Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election certification. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP)

Amid violence in Washington, D.C., journalist safety must be respected

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.

Following yesterday’s disturbing displays of violence in Washington, D.C., which put journalists and lawmakers alike at serious risk, CPJ remains concerned for the safety of reporters covering civil unrest and political events. Amid the chaos, reported threats against the press yesterday included intimidation of news crews and destruction of equipment. “Journalists and news crews covering these events, which are of paramount public interest, must be able to do so freely and safely, with the support and protection of law enforcement,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. Journalists planning to cover protests expected in D.C. and around the country in the coming weeks can find safety guidance here. We urge those covering the unrest to do a risk assessment and screenshot or bookmark our safety guide, which includes both resources and contact information to report press freedom violations. Visit the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker for more data on press freedom violations in the U.S.

The latest development in a longstanding legal battle was delivered when a British court denied the U.S. Department of Justice’s request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. CPJ welcomes the court’s decision, and urges the Justice Department to drop charges against Assange. “The U.S. government’s decision to charge the WikiLeaks founder set a harmful legal precedent for the prosecution of journalists around the world simply for interacting with their sources,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney.

An ominous move in Hong Kong, once known for its tradition of press freedom, came this week as police ordered four media outlets to turn over information relating to the region’s pro-democracy movement. Looking for more background? A 2019 CPJ special report “One Country, One Censor,” detailed the effects of Chinese pressure on the media in Hong Kong.

Global press freedom updates

  • Journalist Bismillah Adel Aimaq shot and killed in Afghanistan
  • Vietnam sentences three independent journalists to more than 10 years in prison
  • Photographer Abul Kalam detained in Bangladesh after documenting refugee relocation
  • Egyptian journalist detained on false news and terrorism charges, denied medication
  • Moroccan authorities arrest journalist Maati Monjib
  • Press in Uganda face accreditation hurdles ahead of election, risk criminal sanction. Journalists covering the country’s election can refer to CPJ’s safety advisory here
  • Brazilian court orders The Intercept Brasil and ND+ to modify coverage of court case
  • Belarus authorities detain at least six in tax investigation of local press club
  • CPJ interviewed journalist Marcus Henderson, who covered the COVID-19 outbreak inside San Quentin prison in California
  • Turkish police arrest Mezopotamya News Agency journalist Mehmet Aslan. Meanwhile, Turkish podcasters who broadcast on Spotify spoke to CPJ about new licensing rules


Kicking off the new year on a somber note, the OneFreePress Coalition, a powerhouse group of media organizations standing in solidarity with journalists under threat, shared their 23rd monthly “10 Most Urgent” list. This month’s cases underscore the wide scope of threats faced by journalists around the globe, from online abuse, to imprisonment, to legal threats, to the weaponization of the pandemic against the press. Learn more about these courageous journalists and the obstacles they encounter simply for trying to report the truth.

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