s Constitutional Court. The appeal was pending in late 2014, according to the lawyers.
Mustafa Gök, Ekmek ve Adalet
A local court sentenced Gök, Ankara correspondent for the leftist magazine Ekmek ve Adalet (Bread and Justice), to six years and three months in prison on charges of being a member of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Salvation Party/Front (DHKP/C), according to his defense lawyer, Evrim Deniz Karatana. Gök’s lawyers appealed the sentence.
He was being kept at the Ankara F Type High Security Closed Prison No. 1, according to a list of imprisoned journalists provided by the Turkish Justice Ministry in November 2013 at CPJ’s request. According to a June 2014 report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Gök was still there in 2014.
Karatana told CPJ that the evidence against the journalist consisted of his news coverage and attendance at political demonstrations. She said Gök had been targeted for his reporting on politics and human rights, along with his beliefs as a socialist. Karatana said her client suffers from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder, which has led to a loss of sight and balance. She said that he was jailed despite having a medical document that says he is severely disabled and ineligible for incarceration.
Gök was also serving a life term on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, forgery, bombing, and murder, all dating to the early 1990s, according to the Justice Ministry’s updated list. The life sentence was withdrawn in 2002 when Gök was released on parole for health reasons, Karatana told CPJ. But when Gök was rearrested in 2004 on the DHKP/C membership charges, the life term was reinstated, she said. She said that they had appealed the reinstated life term, but that the appeal was rejected.
Faysal Tunç, Dicle News Agency and Özgür Gündem
Tunç, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency and the daily Özgür Gündem (The Free Agenda), was serving two separate prison terms of six years and three months each.
In the first case, Tunç was convicted of producing propaganda for, aiding and abetting intentionally, and being a member of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, and of using the media to perform those activities, according to an updated list of imprisoned journalists provided by the Turkish Justice Ministry in November 2013 at CPJ’s request.
Mensur Işık, one of Tunç’s lawyers, said the journalist was also convicted on separate charges related to his published work and participation in live broadcasts on the pro-PKK ROJTV, which led to accusations of membership in a banned organization. The pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem said the sentence had been upheld by the Supreme Court. He is currently serving the second sentence.
After his first case was heard, some of Tunç’s lawyers were themselves imprisoned as part of an investigation into the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, an umbrella group of pro-Kurdish organizations that includes the PKK.
In March 2012, Tunç sent a letter to the independent news portal Bianet in which he alleged that authorities had set him up for a false arrest. In April 2007, he said, he offered a woman he believed to be a member of the Democratic Society Party, a legal entity that was the forerunner of today’s Peace and Democracy Party, some assistance in finding lodging. Tunç said he did not know the woman and now believed she had acted as an agent of the police. Within days, he said, he was detained on charges of aiding a member of a terrorist group.
In 2011, Tunç was transferred to the Rize Kalkandere L Type Prison in Rize, where he was being held in late 2014, according to a June 2014 report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Seyithan Akyüz, Azadiya Welat
Akyüz, Adana correspondent for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was serving a 12-year term at Ceyhan M Type Closed Prison in Adana, according to a list of imprisoned journalists provided by the Turkish Justice Ministry in November 2013 at CPJ’s request.
Akyüz was initially charged with aiding the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, an umbrella group of pro-Kurdish organizations that includes the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. Authorities cited as evidence his possession of banned newspapers and his presence at a May Day demonstration in İzmir. He was later convicted of membership in an armed terrorist organization, the PKK.
Authorities publicly claim that the pro-Kurdish media are aligned with the PKK and the KCK. The government says the journalists produce propaganda in favor of the banned organizations.
The 2012 trial in Adana made national news when the judge refused to allow Akyüz and other defendants to offer statements in their native Kurdish. A June 2014 report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe also found that court officials withheld case documents from Akyüz’s lawyer for more than a year.
Kenan Karavil, Radyo Dünya
Karavil, editor-in-chief of the pro-Kurdish radio station Radyo Dünya in the southern province of Adana, served more than three years in prison before being convicted on charges of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, and the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.
As evidence, authorities cited news programs that Karavil produced, his meetings with members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, and his wiretapped telephone conversations with colleagues, listeners, and news sources, his lawyer, Vedat Özkan, told CPJ. In one phone conversation, the lawyer said, Karavil discussed naming a program “Those Who Imagine the Island.” He said the indictment considered this illegal propaganda because it referred to the imprisonment of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who was being held on İmralı Island.
In a letter to media outlets, Karavil said authorities had questioned him about the station’s ownership and the content of its programming. Court officials refused to allow Karavil to give statements in his native Kurdish language, Özkan said.
In January 2013, the Eighth Court of Serious Crimes in Adana Province sentenced Karavil to 25 years in prison, Özkan, told CPJ. In October 2014, Özkan said the Supreme Court of Appeals had upheld the sentence earlier in the year. Özkan said they had taken the case to the Constitutional Court for review, but it was not clear when the court would act.
Karavil was serving his term at the Kırıkkale F Type High Security Closed Prison in Adana, according to a list of imprisoned journalists provided by the Turkish Justice Ministry in November 2013 at CPJ’s request.
Erdal Süsem, Eylül Sanat Edebiyat Dergisi
Süsem, editor of the leftist culture magazine Eylül Sanat Edebiyat Dergisi (September Arts Literature Magazine), was being held at Edirne F Type Prison on charges of helping lead the outlawed Maoist Communist Party, or MKP. Authorities alleged that Süsem’s magazine produced propaganda for the party. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
In a letter published in February 2012 by the independent news portal Bianet, Süsem said he had been detained on MKP accusations and charged in February 2010. He said the evidence against him consisted of journalistic material such as books, postcards, and letters, along with accounts of his newsgathering activities such as phone interviews. Süsem made similar statements in a letter to the Justice Ministry that was cited in news accounts.
Süsem had started the magazine, which featured poetry, literature, and opinion pieces from imprisoned socialist intellectuals, during an earlier imprisonment at Tekirdağ F Type Prison. After producing the initial four editions by photocopy from prison, Süsem transformed the journal into a standard print publication after his 2007 release from prison, circulating 16 more issues.
Süsem’s earlier imprisonment stemmed from allegations in March 2000 that he stole a police officer’s handgun that was later used in a murder. Süsem pleaded innocent to the gun theft and murder charges. The gun possession and related serious charges against Süsem were twice rejected by Turkey’s Supreme Court, which ruled-in 2005 and 2007-that there was not sufficient evidence to link Süsem to those alleged crimes.
However, without new evidence, after Süsem was imprisoned in 2010 on the propaganda charges, the Supreme Court reversed its initial stance and convicted him in 2011 on the previous gun theft, murder, and other charges. The court also reinstated a life sentence.
The court proceedings that led to his conviction were marked by a number of inconsistencies. For example, in his Bianet letter, Süsem wrote that the police officer, whose stolen gun was later used in a number of crimes, testified that he was not the person who had stolen it. Witness descriptions of the suspect did not match the journalist, Süsem’s wife, Eylem Süsem, told CPJ.
Eylem Süsem also told CPJ that they had appealed the case with the life sentence to the European Court of Human Rights, citing long imprisonment and an unjust trial. She said that the latest hearing in the trial on the MKP leadership charges was in June 2014 and that the trial was ongoing in late 2014.
Cüneyt Hacıoğlu, Dicle News Agency
Hacıoğlu, reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was arrested in Uludere District of Şırnak province. He was accused of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part.
Hacıoğlu was also accused of possessing illegal firearms and bullets, according to a list of imprisoned journalists provided by the Turkish Justice Ministry in November 2013 at CPJ’s request. Hacıoğlu’s lawyer at the time, Tırşenk Bartan, told CPJ that the weapons accusation stemmed from the presence in the journalist’s family home of an old rifle, which belonged to his father. The journalist denied any wrongdoing.
Bartan told CPJ that Hacıoğlu was questioned about his phone conversations with sources, his reporting notes, and videos he had taken for newsgathering activities. DİHA, which is known as a pro-Kurdish news agency, often covers human rights issues, including those of the Kurdish minority.
Bartan also said that Hacıoğlu was detained with several canned goods in his car, which authorities said was a form of logistical support for the Kurdish rebels. Bartan said that the journalist was taking the goods to a festival and had no ties to an outlawed organization.
Hacıoğlu was being held in Mardin E Type Closed Prison. No formal charges had been filed against him as of late 2013; CPJ could not determine whether charges were filed in 2014.
Bartan told CPJ in late 2014 that she was no longer the journalist’s lawyer and did not know who had replaced her. DİHA also said it did not have information on who was representing Hacıoğlu.
According to a June 2014 report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, no trial date had been scheduled.
Muhammad Bekjanov, Erk
Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Erk
Bekjanov, editor of the opposition newspaper Erk, and Ruzimuradov, a reporter for the paper, are the two longest-imprisoned journalists worldwide, CPJ research shows. Both journalists were jailed on politicized anti-state charges after extradition from Ukraine.
In January 2012, shortly before Bekjanov was scheduled to be released, authorities sentenced him to an additional five years in prison, citing the violation of unspecified prison rules, regional press reports said. The independent news website Uznews reported that Bekjanov was being held in a prison in the southwestern Navoi region in late 2014.
In a September 2014 report on political prisoners in Uzbekistan, the international organization Human Rights Watch said Ruzimuradov was being held in Tavaksay prison colony outside Tashkent. Human Rights Watch said that Ruzimuradov was due to be released in May 2014, but that authorities had extended his sentence for an undisclosed period because of unspecified violations of prison rules.
Authorities did not disclose Ruzimuradov’s legal status or well-being in late 2014.
Bekjanov and Ruzimuradov were first detained in Ukraine-where they had lived in exile and produced their newspaper-and were extradited at the request of Uzbek authorities. In 2014, Human Rights Watch issued a report on Uzbekistan in which it cited the first-ever public testimony by Bekjanov’s family, who said the two journalists had been kidnapped from Ukraine and brought back to Uzbekistan.
In September 1999, a Tashkent court convicted the two on charges of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper. Both were also convicted of participating in a banned political protest and attempting to overthrow the regime.
Both men were tortured before their trial began, according to CPJ sources and news reports. After the verdict was announced in November 1999, the two were jailed in high-security penal colonies for individuals convicted of serious crimes.
Nina Bekjanova, the editor’s wife, told reporters that his health had deteriorated when she visited him in jail in March 2013. Bekjanova said her husband needed immediate treatment for a hernia and a relapse of tuberculosis, according to Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek service of the U.S. government-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She said the editor had not complained about his health to her during her previous visits, but that during this visit he had said, “There’s not much longer left [for me] to suffer.”
Bekjanova told Uznews that authorities did not obstruct her October 2014 visit to the prison as they had in the past. She said prison authorities had freed her husband from performing required labor at the prison’s brick-making facility due to his age.
On November 24, 2014, eight U.S. senators sent a public letter to President Islam Karimov, calling on him to release the journalists on humanitarian grounds.
Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, Uznews
Abdurakhmanov, a reporter for the independent news website Uznews, was imprisoned in June 2008, immediately after traffic police in Nukus, in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic, stopped his car and said they found four ounces (114 grams) of marijuana and less than a quarter ounce (about five grams) of opium in his trunk, Uznews reported. The journalist denied possessing narcotics and said the police had planted them in retaliation for his reporting on corruption in their agency.
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.
Abdurakhmanov’s prosecution and trial were marred by irregularities, defense lawyer Rustam Tulyaganov told CPJ at the time. Investigators failed to maintain chain of custody for the seized drugs, and they did not collect fingerprints or other evidence proving that the journalist ever handled the material, Tulyaganov said.
Instead, police agents interrogated Abdurakhmanov, extensively focusing on his journalism, searched his home, and confiscated his personal computer. According to Uznews, authorities also offered Abdurakhmanov a deal-give up his journalism and human rights activism in exchange for amnesty and release-but the journalist refused.
In October 2008, a court in Nukus convicted Abdurakhmanov and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Higher courts denied his appeals.
In September 2011, authorities denied Abdurakhmanov’s application for amnesty, citing alleged violations of penal colony rules, according to CPJ research. Uznews reported in November 2012 that prison authorities obstructed the International Committee of the Red Cross when it sought to speak with Abdurakhmanov in prison. Abdurakhmanov’s son told Uznews that prison officials presented Red Cross staff with another detainee who unsuccessfully purported to be the journalist.
At least three times in 2013, authorities transferred Abdurakhmanov from a penal colony in the southern city of Karshi to a prison hospital outside the capital, Tashkent, to receive treatment for a stomach ulcer. In October, after the journalist’s family told Uznews about his deteriorating health, authorities placed Abdurakhmanov in solitary confinement for two weeks and forbade his family from seeing him.
Based on findings by CPJ and other groups, lawyers with the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom Now filed a complaint in March 2012 with the U.N. Human Rights Committee, contesting Abdurakhmanov’s imprisonment and calling for his release. The case is pending.
In May 2014, Abdurakhmanov’s family publicly asked Uzbek President Islam Karimov to pardon the journalist based on his deteriorating health, Uznews reported. They did not receive a response. In August 2014, the German Palm Foundation announced it was honoring Abdurakhmanov with its press freedom award. The journalist was unable to attend the ceremony because of his imprisonment.
On November 24, 2014, eight U.S. senators sent a public letter to President Islam Karimov, calling on him to release Abdurakhmanov on humanitarian grounds.
Dilmurod Saiid, Freelance
Saiid was serving a 12-and-a-half-year prison term at a high-security prison colony outside Navoi, where he was subjected to torture, according to news reports and CPJ sources. In 2013, he was denied adequate medical treatment for tuberculosis that he contracted in jail.
The journalist was arrested in his hometown, Tashkent, and placed in detention in the central city of Samarkand after a woman accused him of extorting US$10,000 from a local businessman. Although the woman soon withdrew her accusation, saying she had been coerced, authorities refused to release the journalist, Saiid’s lawyer, Ruhiddin Komilov, told CPJ at the time. In March 2009, regional authorities announced that new witnesses had come forward to accuse Saiid of extortion; authorities also said that several local farmers had accused him of using their signatures to create fraudulent court papers.
Saiid was charged with extortion and forgery. Several international human rights and press freedom groups including CPJ have found the charges were fabricated in retaliation for his journalism. Before his arrest, 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.
At Saiid’s trial, Ferghana News reported, the farmers recanted and told the court that they had been pressured by prosecutors to testify against Saiid. Their statements were ignored, one of several irregularities reported during the proceedings. Komilov said that authorities failed to notify him of a number of important hearing dates. When a regional court convicted and sentenced Saiid in a July 2009 closed-door proceeding, the journalist’s lawyer and family were not present.
In November 2009, the journalist’s wife and 6-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident on their way to visit him in prison, regional press reports said. Authorities rejected Saiid’s 2011 application for amnesty, citing alleged violations of penal colony rules, Uznews reported.
Based on findings by CPJ and other groups, lawyers with the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom Now filed a March 2012 complaint with the U.N. Human Rights Committee, contesting Saiid’s imprisonment and calling for his release. The case is pending.
In a handwritten note in January 2013 that he passed, via his visiting brother, to a local rights activist, Saiid revealed some details of his conditions in jail and pleaded for help. Saiid did not explicitly detail violations he had suffered, but hinted that Uzbek and international laws against torture had been violated during his imprisonment.
On November 24, 2014, eight U.S. senators sent a public letter to President Islam Karimov, calling on him to release Saiid on humanitarian grounds.
Tran Huyn Duy Thuc (Tran Dong Chan), Freelance
Thuc, a blogger who wrote under the pen name Tran Dong Chan (Change We Need), was first arrested on charges of “promoting anti-Socialist, anti-government propaganda,” according to news reports. On January 20, 2010, he was sentenced by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City to 16 years in prison and five years’ house arrest for “activities aimed at overthrowing the government” under Article 79 of the penal code.
The court’s indictment charged him with disseminating false information over a website and three different blogs, according to news reports. He was convicted in part for writing, along with two political activists, a book called The Vietnam Path which the court ruled was part of a plan to create unsanctioned political parties and overthrow the government, according to news reports. Thuc maintained his innocence at the trial.
Thuc was added to CPJ’s prison census in 2013 after new information led CPJ to conclude that he was jailed for his journalistic work.
His personal blog, Tran Dong Chan, focused on local issues of inequality, social ills, and risks of a possible socioeconomic crisis. He also wrote about sensitive foreign affairs-related topics, including a March 2009 article called “Obama, China, and Vietnam,” which analyzed the three countries’ divergent approaches to civil liberties, human rights, and economic development.
On May 11, 2012, an appellate court upheld Thuc’s sentence in a closed trial, according to news reports. He was being held at southern Dong Nai province’s Xuan Loc Z30A prison, according to the Vietnam Human Rights Network, an exile-run group.
Thuc was held in solitary confinement from August 2012 to March 2013, and denied access to books, newspapers, and writing materials, according to a Radio Free Asia report citing his father. He was transferred to Ba Ria-Vung Tau province’s Xuyen Moc prison after a riot among prisoners at Xuan Loc in August 2013. He was still being held there in late 2014.
Dang Xuan Dieu, Vietnam Redemptorist News
Ho Duc Hoa, Vietnam Redemptorist News
Dieu and Hoa, both religious activists and frequent contributors to the news website Vietnam Redemptorist News, were arrested 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, land disputes between the government and grassroots communities, and other social issues.
They were first detained on unspecified charges under Article 79 of the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Both were also accused of being members of the exile-run Viet Tan party, an organization outlawed by the dominant Communist party.
In a two-day trial that concluded on January 9, 2013, a court in the northern city of Vinh convicted and sentenced each to 13 years in prison and five years’ house arrest on charges of participating in “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” “undermining of national unity,” and disseminating “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” news reports said.
An appellate court upheld Hoa’s prison sentence on May 23, 2013. He was being held at Vinh city’s Nghi Kim Detention Center in late 2014.
In 2013, Dieu submitted a petition to authorities calling for a new investigation and trial on the grounds that his conviction was based on fabricated information, according to a Radio Free Asia report. After his petition was rejected, he refused to wear prison clothes emblazoned with the word “criminal,” according to his brother and a former fellow inmate quoted in an RFA report. Dieu was severely beaten and refused visitation rights in response, according to the same RFA report.
Dieu went on hunger strike several times in 2014 to protest abysmal prison conditions, including overcrowding and poor sanitation in his cell, according to a news report quoting one of his former prison mates, Truong Minh Tam. His brother, Dang Xuan Ha, told RFA that Dieu was frequently beaten and humiliated by prison authorities and other inmates. Dieu was being held at Thanh Hoa province’s No. 5 prison in late 2014. He had been allowed only one family visit during his incarceration, according to the RFA report.
Paulus Le Van Son, Freelance
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 a witness said that police knocked him to the ground from his motorcycle, grabbed his arms and legs, and threw him into a police vehicle.
Son was initially detained on unspecified charges under Article 79 of the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. He was also accused of membership in the outlawed, exile-run Viet Tan party.
In a two-day trial that concluded on January 9, 2013, a court in the city of Vinh sentenced Son to 13 years in prison and five years’ house arrest on charges of participating in “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” “undermining of national unity,” and disseminating “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” news reports said. On May 23, 2013, Son’s prison sentence was reduced to four years’ imprisonment and four years’ house arrest by the Appeal Court of the Supreme People’s Court.
Months before his arrest, Son had posted a number of entries on his blog about anti-China protests and territorial disputes with China. His work also focused on land disputes, government harassment of pro-democracy and Catholic Church activists, police abuse, and discrimination against HIV patients. He was also briefly detained in April 2011 after attempting to report on the court hearing for pro-democracy dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu.
On July 18, 2013, Son was severely beaten by prison guards at Ha Nam province’s Nam Ha prison, according to the international human rights group Front Line Defenders. He was denied medical treatment for his injuries, including a broken leg, and was placed in solitary confinement, the group reported. After a prison visit on August 21, 2013, Son’s family said he was still in pain from his injuries and had difficulty walking, according to Front Line Defenders. He was still being held at Nam Ha prison in late 2014. No new details of his health had been disclosed.
Nong Hung Anh, Freelance
Anh, a foreign languages student at Hanoi University, was detained on unspecified charges under Article 79 of the penal code. He frequently wrote about social and religious issues in various Vietnamese-language blogs and online news services, including Vietnam Redemptorist News, Bao Khong Le (Newspaper Without Lanes), and the environmental blog Bauxite Viḝt Nam.
In a two-day trial that concluded on January 9, 2013, a Vinh city court sentenced Anh to five years in prison and three years’ house arrest on charges of participating in “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” “undermining of national unity,” and disseminating “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” news reports said.
He was being held at Nghe An provincial prison, according to the Vietnam Human Rights Network, an exile-run human rights group.
Nguyen Van Duyet, Vietnam Redemptorist News
Duyet, a regular contributor to the news website Vietnam Redemptorist News and president of the Association of Catholic Workers, was first 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, land disputes between the government and grassroots communities, and other social issues.
Duyet was detained on unspecified charges under Article 79 of the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Duyet was also accused of membership in the outlawed, exile-run Viet Tan political party.
In a two-day trial concluded on January 9, 2013, Vinh city court convicted Duyet and sentenced him to six years in prison and four years’ house arrest on charges of participating in “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” “undermining of national unity,” and disseminating “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” news reports said.
On May 23, 2013, an appellate court reduced his sentence by six months to five and a half years total. He was being held in late 2014 at Vinh city’s Nghi Kim Detention Center.
Ta Phong Tan, Freelance
Tan, a blogger and former police officer, was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on anti-state charges related to her online writing. On September 24, 2012, a criminal court sentenced her to 10 years in prison and five years’ house arrest under Article 88 of the penal code, which bars “conducting propaganda” against the state. She had been briefly detained and interrogated on several previous occasions.
Tan was one of three founding members of the Free Journalists Club website, which was singled out in the court ruling for posting anti-state materials. Co-founders Phan Thanh Hai and Nguyen Van Hai were tried and convicted at the same time. Tan’s blog, Cong Ly v Su That (Justice and Truth), focused on human rights abuses and corruption among police and in the court system.
Court President Nguyen Phi Long said in his verdict that Tan and the other two bloggers had “abused the popularity of the Internet to post articles which undermined and blackened Vietnam’s [leaders], criticizing the [Communist] party [and] destroying people’s trust in the state,” according to Agence France-Presse. An appellate court upheld Tan’s sentence on December 28, 2012.
Tan is widely recognized as one of Vietnam’s first independent bloggers to write and comment on political news events banned by authorities in the state-controlled media. She was expelled from her job as a police officer and member of the Communist Party over her online writings, according to a Radio Free Asia report.
Tan’s mother, Dang Thi Kim Lieng, set herself on fire on July 30, 2012, in front of a government office in Bac Lieu province to protest the official harassment suffered by her family and the handling of her daughter’s case, according to news reports. She died on her way to the hospital, while in police custody, the reports said.
Tan was being held at the Ministry of Public Security’s Prison No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province’s Yen Dinh district. In 2014, Tan faced frequent harassment and assaults from fellow prisoners, according to news reports that quoted her sister, Ta Minh Tu. Tu said that Tan was suffering from ill health caused by poor prison conditions, reports said. Tan was honored with the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage Award in 2013.
Le Thanh Tung, Freelance
A Hanoi court convicted Tung, a former military officer and independent blogger, on charges of “conducting propaganda” against the state under Article 88 of the criminal code, news reports said. He was sentenced to five years in prison and four years of house arrest. In the one-hour trial held in August 2012, the court ruled that Tung’s articles “distorted the policies of the state and the party,” the reports said.
Tung’s online articles called for pluralism, multi-party democracy, and constitutional amendments that would alter Vietnam’s authoritarian, one-party political system, Agence France-Presse reported, citing local-language publications.
He was being held at Hanoi’s Thanh Liet B14 Detention Center, according to the Vietnam Human Rights Network, an exile-run group.
Nguyen Van Khuong (Hoang Khuong), Tuoi Tre
Khuong, an investigative reporter with the Vietnamese-language state-controlled daily Tuoi Tre, was arrested on charges of bribing a police officer, according to news reports. The 15 million dong ($720) bribe, made in June 2011, was part of a Tuoi Tre undercover investigation into police corruption.
Based on the undercover transaction, the newspaper published an article headlined “Traffic cop takes bribe to return bike” under Khuong’s pen name, Hoang Khuong. The story prompted a government investigation not only of the recipient of the bribe but also of the journalist.
Authorities pressured Tuoi Tre‘s editorial board to suspend Khuong from his reporting duties on December 3, 2011, a month before his arrest. Police investigators seized voice recordings from his private residence after his arrest, according to state media reports. Tuoi Tre representatives were not permitted to give evidence during Khuong’s brief trial, according to The Associated Press.
In a two-day trial on September 7, 2012, the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Khuong to four years in prison, news reports said. The police officer who received the bribe and the two businessmen involved in brokering and delivering the money on Khuong’s behalf were also given prison terms.
Khuong, who had reported on police corruption in the past for Tuoi Tre, maintained his innocence at the trial. An appellate court upheld his conviction on December 27, 2012. He was being held in 2014 at the Thu Duc Correctional Facility in southern Binh Thuan province.
Pham Nguyen Thanh Binh, Freelance
Binh was arrested at his home in Ho Chi Minh City, according to a local Thanh Nien newspaper report citing his court indictment. He was charged in connection with eight critical articles he wrote on political, economic, and social issues in Vietnam that were published between January and May 2012 on a blog called Nguoi Viet Vi Dan Toc Viet (Vietnamese people dedicated to Vietnam). The blog is run by a dissident group based in Australia, according to news reports.
On April 17, 2013, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court convicted Binh under Article 88 of the penal code, a vague law that bars “conducting propaganda” against the state. He was sentenced to three years in prison followed by three years of house arrest.
According to the indictment, Binh’s articles contained “distorted information about the Party’s policies, the State’s laws and fabricated information about the private life of Party and State leaders,” Thanh Nien reported. The court ruled that Binh’s articles were “against the guidelines of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Vietnamese government” and “aimed at inciting the people to act against” the state, Radio Free Asia reported, citing state media reports. Judges said he had misrepresented himself in his writings as a member of the party with inside sources, according to the reports.
On August 15, 2013, an appeals court reduced Binh’s prison sentence to two years. He was being held at Ho Chi Minh City’s Phan Dang Luu Detention Center, according to the Vietnam Human Rights Network.
Le Quoc Quan, Freelance
Quan, a lawyer and blogger, was arrested on tax evasion charges while taking his children to school in the capital, Hanoi. His arrest came days after he wrote an article published on the BBC’s Vietnamese-language website that criticized the Communist Party-dominated government’s constitutional reform drive. The opinion piece criticized the inclusion in the reform drive of Article 4, which states that the Communist Party has the leading role in Vietnam.
On October 2, 2013, the People’s Court in Hanoi ruled in a one-day trial that Quan had failed to pay income tax at a consulting company he ran and established with his family. He was given a 30-month prison sentence and fine of 1.2 billion dong ($60,000), and was ordered to pay 600 million dong ($30,000) in back taxes.
Quan denied the charges in court and said he was the victim of “political acts,” according to news reports. His lawyer, Ha Huy Son, said the presiding judge would not allow arguments from the defense and that there were “inaccuracies” in the prosecution’s evidence, according to news reports.
CPJ research shows that Vietnamese authorities have used trumped-up tax evasion charges to silence critical voices. Another journalist, Nguyen Van Hai, was sentenced to prison in 2008 on similar trumped-up tax evasion charges. He was released in October 2014, after serving six years.
Quan wrote a popular blog that reported and commented on issues of government corruption, religious freedom, political pluralism, and human rights abuses. In August 2012, Quan was beaten outside his home by two unidentified men wielding iron bars who he suspected were sent by police, he told local reporters.
On February 18, 2014, Quan’s conviction was upheld by the Hanoi Appeal Court. He had been on hunger strike two weeks before his appeal hearing to protest authorities’ denying him access to legal counsel, legal and religious books, and a priest for spiritual guidance, according to news reports.
In June, Quan was transferred from Hanoi’s Hoa Lo No. 1 prison to the remote An Diem prison camp in Quang Nam province. His brother, Le Quoc Quyet, told Vietnam Right Now that the 470-mile transfer was made at night and without notice, and was intentionally done to make it more difficult for family members to visit him.
Truong Duy Nhat, Freelance
Nhat, a former reporter with state-controlled newspapers, was first arrested at his home in the central coastal city of Danang, according to news reports. He was flown under police escort the next day to the capital, Hanoi, where he was charged with “abusing democratic freedoms,” an anti-state crime under Article 258 of the penal code.
On March 4, 2014, a People’s Court in Danang City ruled in a closed trial that 12 entries on Nhat’s personal blog violated Article 258. Convictions under the law carry a maximum seven years in prison. Nhat, who maintained his innocence in court testimony, was given a two-year jail term.
A Danang Appeal Court upheld his sentence in a June 26 ruling. Presiding judges refused to allow Nhat’s defense lawyer to speak in court about the actual content of his online writing and ordered that sound being fed to an adjoining room where journalists were monitoring the proceedings be cut, according to a Radio Free Asia report.
Nhat had maintained a personal blog known as Nhat Mot Goc Nhin Khac (A Different Point of View) since 2009, according to reports. His posts were frequently critical of the Communist Party-led government and included entries that called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong for their perceived mismanagement. Another article compared a state land seizure in northern Hai Phong province that was resisted by farmers to a case of grassroots resistance during French colonial rule.
Nhat’s initial arrest came after he wrote blog posts about a National Assembly censure motion that failed to give scrutinizing lawmakers the option to cast a “no confidence” vote against targeted officials, according to news reports. Police seized his laptop computer, a SIM card and USB flash drive at the time of his arrest. Nhat’s blog was disabled soon after his arrest but later reappeared with software embedded that downloaded malware to viewers’ computers, according to reports.
In late 2014, he was being held at Hanoi’s Thanh Liet B-14 Detention Center, according to the International Federation of Human Rights.
Vo Thanh Tung (Duy Dong, Vo Tung), Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh
Police arrested Tung, a prize-winning investigative reporter with the state-controlled Vietnamese-language daily Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, accusing him of receiving a bribe from a bar owner in Bien Hoa town in southern Dong Nai province, according to local press reports.
Tung had recently reported investigative stories in Phap Luat detailing noise level violations, drug abuse, and illegal pole-dancing in some of the town’s entertainment venues. Local reports said the journalist was alleged to have accepted a 50 million dong ($2,370) bribe from the owner of one of the bars to stop his reporting. The reports added that two individuals identified as Tung’s reporting assistants, Nguyen Van Tai, a university student, and Duong Van Minh, a local official, were arrested on the same accusation of bribery. Police claimed the three had demanded a total of 200 million dong ($9,481) to stop their reporting.
While in custody, Tung allegedly confessed to demanding a bribe, according to the police’s local newspaper Cong An Nhan Dan. His paper’s editor-in-chief, Pham Phu Tam, could not confirm the confession, according to other local reports. Police authorities in Vietnam often coerce confessions from suspects in custody, according to CPJ research.
Local police were implicated in Tung’s reporting for not upholding the law at the exposed entertainment venues.
Police raided Tung’s home on the day of his arrest and seized a computer, camera, camcorder, and cartons of documents among other items.
The journalist is known for his investigative reporting on corruption issues. An exposé he wrote on the unregulated incineration of government-seized meat products was recognized by the Ho Chi Minh City Journalists Association as the top news story of 2012. Tung also exposed a bribery racket involving traffic police and gas stations along a national highway in the country’s southern region.
Tung and his two assistants were being held in detention in Hanoi while an investigation into the accusations continued. They each face a potential 20 years in prison if convicted on bribery charges.
Nguyen Huu Vinh (Anh Ba Sam), Ba Sam
Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, Ba Sam
Vinh and Thuy were arrested by police at their respective homes in the capital, Hanoi. They were both charged with “abusing democratic freedoms to impinge on the interests of the state,” an anti-state offense under Article 258 of the penal code.
According to a police statement on the charges cited in press reports, the two were accused of “posting false information about the state on the Internet,” including articles “that had the potential to tarnish the state apparatus’ prestige” on the Ba Sam (Talking Nonsense) blog that Vinh created in September 2007.
Ba Sam often posted links to state-run Vietnamese media, with critical commentary added by the blog’s administrators, as well as translated versions of international news on political, economic, and social issues, according to reports. The site also published posts from activists and was considered a rallying point for protests in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City against China’s perceived encroachment on Vietnamese territories, news reports said. Vinh and Thuy’s arrests came just after China stationed an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam in May 2014, setting off a months-long maritime standoff.
It was unclear if Vinh, a former policeman and son of a Communist Party Central Committee member, was still running the blog at the time of his arrest, according to reports. In September 2012, the blogger announced that he would end his direct involvement with the blog due to increased pressure by the authorities, the reports said.
Due to frequent cyberattacks on Ba Sam, the blog has appeared under different Web addresses. Other administrators of the blog, including its U.S.-based editor, Ngoc Thu, were not mentioned in the charges.
Vinh and Thuy were being held in pretrial detention in Hanoi while police conducted investigations. On October 30, 2014, national police said they had gathered enough evidence in 24 blog posts to pursue the anti-state charges, according to news reports. If found guilty under Article 258, they each face a potential seven years in prison.
Hong Le Tho, Freelance
Tho, also known by his blog name Nguoi Lot Gach, (Brick Layer,) was arrested at his home in southern Ho Chi Minh City, according to news reports. Police authorities confiscated his laptop computer, cell phone, and at least one USB drive at the time of his arrest, reports said.
In a statement on its website, the Ministry of Public Security said Tho, 65, was detained for “online articles with bad content and false information that discredit and create distrust among people about state agencies, social agencies and citizens,” the reports said.
Agence France-Presse reported that the blog was regularly updated in three languages and focused mainly on social and political issues in Vietnam, including critical commentary on sensitive bilateral relations with neighboring China. Tho’s blog-one of the few Vietnamese blogs that appears in French, English, and Vietnamese-was inaccessible after his arrest, according to reports.
The last item posted to Tho’s blog critiqued a speech made by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in which the national leader described Vietnam’s strategy towards China as “both cooperating and disputing,” according to Vietnam Right Now, an exile-run independent rights group. The two countries are locked in a politically sensitive territorial dispute over islands and features in the South China Sea. The blog post, written by Ha Dinh Nguyen, an outside contributor to the blog who has not been arrested, compared Dung’s policy approach to a famous figure in Vietnamese literature who becomes a prostitute, according to Vietnam Right Now.
The Ministry of Public Security statement said Tho was being investigated under the penal code’s Article 258, a vague and broad anti-state law that criminalizes “abusing democratic freedoms.” Convictions under Article 258 allow for a maximum of seven years in prison. Vietnam’s Communist Party-dominated government has increasingly used the law to stifle online criticism of its authoritarian rule. It was not immediately clear where Tho was being detained.