‘Press Behind Bars’ event highlights journalists imprisoned around the world

Attorney Amal Clooney speaks during the Press Behind Bars: Undermining Justice and Democracy event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RC1178F6A920

At a panel discussion held today during the U.N. General Assembly, the Committee to Protect Journalists denounced several countries for imprisoning journalists, and others for failing to admonish those that do. The event highlighted global press freedom challenges, with specific emphasis on Myanmar, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Kyrgyzstan.

The three panelists–CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, barrister Amal Clooney, representing Reuters Journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and Stephen J. Adler, president and editor-in-chief of Reuters–strongly called on country authorities and U.N. member states to speak out against press freedom violations around the world.

“The journalists we will highlight today are reporters who have sacrificed their liberty to keep their communities and the entire world informed,” Simon said during the event.

Adler and Clooney focused on the case of Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been convicted under Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years hard labor, all part of authorities’ efforts to silence their truthful reporting.

Today marked the first time Clooney has spoken publicly regarding the case. “For almost a year, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been separated from their young families and paraded into a courtroom for a sham trial,” Clooney said. “Their conviction and sentence is a travesty of justice and it is now up to the government to set them free.”

Simon spoke about the cases of photojournalist Shahidul Alam, imprisoned in Bangladesh; journalist and human rights defender Azimjon Askarov, imprisoned in Kyrgyzstan; and blogger Alaa Abdelfattah and photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Shawkan), imprisoned in Egypt.

“The jailing of journalists around the world is successfully censoring coverage of key global issues and violating our collective right to seek and receive information vital to public understanding,” said Simon. “It’s an issue the U.N. can no longer ignore.”

CPJ recently published a video highlighting the five journalists featured at the event.


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