Forced to flee: Recognizing journalists in exile on World Refugee Day

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Across the world threats, repression, conflict, unrest, and other factors are pushing journalists into exile in record numbers. On World Refugee Day, it is important to note that exiled or soon-to-be exiled journalists now make up more than half of the people the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) assists.

To recognize the plight of exiled journalists, Lucy Westcott, CPJ’s emergencies director, wrote a feature charting the experience of journalists facing unsafe passage and transnational repression.

“Most journalists do not want to leave their home countries, but in extreme cases involving imminent harm, death, or arbitrary detention, they must do so quickly, sometimes in a matter of hours,” states Westcott.

Between January and June 2024, CPJ provided financial support to 158 journalists; 101, or about 64% of these people had fled their home countries or were in the process of fleeing from countries such as Myanmar, Nicaragua, and Sudan. Overall, CPJ’s exile support to members of the press grew by 227% between 2020 and 2023.

Separately, John Otis, CPJ’s Andes correspondent, covered how drug-related violence has fueled an exodus of Ecuador’s press. Last year, Ecuador’s government created a “protection mechanism” made up of government officials, civilians, and independent media workers to support at-risk journalists. But Ricardo Rivas, president of the mechanism, told CPJ that the government had so far refused to provide it with any money, despite a budget request.

Read more about exiled journalists and the exodus of Ecuador’s press.

Global press freedom updates

  • Palestinian-Jordanian journalist Hiba Abu Taha sentenced to one year in prison
  • US journalist Evan Gershkovich to stand trial June 26
  • Burundi regulator warns Iwacu Press Group after police assault 2 of outlet’s journalists
  • Church members assault DRC journalists Néhémie Paluku and Esaïe Mbusa
  • Cable operators block 4 news channels in India’s Andhra Pradesh state post-election
  • CPJ calls for immediate release of Chinese journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin
  • CPJ calls for end to trial of 11 anti-corruption journalists in Kyrgyzstan
  • CPJ welcomes convictions for murder of Dutch journalist Peter de Vries
  • Russia expels Austrian journalist Maria Knips-Witting in retaliatory response
  • Turkish journalist Murat Ağırel suspects spying on his house, family
  • Serbia court rules to extradite journalist Andrey Gnyot to Belarus
  • CPJ welcomes sentencing of 7 involved in 2019 beating of Turkish journalist


Maria Ressa speaks at Rappler’s office in Pasig, Philippines in July 2022. (Photo: AFP/Jam Sta Rosa)

On Tuesday, CPJ, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in partnership with Debevoise and Plimpton LLP, submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court of the Philippines to deter the legal persecution of trailblazing journalist Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa and her former colleague Reynaldo Santos.

The amicus brief argues that the criminal convictions of Ressa and Santos for “cyber libel” not only breach the international obligations of the Philippines but betray a press freedom legacy the court has reaffirmed for more than a century.

“Twelve years since the publication of an article that has been woven into a vicious campaign against Maria Ressa, Rappler, and other members of the press, it is clearer than ever that this spurious case intended to silence independent, critical reporting simply does not stand,” said CPJ, ICFJ, and RSF. “We urge the court to overturn the unjust convictions against Ressa and Santos. This weaponization of the law must come to an end.”

Ressa and Santos face close to seven years in prison if their convictions for cyber libel, which are currently in the last stage of appeals before the Philippine Supreme Court, are upheld.

Separately, CPJ’s statement about attacks on the press in Sudan was included in the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on conflict-induced hunger in Sudan. As CPJ reported, local journalists in Sudan experience grave difficulties covering the conflict roiling their country.

What we are reading (and watching)

Join us on Tuesday June 25 for a virtual webinar, “Legal rights and resources: Covering the 2024 election,” part of our U.S. Election Safety Summer series designed to equip journalists with tools to cover the U.S. elections. The free webinars are organized by CPJ, the International Women’s Media Foundation and PEN America.

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