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Malta Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia tops ‘10 Most Urgent’ list of press freedom cases

Daphne Caruana Galizia's sister, Mandy Mallia (right) protested outside the office of the Prime Minister at Castille, in Valletta, Malta, on Dec. 3.
Daphne Caruana Galizia's sister, Mandy Mallia (right) protested outside the office of the Prime Minister at Castille, in Valletta, Malta, on Dec. 3.Rene Rossignaud/Associated Press

NEW YORK — The One Free Press Coalition, a united group of pre-eminent editors and publishers using their global reach and social platforms to spotlight journalists under attack worldwide, today issued its 11th “10 Most Urgent” list of journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases are seeking justice.

Topping the list was Malta journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered in October 2017 after receiving numerous death threats regarding her controversial political reporting. Only recently has the Malta government acknowledged their mishandling of the murder case, with the country’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, announcing his forthcoming resignation on Jan. 12 as a result.

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Since its inception, the monthly “10 Most Urgent” list has brought attention to journalists throughout the world who may not have otherwise had a voice. Of the 56 journalists featured on this year’s monthly lists, at least 10 have been released from prison, including Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Myanmar, and Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda Ubau in Nicaragua. In addition, the case of Turkish journalist Pelin Unker was recently dismissed by courts shortly after being featured in March, and Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni, featured on the October list, recently celebrated her wedding after her release from prison.

Published this morning by all Coalition members, the “10 Most Urgent” list includes the following journalists, ranked in order of urgency:

1. Daphne Caruana Galizia (Malta)

Malta acknowledges mishandling of journalist’s murder case.

Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, has announced he will resign on January 12 in connection with the government’s mishandling of the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death. The Panama Papers investigative reporter was killed in an October 2017 car bomb blast. Two years later, a public inquiry was initiated, and three senior members of Muscat’s administration stepped down over allegations of involvement in the murder, while three men are currently in detention in relation to the events.

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2. Esraa Abdel Fattah (Egypt)

Egyptian journalist on hunger strike tortured and hospitalized.

Reports surfaced December 16 that Esraa Abdel Fattah of banned website Tahrir News had been hospitalized in connection with her hunger strike. The reporter and social media coordinator had been detained two months at that point, charged with membership in a banned group, spreading false news and misusing social media platforms to disrupt national security. She began a hunger strike in October to demand an investigation into her allegations of mistreatment and torture.

3. Ilham Tohti (China)

Six years in jail for Chinese writer serving life sentence.

This month Uighur scholar, writer and blogger Ilham Tohti is serving his sixth year of a life sentence. Uighurbiz, the Chinese- and Uighur-language website he founded in 2006 with a focus on social issues, was shuttered for its “separatist” ideas (a charge Tohti denied) after his arrest in 2014. China is the leading jailer of journalists and allows Tohti’s wife and family members to visit him for only 30 minutes every three months.

4. Agnès Ndirubusa and the team at Iwacu (Burundi)

Four Burundi reporters imprisoned and awaiting trial.

Four journalists were arrested in Burundi in October while covering clashes in the country’s Bubanza Province. Senior political reporter Agnès Ndirubusa broadcast reporter Christine Kamikazi, English-language reporter Egide Harerimana and photojournalist Térence Mpozenzi face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the charges of undermining state security.

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5. Aleksandr Valov (Russia)

Imprisoned Russian journalist’s whereabouts unknown.

Aleksandr Valov’s lawyer has not been able to contact or locate him. The editor-in-chief and founder of local news site BlogSochi was arrested January 19, 2018 and is currently serving a six-year sentence on trumped up extortion charges. Valov narrated a livestream video showing police beating him during the arrest.

6. Jesús Medina (Venezuela)

Trial of detained Venezuelan photographer repeatedly delayed.

The trial of freelance photographer Jesús Medina has repeatedly been postponed, with the date currently set for January 30. The only Venezuelan journalist imprisoned, according to CPJ’s 2019 prison census, has been held in pretrial detention at Ramo Verde military prison since August 2018. He is accused of criminal association and inciting hate.

7. Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia)

Demands for answers in Khashoggi murder persist into new decade.

The new decade arrives without an independent criminal investigation into the 2018 high-profile, brazen killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside Istanbul’s Saudi consulate. Calls have gone unheeded for the U.S. and UN to probe the Saudi crown prince’s role in the “extrajudicial killing,” as have calls for the White House to release intelligence reports. Meanwhile, the Kingdom ended 2019 holding 26 journalists in prison.

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8. Masoud Kazemi (Iran)

Corruption reporter serving time while government bans Internet.

While Iran implemented an Internet ban in November in response to protests over rising gas prices, Masoud Kazemi sat in prison on charges stemming from 2018 Twitter posts about government corruption. Editor-in-chief of the monthly Sedaye Parsi political magazine, Kazemi was sentenced in June to four-plus years, found guilty of spreading misinformation and insulting the supreme leader and other Iranian officials. For an additional two years, he will be banned from working as a journalist.

9. Qazi Shibli (India)

Communications blackout slows case of jailed editor in weakening health.

Arrests in Kashmir constitute India’s only two cases of jailed journalists, according to CPJ tracking. And the region’s ongoing communications shutdown that started August 5—the longest ever imposed in a democracy—has slowed trial hearings and updates to family members. Kin of Kashmiriyat news website editor Qazi Shibli didn’t know his whereabouts for more than a month after his July arrest for allegedly reporting on Twitter about troop movements. The family has since expressed serious concerns about his health and hired a lawyer’s help to petition for bail.

10. Nariman Memedeminov (Russia)

In October, a military court in Russia’s southern city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced Nariman Memedeminov to two years and six months in prison, convicted of making public calls for terrorism online. That followed the 2018 raid of the freelance journalist’s home and his arrest. His coverage included livestreamed trials of Muslim minority Crimean Tatar activists and interviews with their family members and lawyers, since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

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The One Free Press Coalition every month spotlights the “10 Most Urgent” journalists who press freedoms are under threat worldwide. The Coalition uses the collective voices of participating news organizations to spotlight brave journalists whose voices are being silenced or have been silenced by “standing up for journalists under attack for pursing the truth.” To see the “10 Most Urgent” list every month and to view a complete list of participating news organizations and supporting partners, please visit https://www.onefreepresscoalition.com or @OneFreePress on Twitter.