Kashimiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra. (Courtesy of Masrat Zahra)
Kashimiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra. (Courtesy of Masrat Zahra)

Pandemic threatens not just lives, but livelihoods for freelancers worldwide

The Torch is a weekly newsletter from the Committee to Protect Journalists that brings you the latest press freedom and journalist safety news from around the world. Subscribe here.

As the global tally of coronavirus cases continues to rise, CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney published a piece in Al Jazeera highlighting why it is so crucial for journalists to be protected during the pandemic. A new blog by CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch highlights a range of additional concerns for freelance journalists around the world, who are particularly vulnerable as the pandemic threatens not only their health but also their livelihoods as they struggle to find work.

CPJ Emergencies has released a new safety advisory for journalists covering protests in the U.S. against the coronavirus lockdowns, which includes information on staying safe if faced with aggression. CPJ Emergencies also released a new safety checklist to help commissioners and editors understand how well prepared journalists and other media workers are as they cover the pandemic.

In India-controlled Jammu and Kashmir, police launched investigations into three journalists this week. Freelance journalists Masrat Zahra and Gowhar Geelani are both being investigated over social media posts, while Peerzada Ashiq, a correspondent with daily newspaper The Hindu, is being investigated for publishing an alleged “fake news item.” Zahra’s work was featured as part of the Journalists Under Fire exhibit CPJ helped assemble at Photoville last fall.

Journalism in the time of coronavirus

  • Journalists in Mexico, Turkmenistan, and Hungary spoke to CPJ about their experiences covering COVID-19
  • Somali journalist Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiyewas was arrested over COVID-19 Facebook posts
  • Two medical schools in Iran have filed criminal suits against at least two journalists over their coverage of the pandemic
  • In Ghana, soldiers enforcing COVID-19 restrictions attack two journalists
  • Ugandan security personnel enforcing COVID-19 measures assault journalists


Given the unprecedented public health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for the imprisoned population, CPJ has joined 93 organizations around the world in a call for world leaders to immediately and unconditionally release all journalists imprisoned for their work. As part of our #FreeThePress campaign, we have also been sharing video messages from formerly imprisoned journalists, with messages of solidarity for those still behind bars.

The campaign will culminate on World Press Freedom Day on May 3. Make sure your voice is heard by adding your name to the petition and sharing it on social media with the hashtag #FreeThePress.

Join CPJ next Thursday, April 30, for a free webinar hosted by George Washington University’s Digital Trade and Governance Hub titled “Data & Human Rights during the Pandemic.” The webinar will focus on companies and governments’ responsibilities during the pandemic, with a particular focus on human rights online. The event will feature CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch and David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion. Register for free here.

What we are reading

Beyond the pandemic

  • Hong Kong police arrest Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai
  • Philippine journalist Frenchiemae Cumpio detained since February on firearms charges
  • Venezuelan journalist Eduardo Galindo and family members detained over reporting
  • Radio journalist Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco missing in Mozambique after sending a text that he was “surrounded by soldiers”

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