A federal officer pushes demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, on July 21, 2020. Federal officers attacked journalists covering the protests. (AP/Noah Berger)

At least 2 journalists die after contracting COVID-19 in prison

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.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which CPJ is a co-founding member, has received more than 600 reports of aggressions against the press during the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. Last week, CPJ called on all U.S. law enforcement to stop using aggressive tactics against journalists covering protests, including in Portland, where U.S. federal law officers attacked journalists. CPJ Emergencies’ Lucy Westcott interviewed photojournalist Beth Nakamura of The Oregonian in an Instagram Q&A about covering protests in Portland, and the tactics she uses to stay safe.

Meanwhile, CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch explained in The Houston Chronicle how the Trump administration is putting reporters at risk. Watch our most recent video on the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s review of visas at Voice of America, and watch Radsch’s recent testimony about the situation for journalists in the U.S. at a hearing of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In Morocco on Wednesday, authorities arrested journalist Omar Radi, and transferred him to a court and then to a Casablanca prison. The arrest came after authorities repeatedly detained and interrogated Radi over an array of unrelated charges, and allegedly hacked his phone.

Global press freedom updates

  • Amicus briefs support CPJ’s appeal in Khashoggi lawsuit. CPJ welcomes the support, and hopes the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia gives our arguments the consideration they deserve
  • CPJ EU Representative Tom Gibson writes: How will the EU’s Digital Services Act impact journalism?
  • NYPD subpoenaed reporter’s phone records in leak case. Separately, a judge in Seattle, Washington, ruled that five Seattle media companies must hand over unpublished protest images to police, according to The Seattle Times
  • Paraguayan soldiers assault, detain journalist Roberto Esquivel
  • Nicaraguan journalist Gerall Chávez and family receive death threats
  • Turkey parliament passes social media law that threatens press freedom
  • Russian journalist Dmitriy Nizovtsev beaten by unidentified men
  • Journalist from Dagestan, Russia, threatened with death in a phone call
  • CPJ joins letter calling on African Union to secure release of Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono
  • CPJ condemns upholding in Iran of a 3-year sentence for journalist Kayvan Samimi
  • Iraqi Kurdish authorities file complaint against journalist for COVID-19 criticism
  • Journalists Moncef Aït Kaci and Ramdane Rahmouni detained in Algeria
  • Hamas security forces hold 2 journalists in Gaza for 48 hours for allegedly spreading false news
  • Bangladeshi journalists face physical attacks, legal cases, and detention amid COVID-19 pandemic


Azimjon Askarov, right, and his son, pictured during a family vacation in 2009. Askarov’s son told CPJ this photo showed the journalist’s “last summer in freedom.” (Askarov family)

In Kyrgyzstan, journalist Azimjon Askarov died Saturday from health complications that his family suspect to be linked to COVID-19. Authorities refused to administer a test to Askarov, who had been sick with a fever for weeks, his wife, Khadicha Askarova, told CPJ.

Askarov, a veteran journalist and human rights defender who was serving a life sentence since 2010, remained in detention despite widespread condemnation, including from the U.N. Human Rights Committee. In May, Askarov lost his final appeal at the Supreme Court. CPJ worked tirelessly for his freedom, and was outraged by the conditions he was kept in, seen firsthand on a prison visit by CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. The journalist was awarded CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2012 while he was in jail.

This month, two other journalists, David Romero of Honduras and Mohamed Monir of Egypt, both died after contracting COVID-19 in government custody. These deaths were all avoidable, and make our fight to #FreeThePress all the more urgent. Using the hashtag #FreeThePress, tweet at U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and ask him to call for the immediate release of every jailed journalist.

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