250 journalists in jails worldwide: CPJ urges UN chief to take action to secure release

ISLAMABAD: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and its 191 partner organisations, including Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)  in a letter to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres have urged him to take action to secure release of 250 jailed journalists worldwide.

“On behalf of the #FreeThePress campaign, made up of 192 press freedom and human rights organisations and the more than 11,337 concerned citizens who signed the petition, we urge you to take immediate action to secure the release of journalists jailed around the world whose lives are risk due to the spread of COVID-19,” said the letter.

“For journalists who have been jailed for their work, freedom is now a matter of life and death. Imprisoned journalists have no control over their surroundings, cannot choose to isolate, and are often denied necessary medical care. Many of these journalists are already in poor or failing health,” said the letter.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ most recent prison census, there were at least 250 journalists behind bars in at least 33 countries. While some of those have been released, others still have been arrested.

“Collectively we have written several letters to leaders of countries where journalists are jailed for their work; to the European External Action Service; and to UN Special Rapporteurs and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, urging them to use their offices to advocate for the release of those imprisoned. We are sharing this petition with you, and with every country currently detaining journalists, in the hopes that you will use your voice to amplify this call by more than 11,000 people to #FreeThePress, and send this message to the member states that make up the United Nations,” said the letter addressed to the UN chief.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that “People deprived of their liberty, and those living or working in enclosed environments in their close proximity, are likely to be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease than the general population.”

“We welcomed the suggestion in your April 23 policy brief, COVID-19 and Human Rights: We are all in this together, that member states, Resort to non-custodial sanctions and release of selected categories of prisoners is needed. Reducing numbers in pre-trial detention, those detained for minor or political offences, near the end of their sentences, or detained unlawfully should be expedited.”

However, the letter said, given the urgency of the situation and the vulnerability of these political prisoners, additional measures must be taken and the UN chief must make a public statement calling on member states to release jailed journalists immediately. “We urge you to use your office to protect a free press and ensure the free flow of information at this crucial time,” the letter added.

Newspaper: The News