RSF Reports

Conversation opened. 3 messages. All messages read.
Conversation opened. 1 read message.




Kremlin tightens grip on Internet in run-up to presidential election

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a new Russian offensive against the Internet in which the encrypted instant messaging app Telegram has been fined and threatened with blocking for not surrendering its decryption keys, the Open Russia news website has been blocked without any judicial proceedings, and Twitter and YouTube are again under threat.

This latest offensive by the Russian authorities comes as the country prepares to hold a presidential election next March.

On 12 December, a Moscow appeal court upheld a decision to fine Telegram 800,000 roubles (11,500 euros) for refusing to hand over its decryption keys to Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB). It was the latest stage in a battle that has dragged on all year. If Telegram does not comply, the authorities could start blocking the service on 28 December.

The authorities base their demand for the decryption keys on the draconian terrorism law that was adopted in 2016 in the face of unanimous protests from civil society. Telegram has built its reputation on respect for free speech and privacy, and says the demand constitutes an unwarranted violation of these principles.

Telegram also insists that it does not have access to the decryption keys, which are generated on the devices of each individual user. Agora, the human rights group that is representing Telegram in this case, wrote to the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression, David Kaye, on 13 December asking him to intercede.

Meanwhile, also on 13 December, a Moscow administrative court rejected a complaint against the FSB that had been brought by well-known independent journalist Oleg Kashin arguing that the demand for Telegram's decryption keys threatens the confidentiality of journalists' sources. A similar complaint by fellow journalist Alexander Plyushchev was rejected in October.

Blocking, actual and threatened

The recently adopted law under which websites linked to "undesirable foreign organizations" can be blocked without reference to a judge has not taken long to have an effect. The independent news and information website Open Russia was blocked in Russia on 12 December, along with all the resources linked – closely or otherwise – to the 11 organisations so far deemed to be "undesirable."

Open Russia is linked to a political movement of the same name founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Kremlin critic now living in exile, but there is no legal connection between them.

Not to be outdone, the telecommunication surveillance agency Roskomnadzor has embarked on a new wrangle with the international Internet giants, calling on Twitter, YouTube and others to delete Open Russia's accounts or risk having their services blocked within Russia. The Russian social network Odnoklassniki immediately complied.

Yesterday, Roskomnadzor ordered media outlets to delete all online links to the blocked websites on the grounds that they "help to disseminate illegal content." The outlets are likely to take the order seriously. The News Times website already received a formal warning in late November over three links to "illegal content" – pages containing swearwords.

"The Russian authorities have been constantly tightening their Internet legislation in recent years and this is the result – an unprecedented level of censorship," said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

"These latest attacks on freedom of expression violate the Russian constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. We again call on the Russian authorities to repeal these draconian laws and to respect their international obligations."

Another incident is indicative of preparations for next March's election. Android users in Russia searching YouTube on 29 November suddenly encountered error messages in response to searches for opposition leader Alexei Navalny, independent media such as Novaya Gazeta, Dozhd, Meduza and Open Russia, and the blogger Dmitry Ivanov. But the searches worked if the names were misspelled or a VPN was used. YouTube's owner, Google, fixed the "problem" that evening without providing any explanation.

Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Still very free just a few years ago, the Russian Internet has been reined in since the crackdown on a wave of big demonstrations against electoral fraud in 2011 and 2012.

A few opposition demonstrations in 2017 have drawn large crowds of young people, suggesting that the Internet generation is less influenced than its elders by the propaganda on the big TV channels. President Vladimir Putin has just announced that he is running for a fourth term.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Another wave of trials of independent journalists in Azerbaijan

Published 14.12.2017


As Azerbaijan today begins trying a journalist who was kidnapped and brought back by force from neighboring Georgia, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the international community to take a firm stand with its government in order to get it to stop hounding the country's few remaining independent journalists.

The trial of Afgan Mukhtarli, which begins today in the northern city of Balakan, is a striking example of the determination with which the regime goes after its critics. An investigative journalist and activist living in exile in the Georgian capital, Mukhtarli was abducted there on 29 May and forcibly returned Azerbaijan, where he was immediately jailed.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, the authorities continue to insist that he was arrested at the border and have charged him with smuggling, crossing the border illegally, and refusing to comply with instructions from the police.

All the requests that the defense presented at an initial hearing on 30 November were rejected. Mukhtarli continues to be held despite being diabetic and suffering from high blood pressure, and despite having lost a lot of weight.


Spate of hearings on media cases

December is proving to be a busy month for court cases involving independent media and journalists. Tomorrow, a court will continue hearing the appeal by Mehman Huseynov, a blogger who was sentenced to two years in prison on a criminal defamation charge in March for describing how he was tortured while previously detained.

Four days later, a Baku appeal court is to examine an appeal against the blocking of the leading independent news websites – the sites of the daily newspaper Azadlig, Radio Azadlig, Meydan TV, Turan TV and the broadcast Azerbaycan Saati – which have been inaccessible within Azerbaijan since May.

The trial of Kanal 13 TV chief Aziz Orujov, who was arrested in May, was to have continued on 12 December, but has been postponed until an unspecified date. Prosecutors are seeking a seven-year jail sentence for him on charges of illegal business activity and abuse of power in connection with his NGO, the Caucasus Research Media Center, which funds the TV channel.

On 8 December, the supreme court upheld an international travel ban on Khadija Ismayilova, a well-known investigative journalist who was jailed on trumped-up charges in 2014 and was freed conditionally in May 2016 as a result of international pressure. She cannot leave Baku and is banned from travelling abroad for the next five years.

"All these judicial proceedings are yet further evidence of how journalism is systematically criminalized in Azerbaijan and the most spurious pretexts are used to silence the few remaining critics," said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. "It is time to implement the individual sanctions cited by the international community so that the government stops flouting its human rights obligations."


Journalists hounded even in exile 

The government does not hesitate to abuse Interpol provisions in order to continue persecuting the many Azerbaijani journalists have fled abroad.

Fikret Huseynli, a Turan TV journalist living in exile in the Netherlands, where he has refugee status, was arrested at Azerbaijan's behest while on a visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on 14 October. He was released two weeks later but has not been able to get his passport back and is still unable to return to the Netherlands because the Ukrainian prosecutor's office has appealed against his release. The appeal is due to be heard on 20 December.

When they cannot get their hands on journalists who have fled abroad, the Azerbaijani authorities target relatives who have stayed behind. Emin Sagiyev, the brother of a Turkel Azerturk, an Azerbaijani journalist now based in the Netherlands, where he hosts a very popular Turan TV program, was arrested on 17 November for "drug trafficking," a charge often used against dissidents and their relatives.

Azerbaijan is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. President Ilham Aliyev's government has gone all out to eliminate media pluralism in recent years. The leading outspoken media outlets have all been throttled financially or forcibly closed. At least 13 journalists and two bloggers are currently detained in connection with their reporting.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

EU's Frans Timmermans backs call for UN special representative

Published 12.12.2017


European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans is backing the #ProtectJournalists campaign by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for the creation of a United Nations Special Representative for the Safety of Journalists.

The statement of support by Timmermans came in response to an appeal by RSF to European governments and institutions to do more to protect journalists in the wake of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder on 16 October, which sent shock waves through the region.

In a 7 December letter to RSF, Timmermans wrote: "I am pleased to tell you that I support the #ProtectJournalists campaign and would welcome the creation of a UN Special Representative for the Safety of Journalists."

"We are very grateful to Frans Timmermans for his support for the protection of journalists," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. "More than 60 journalists have again lost their lives in 2017 alone. It is time to put an end to these abuses, which seriously violate the right of millions of citizens around the world to be informed."

At least 66 journalists and media workers have been killed since the start of 2017. Despite many UN resolutions, at least 780 journalists and media workers have been killed in connection with their work in the past decade. Only a special representative reporting directly to the UN secretary-general would be able to act quickly and would have sufficient political weight to coordinate all of the UN's efforts and bring about a real change on the ground.

French President Emmanuel Macron also voiced support for the #ProtectJournalists campaign in an address to the UN General Assembly on 19 September. Dozens of other governments around the world, from Afghanistan to Spain, and from Sweden to Uruguay, are calling for the creation of this position.

Launched by RSF in 2015, the #ProtectJournalists campaign is supported by more than 130 media outlets, NGOs and labour unions.

More information on the #ProtectJournalists campaign is available here, including the list of more than 130 media outlets and NGOs that back the initiative.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

RSF lodges ECHR complaint over German foreign intelligence agency’s mass surveillance

Published 08.12.2017


Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is lodging a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the mass surveillance practices of Germany's foreign intelligence agency BND. The organisation submitted the corresponding complaint on 30 November. RSF Germany accuses the BND of spying on its email traffic with foreign partners, journalists and other persons as part of the agency's signals intelligence surveillance.

 "The excessive surveillance practices of the BND cast doubt on the confidentiality of digital communication and thus undermine a basic prerequisite for journalistic research. German jurisdiction effectively makes defence against this impossible," said RSF Germany's executive director Christian Mihr. "Now it is up to the European Court of Human Rights to ensure that the fundamental right to legal protection against the BND's groundless and disproportionate surveillance is enforced."

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, the competent court of first and last instance in Germany, rejected on 14 December 2016 the lawsuit brought by RSF ( The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe then refused to admit RSF's constitutional complaint against this decision on 26 April 2017 on the grounds that RSF had failed to adequately demonstrate that the organisation was directly affected by the BND's surveillance (

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig has already rejected similar lawsuits against the BND in the past on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not demonstrate that they were personally affected by the measures. However, it is practically impossible to provide proof of such surveillance because the secrecy of the BND's activities means that plaintiffs generally do not know whether they are or were under surveillance.

Another part of the original lawsuit is still pending with the Federal Administrative Court. It is directed against the metadata analysis system "VerAS," which the BND has been using since 2002 without any legal basis to gather call detail records on telephone calls involving a foreign element. The judges at the Leipzig court separated this part of the lawsuit from the rest last December and demanded clarification from the BND ( At the hearing, the BND's legal representatives explained that VerAS was just one of around 25 BND databases.

RSF had submitted the lawsuit against the BND to the Federal Administrative Court on 30 June 2015 ( Lawyer Niko Härting has represented RSF in the case.

In the complaint lodged with the ECHR, RSF Germany asserts that its right to privacy of correspondence as well as its right to freedom of expression and information protected under Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights are being violated. This is de facto disproportionate and groundless mass surveillance, since the intelligence agency's practically unlimited access and extremely broad search criteria lead to surveillance on a scale that far exceeds the alleged purpose of the measures.



In addition, RSF Germany asserts that its right to effective remedy (under Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights) has been violated because the vast majority of those affected are not informed even after the fact that their emails have been recorded and examined. Even the general public is informed about the surveillance measures – via the annual reports of the Parliamentary Control Panel, the German Bundestag’s intelligence oversight committee – only after the protocols documenting the deletion of emails that were ultimately categorised as "non-relevant for intelligence purposes" have been erased. Despite this, German courts only admit lawsuits and constitutional complaints against the surveillance if the plaintiff can provide real proof that they are directly affected by the measures – which is impossible under the aforementioned circumstances. (



Considering all that is known about the scale of intelligence surveillance of signals between Germany and abroad as well as about the search criteria used by the BND, RSF Germany has to assume that a significant number of its emails were gathered and subjected to closer analysis – and that these surveillance practices are disproportionate and not covered by Germany's G10 Law (which regulates limitations on the constitutional confidentiality of mail and telecommunications). Many journalists from Germany as well as from authoritarian states like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and China contact RSF Germany with confidential information and communicate with the organisation about matters that are worthy of protection on a regular basis. If the BND examines such communications in the context of its mass surveillance, these journalists can no longer rely on their enquiries and matters remaining confidential.

With its excessive surveillance practices, the BND is not just undermining the protection of sources as a key element of press freedom in a democracy. It is also undermining the credibility of Germany's demands that authoritarian regimes respect media freedom, as well as robbing journalists in these countries of an advocate in their fight against surveillance and other forms of repression by their governments.

The reform of the BND law passed in the autumn of 2015 which regulates the BND's powers to gather signals intelligence from foreign targets located abroad (called the "Act for Foreign-Foreign Signals Intelligence Gathering") has no impact on the points of contention in the lawsuit. (For further information visit


Germany currently ranks 16th out of the 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index


- Written complaint submitted to the ECHR by RSF Germany: /

- More about the state of press freedom in Germany:


Who owns the media in France?

Published 08.12.2017


Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is publishing a detailed report that highlights how French media ownership is now dangerously concentrated in the hands of a few billionaires who have constructed often very intricate and opaque share-holding arrangements.

Who owns the media in France? This apparently simple question is actually very complex, according to the findings of this survey, which was carried out for RSF by Julia Cagé, a specialist in media economics.

Using data gathered from December 2015 to August 2016, Cagé has compiled a list of all the shareholders in the news media together with the main economic sectors in which they are active.

These are the main characteristics of the French media landscape described in the report:

- The growing concentration of media ownership is not synonymous with clarity. This study shows that the media ownership structure in France is characterized by complexity and a lack of transparency.

- In France, 51% of the print and online media are controlled by companies from the financial and insurance services sector, which have created complex and opaque shareholding structures that make it hard to identify the final owner.

- The print and online media capital controlled by the financial and insurance services sector is almost three times what the actual “information and communication” sector controls, which is just 18%.

- Nowadays the media are usually owned by companies and rarely by individuals. The big “families” that long owned the media have gradually sold out to corporations in recent decades.

- The French state and its offshoots constitute only 1% of print and online media owners, but public ownership in the broadcast media is much higher - 43%.

- The survey calculates the layers or “ranks” of shared ownership between each media and its final owner and the complexity of its ownership structure, measured in terms of “nodes,” finding an average of 2.5 ranks and six nodes in each print or online media outlet. A large number of nodes may just reflect a diverse ownership, with a large number of very small shareholders, but it may reflect a deliberate complexity that makes it harder to identify the individual or company that is the final owner.

- The report points out that an order issued by the National Resistance Council in August 1944 made it compulsory for newspapers to publish the names of their owners and their owners’ professions in each issue. Unfortunately, this order was never enforced.

- The November 2016 law “aiming to strengthen media freedom, independence and pluralism” constitutes a significant step forward. Article 19 of this law says: “Every year, the publishing company must provide the publication’s readers or the online press service’s users with all relative information about the composition of its capital, in the event that 5% or more is owned any individual person or entity, and its governing bodies. It must identify each shareholder (whether a person or entity) and how many shares they hold.”

- This article is an important first step but it is not enough because media outlets are not required to identify the main business activities of their shareholders. As shareholding in the media is extremely fluid, the report calls for the creation of a detailed “map” of media share ownership that is updated in real time and is accessible to everyone, so that the public can always know exactly who owns the media.


The full report can be downloaded here.



Nearly 70 journalists on trial in one week

In a new record for the persecution of the media in Turkey, a total of 68 journalists are due to appear in court in four different trials during the week of 4 to 11 December. A third of these journalists are already detained.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the baseless terrorism charges on which they are being tried and reiterates its call for their immediate release. All 68 are accused of supporting or belonging to a terrorist organisation and most of them are also accused of “trying to overthrow the government and constitutional order.”

Forty-four of them have already spent around 18 months in provisional detention. RSF’s Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğlu, is attending all the hearings, which are taking place in Istanbul and its suburbs.

“With the same extremely grave charges, the same abuse of provisional detention and the same contempt for due process, these four trials illustrate the scale of the criminalization of journalism in Turkey,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“The judicial system is now just serving as a veneer to disguise the deliberate elimination of all dissent. We reiterate our call to the authorities to free imprisoned journalists at once and to abandon these political trials.”

The week-long judicial marathon began on 4 December with the resumption of the trial of 29 journalists charged with acting as the “media wing” of the Gülen Movement, which is accused by the government of being behind the July 2016 coup attempt.

Two of these journalists, Murat Aksoy and Atilla Taş, were released at the previous hearing but 20 of them, including Abdullah Kılıç, Habip Güler and Yakup Çetin, are still detained and the 4 December hearing ending with the decision to keep them in detention until the next one, scheduled for 6 February. They are facing a possible sentence of between ten years in prison and life without any parole.

The trial of six journalists in connection with revelations about President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, energy minister Berat Albayrak, resumed yesterday. Two of them, investigative reporter Tunca Öğreten and Mahir Kanaat of the left-wing daily BirGün, were finally freed under judicial control after nearly a year of provisional detention.

None of the six is now detained but they are still facing possible 15-year jail sentences on charges of cooperating with a group of hackers and divulging state secrets in order to assist various terrorist organizations by “creating a negative perception of the authorities.” The next hearing has been set for 3 April.

The trial of 30 former journalists and employees of the daily newspaper Zaman will resume tomorrow. Twenty-one of them, including Şahin Alpay, Ahmet Turan Alkan and Ali Bulaç, are in provisional detention. The case against them is largely based on the mere fact that they worked for Zaman, which was regarded as sympathetic to the Gülen Movement and was dissolved by decree in July 2016. Each of them is facing the possibility of three life sentences.

The well-known journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, whose trial on similar charges will resume on 11 December, are all in provisional detention. Their criticism of the government is alleged to have “prepared the way” for the coup attempt, which Ahmet Altan is also accused of supporting by means of “subliminal messages.”

The four lawyers who defend the Altan brothers were expelled from the courtroom during the last hearing. The prosecutor is due to present his summing-up at the hearing on 11 December.

The already worrying media situation in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the July 2016 coup attempt. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, mass trials are being held and the country now holds the world record for the number of journalists detained. Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

RSF reiterates call for independent probe into Maltese journalist’s murder
Published 06.12.2017

Following this week’s announced arrests of ten suspects in Malta’s investigation into anti-corruption journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder on 16 October, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for a full and independent investigation to bring those responsible to justice.

Under European Union pressure for results, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced on 4 December that ten suspects had been arrested. They were the first arrests in the case which the government has been accused of both political interference and incompetence.

Caruana Galizia’s family has issued a statement expressing astonishment that the arrests were announced by the prime minister and not by the police, as should be the case in this kind of investigation.

The statement also draws attention to other irregularities, including the fact that the names of the suspects were released and that the magistrate who issued the arrest warrant was not the investigating magistrate in charge of the case.

The family also said it was concerned that “a number of people who could be implicated continue to receive political cover for crimes they are widely reported to have committed.” As there was no sign that the investigation was being conducted in an independent manner, the family would continue to demand an “independent and impartial investigation,” the statement added.

In the nearly two months since Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death, the authorities have been unable to show that they are conducting their investigation in an impartial manner, so we support the family’s request and we call for an independent international investigation to establish all the facts of her shocking murder,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk.

The murder of Caruana Galizia, who often accused both Maltese government and opposition of corruption on her blog, has raised EU concerns about the rule of law in Malta.

A European Parliament delegation tasked with examining the situation in Malta made an exploratory visit to the capital, Valetta, last week and confirmed its concerns on its return. There was also grave concern about the death threats made against members of the delegation ahead of the visit.

Malta is currently ranked 47th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

More forced displacement of journalists seen in Mexico

Published 05.12.2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has alerted the UN and OAS special rapporteurs for freedom of expression to the increasingly alarming problem of Mexican journalists being driven into internal exile by death threats – a problem with disastrous consequences for media freedom in both short and long term.

RSF organised a meeting on this issue with United Nations Special Rapporteur David Kaye and Organization of American States Special Rapporteur Edison Lanza on the last day of the visit they made to Mexico from 27 November to 4 December.

This year alone, RSF has provided support in 13 cases* of Mexican journalists who fled their hometowns for safety reasons after being the targets of threats. These victims of forced displacement – several of whom fled with their families – lived in the states of Guerrero, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Quintana Roo, Baja California and Michoacán, which are among Mexico’s most violent.

Most of these journalists sought refuge in Mexico City and received emergency assistance from the Federal Mechanism for Protecting Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.

The Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) has registered more than 300,000 cases of Mexican citizens (of all professions) who have been forced to move away from their home regions since 2009. The figure is astonishing and there is little prospect of any let-up in 2018, given the current level of violence in Mexico.

With at least 11 journalists murdered so far in 2017, Mexico is the world’s second deadliest country for the media. Furthermore, Mexico will hold presidential, parliamentary, and state governorship elections in June 2018 and journalists are more likely to be targeted in the run-up to elections (see the UNESCO-RSF Handbook for Journalists during Elections).


Time bomb

Forced displacement has many consequences. It has an enormous psychological impact on the victims. As well as feeling cut off, they also suffer from feelings of guilt towards their families and colleagues. And this often leads to a rapid decline in their health and the health of their loved-ones.

It takes an economic toll on the victims, who generally have to use their savings or sell property in order to cover their basic needs, which may include paying several rents.

It also has an economic cost for the authorities. In the absence of a global policy, the various bodies responsible for handling the problem – the Federal Mechanism, the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) and the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims (CEAV) – communicate poorly with each other and are hard put to find long-term solutions for the victims. This bureaucracy consumes time and financial resources.

Finally, the forced displacement of journalists results in a loss of jobs and in news black holes such as the state Tamaulipas.

After a particularly violent year for the Mexican media, the authorities must urgently draw up a concrete plan of action and a global policy for ending the persecution and threats against journalists and limiting the causes of forced displacement, which has terrible consequences for freedom of expression,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin American bureau.

The victims of forced displacement also need a program of comprehensive and personalized assistance,” Colombié added.

RSF alerted the Mexican Congress on this issue. Pending concrete action by the authorities, RSF has three main recommendations for the Mexican government:

1. Conduct a comprehensive nationwide diagnosis of the problem and then devise a clear, all-embracing public policy that combines prevention with support for already identified victims.

2. By means of better coordination between the Federal Mechanism, FEADLE and CEAV, implement a full assistance program for victims that includes psychological and financial assistance and help with finding new employment.

3. Ensure that the CEAV pays better attention to the specific, individual needs of victims and maintain the special assistance fund for journalists in 2018 – a fund worth 10 million pesos (445,000 euros) created in 2017 – while ensuring greater transparency in its use.

Mexico is ranked 147th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Russia: Investigative reporter must be acquitted on appeal, RSF says

Published 05.12.2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the acquittal and immediate release of Alexander Sokolov, an investigative journalist whose appeal against his conviction on an extremism charge will receive further examination by a Moscow municipal court tomorrow.

Like two of his three co-defendants, Sokolov will not be in court for tomorrow’s hearing, which he will follow by video connection from his prison camp. After two years of provisional detention, he was sentenced in August to three and a half years in prison for “perpetuating the activities of a banned extremist organisation.”

In RSF’s view, he was jailed on the flimsiest of cases, and his journalistic activities were the real reason for his arrest. His last story was about the embezzlement of a large amount of public funds in the construction of the high-profile Vostochny Cosmodrome.

“Justice must finally be rendered to Alexander Sokolov, who has been deprived of his freedom for two and a half years on the flimsiest of pretexts,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The limitations on Sokolov’s participation in the appeal hearing violate his right to defence. He should either be allowed to attend in person or he should have a better video conference connection and should be able to exchange confidential comments with his lawyer during the hearing.”

Sokolov, whose Moscow apartment caught fire in suspicious circumstances in August, was one of the seven journalists nominated for this year’s RSF-TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize. His appeal began on 30 November. RSF urges as many journalists as possible to attend tomorrow’s hearing in Moscow.

Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

For more details about the case, see RSF’s previous press releases.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

EU must not back down on control of digital weapon exports

Published 01.12.2017


Reporters Without Borders – known internationally as Reporters sans frontières (RSF) – hails the European Parliament international trade committee’s approval last week of a proposal for reinforcing controls on dual-use surveillance technology exportsIf implemented, it would help to prevent authoritarian regimes from spying on journalists and arresting them. RSF urges MEPs to adopt this proposal when it goes before a full session of the European Parliament in January, and to resist the siren calls from the lucrative surveillance industry’s lobbyists.

Does the committee’s vote mean the European Union will finally stop turning a blind eye to the export of digital weapons? The legislative revision currently under way could make it harder for European companies to export software to authoritarian regimes that use it to spy on journalists.

“The challenge now is not to relinquish anything in the proposal already approved by the parliamentary committee,” Elodie Vialle, the head of RSF’s Journalism and Technology Desk, said. “MEPs must not yield to the siren calls of lobbyists orchestrated by the companies that sell surveillance technology. This is a unique chance to show that business stops where respect for human rights starts, including respect for the freedom to inform.”


Invisible but real weapons

The goal is to limit the export of software that allows these regimes to intercept phone calls, hack into computers and decipher passwords. Such technology is called “dual use” because it has both civilian and military applications. In the same way that nuclear energy can be used to generate electricity and make bombs.

Several European Union countries, including Italy and France, are involved. The French company Amesys, for example, sold an online communications interception system called Eagle to Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in 2007. The United Kingdom has also always been lenient on surveillance technology exports to authoritarian regimes.

Media exposure of these exports has been embarrassing for Europe’s democracies. The issue was discussed and – to cries of “Never again!” – the EU has since 2014 included surveillance technology in the dual-use exports that are supposed to be controlled.


Business as usual for the time being

But no account had been taken of the ingenuity of the surveillance technology companies, which the relevant agencies and authorities have done little to curb. Amesys set up operations under the name of AMESys in Dubai where it has continued business as usual including involvement with Field Marshall el-Sisi’s regime in Egypt.

As the crackdown on journalists intensified in Turkey in early 2017, the UK’s department for international trade granted a license for the sale of communications interception software to the Turkish authorities.

Aware that the promotion of European digital start-up growth does not justify the sale of digital weapons, the European Commission published a proposal for new dual-use technology legislation in September 2016 that would update and harmonize the existing regulations.

After a long discussion and postponing a vote twice, the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA) voted on 23 November in favour of amendments to the proposal that would tighten the controls on surveillance technology exports.

RSF hails its proposed legal requirement on companies to exercise “due diligence,” meaning they would have to ensure that their exported software would not be used to violate human rights. RSF also welcomes its insistence on more transparency, including the provision of more detailed information about the nature of the technology being exported.

RSF nonetheless reminds MEPs that more clarity is needed about the verification process to which surveillance technology companies must submit.


Right to know

The European Parliament is due to vote on the proposed new legislation between 14 and 18 January. European citizens also have a right to know if their countries are selling digital weapons to dictatorships. RSF will follow the European Parliament’s negotiations closely in the coming weeks.




Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ismail Al Sayed Mohamed Omar Toufic, a respected Egyptian journalist and researcher who was arrested by the Egyptian authorities exactly two years ago on 29 November.

Better known as Ismail Alexandrani, a pen-name he chose in honour of his home town, the northern city of Alexandria, he is a respected freelance investigative reporter, political scientist and sociologist specializing in the Sinai Peninsula’s Jihadi movements.

Arrested at Hurghada airport, in the Red Sea Governorate, on his return from Berlin on 29 November 2015, Alexandrani has been held provisionally ever since. RSF urges the authorities to free him and drop all charges against him. RSF also calls for the release of all journalists who are unjustly detained in Egypt.

“The Egyptian authorities must allow local journalists to investigate subjects of public interest even when the authorities regard these subjects as sensitive,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Detaining a journalist provisionally for two years can only be regarded as an excessive punishment. We call on the authorities to explain the grounds that supposedly justify repeatedly prolonging his pre-trial detention.”

Alain Gresh, a French journalist who has met Alexandrani several times and as the editor of the online newspaper Orient XXI and as a journalist at the monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, for which Alexandrani wrote, said: “It was undoubtedly his articles about the Sinai for the international media that prompted his arrest.”

The editor of Orient XXI said: “He was a rigorous reporter and extremely well informed, especially about the Sinai where he had many contacts, while the Egyptian authorities tried and still try to prevent any serious reporting emerging from the region.”

Alexandrani’s detention has been systematically renewed every 45 days for the past two years, reaching the legal limit for provisional detention in Egypt. He is held on suspicion of publishing false information and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood but the charges are not definitive because judicial proceedings have not yet been formally initiated against him.

“Everyone who knows him has been struck by the inanity of these accusations,” said Youssef el Chazli, a political scientist and PhD student, who points out that Alexandrani’s tens of thousands of Facebook follows are fully aware of “his intellectual and political aversion to Islamist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Nominated for the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2016, Alexandrani was an associate researcher at the Arab Reform Initiative in Paris and a guest lecturer at the Wilson Centre in Washington. He also wrote for MadaMasrSafir Arabi, Al Jazeera English and the Forum for Arab and International Relations.

At least 16 journalists are currently detained in connection with their work in Egypt, which is ranked 161st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

A year of Chinese prison mistreatment for RSF laureate
Originally published 25.11.17

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned for the survival of Huang Qi, a leading civil rights journalist who will complete a year in detention on 28 November, and who is being subjected to mistreatment and violence in prison.

The founder of the 64 Tianwang civil rights website and winner of the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2004, Huang Qi was arrested at his home in Chengdu, in the western province of Sichuan, on 28 November 2016. A year later, he is still detained provisionally in alarming conditions in Mianyang prison.

According to his lawyer, Li Jinlin, who was able to visit him on 3 November, the 54-year-old Huang has lost weight, complains of being forced to work four to six hours a day” despite being in poor health, and has been beaten several times. A large bruise testified to the violence.

Unlike other detainees, Huang is denied access to medicines, food supplements, and other basic supplies that he needs.

“Mistreatment and denial of medical care are common practice in Chinese prisons,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia desk. “Evidence of this was seen in he recent deaths of Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, also an RSF prize winner, and the blogger Yang Tongyan. Both were the victims of cancer left untreated in detention. We urge the Chinese authorities to show humanity by immediately freeing Huang Qi and all other detainees in poor health.”


Effects of eight previous years in prison

As a result of his journalistic work, which has always focused on the victims of the Chinese state apparatus, Huang had already spent a total of eight years in prison, during which he developed heart problems, nephritis, and liver cysts.

His arrest on 28 November 2016 was apparently prompted by what he had written about Sichuan police violence against local petitioners. Eighteen days after his arrest, he was formally detained on the catch-all charge of “illegally providing state secrets abroad,” which in extreme cases is punishable by death.

Other detained Chinese journalists whose lives are in danger include:

Gao Yu, 73, a well-known reporter who was awarded the Plume d'Or de la Liberté in 1995 and UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 1997. She is under house arrest and is being prevented from travelling abroad to seek treatment.

Yiu Mantin, 73, a Hong Kong publisher who is serving a ten-year jail term for trying to publish revelations about President Xi Jinping.

Liu Xia, 56, who is Liu Xiaobo’s widow. The authorities have kept her isolated for the past 10 years.

The world’s biggest prison for journalists and civil rights activists, China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director




Murder attempt against Volgograd website editor

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for a full and impartial investigation into an attempt to murder Yulia Zavyalova, the editor of an independent news website in the southwestern city of Volgograd, where someone sabotaged the brakes of her car on the night of 25 November.

“The sabotaging of Yulia Zavyalova’s car sends an unacceptable intimidatory message to her and her colleagues in Volgograd,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The police and the prosecutor's office must do everything possible to identify those responsible for this act, which could have had tragic consequences.”

According to Zavyalova, the sabotaging of her car must have been linked to her journalistic work. The police announced that they have requested a “forensic report” on the damage done to her brakes.

But her website, Bloknot Volgograda, reported that the incident has so far been categorized as no more than a case of “damage to another person’s property.”

One of the region’s most popular news websites, Bloknot Volgograda, is critical of the local authorities and often provides investigative reporting on corruption cases. Impunity for violence against journalists is a recurrent problem in Russia, which is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director




RSF hails new UN resolution on journalists’ safety

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes a new UN General Assembly resolution on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity for crimes of violence against them. RSF submitted recommendations for the resolution and urged states to approve it.

The resolution on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity was adopted on 20 November by the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which is responsible for social, cultural, and humanitarian issues.

The resolution’s central focus is on the “specific risks faced by women journalists in the exercise of their work,” including in the online sphere, and on the need to “effectively tackle gender-based discrimination, including violence, inequality and gender-based stereotypes.

The arbitrary detention and mistreatment of journalists, and the challenges they face in the “digital age,” are also mentioned in the resolution, in accordance with RSF’s requests.

It urges member states “to do their utmost to prevent violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media” and “to bring perpetrators, including those who command, conspire to commit, aid and abet or cover up such crimes, to justice.” The resolution also calls on states to assume their responsibilities and to develop concrete mechanisms for protecting journalists.

We hail this new UN General Assembly resolution, the fourth on the safety of journalists since 2012,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It reflects a growing recognition of the need for action to reduce abuses against journalists and to combat impunity, begun in the UN Plan of Action in 2012, and it consolidates international law. We now hope for swift and concrete implementation of these principles.

The resolution is due to be definitively adopted in mid-December and many states have already expressed their support.

International awareness

The resolution also welcomes the recent decision to “mobilize a network of focal points throughout the United Nations system to propose specific steps to intensify efforts to enhance the safety of journalists and media workers” and urges the UN’s various branches to actively cooperate in this initiative.

The mobilization of this network of focal points was announced by UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on 2 November.

RSF had called for the creation of such focal points within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), within UN agencies such as UNDP and UN Women, and within peacekeeping operations in the field, so that the response to violence against journalists could be quicker and more systematic.

In August, Guterres put Ana-Maria Menéndez, his senior adviser on policy, in charge of following cases involving the safety of journalists. The creation of this direct and permanent communication channel makes it possible to refer urgent cases to the secretary-general’s office and seek his intervention. It already facilitated promotion of the decision to appoint focal points within UN agencies and departments.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Published 22.11.17

Five years since British journalist John Cantlie was kidnapped in Syria, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the international community - in particular, the British government - to renew efforts to secure his immediate release.

On 22 November 2012, the former Sunday Times reporter was kidnapped near the Turkish border in northern Syria, along with US journalist James Foley, who was later beheaded by the Islamic State (IS) in 2014. Cantlie has been used by the IS in 12 propaganda videos since being taken into captivity.

“Today marks five long years that John Cantlie has been held in captivity by the Islamic State - five years deprived of his liberty, exploited, and used for propaganda purposes. We urge all relevant authorities to do their utmost to ensure that John and his family do not have to endure another day of this hell, and that he is immediately brought home safely”, said RSF’s UK Bureau Director, Rebecca Vincent.

The last video in which Cantlie appeared, in December 2016, showed him looking pale and emaciated, indicating a dramatic physical change since his previous appearance in a video in July 2016. The December video showed him on the streets of Mosul for eight minutes, commenting on the destruction of the city’s bridges and interviewing residents. Previous videos had been filmed in Syrian and Iraqi cities including Aleppo, Kobani, and Raqqa, as well as Mosul.

Following the December 2016 video, in July 2017 there were unsubstantiated reports in the Iraqi media that Cantlie had been killed in the Mosul airstrikes. In October, a French IS fighter told French magazine Paris Match that he had seen Cantlie “seven or eight months ago” in a prison in Raqqa, claiming that Cantlie had been speaking to prisoners about jail conditions.

Cantlie remains one of around 22 journalists and media contributors currently believed to be held hostage by IS. Despite the fact that IS is losing ground in Iraq and Syria, there has been no information about the fate of these journalists. RSF calls on local and international authorities to redouble their efforts to find them all and bring them home safely.

Ranked 158th and 177th respectively in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Iraq and Syria are among the world’s deadliest countries for journalists.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director




Russia retaliates after RT made to register as “foreign agent” in US

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed by Russia’s quid-pro-quo response to the US government’s decision to make the Kremlin-funded TV channel RT register as a “foreign agent” in order to continue broadcasting in the United States.

Just two days after RT had to register as a “foreign agent” in Washington, the Duma (the Russian parliament’s lower house) yesterday hastily passed a law allowing the Russian authorities to declare any foreign media outlet to be a “foreign agent.”

The only criteria specified are foreign funding or being registered in another country. This will give the authorities enormous leeway when interpreting the law, which now only needs to be rubber-stamped by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin in order to take effect.

“The law’s extremely vague provisions open the way to selective, arbitrary and highly political application and, at a time of unprecedented pressure on the media, are liable to make it even harder for Russian citizens to get access to freely reported news,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“We condemn this eye-for-an-eye response, as media freedom will be its only victim. It is highly regrettable that the US authorities started this. Combatting propaganda is one of our era’s imperatives but it is not the job of governments to define what is legitimate journalism.”

Under the law adopted yesterday, the draconian provisions that have applied to foreign-funded NGOs since 2012 will be extended to foreign media, which will have to put the ignominious “foreign agent” label on everything they publish or broadcast, and will have to provide a detailed accounting of their financial situation.

NGOs that do not comply with the 2012 legislation are exposed to astronomic fines that have forced dozens to close. Used as a heavy weapon against civil society, its victims have included Russia’s leading media-support NGOs.

Nonetheless, the provisions that are about to be applied to foreign media outlets are even vaguer. Unlike those that apply to NGOs, they will not be conditioned on any “political activity” criteria.

According to legislators, the justice ministry will decide on a case-by-case basis how the law is applied. At this stage, one can only speculate as to its first targets, which could include such leading public broadcasters as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the BBC and Deutsche Welle. Russian exile media may also be targeted.

In Washington, it was T&R Productions LLC, the company that produces RT’s programming in the United States, that filed an application on 13 November to be added to the US justice department’s register of foreign agents.

Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Two journalists arrested in France while doing story on migrants
Published 14.11.2017

After two journalists were arrested in southeastern France last weekend while doing a story on migrants entering the country clandestinely from Italy, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) points out that journalism is not a crime and that journalists have the right to protect their sources.

The two journalists were Caroline Christinaz, a Swiss reporter for the Lausanne-based daily Le Temps, and Raphaël Krafft, a French reporter for the French public radio station France Culture.

They were stopped at a police roadblock in the Col de l’Echelle mountain pass in southeastern department of Hautes-Alpes on the night of 11 November while travelling in vehicles driven by residents of the nearby Briançon area, who were bringing four migrants (all minors) into France clandestinely.

Christinaz and Krafft were released but were ordered to report to police in the town of Briançon the next day.

During interrogation the next morning, Christinaz discovered that she was being investigated on suspicion of “assisting the illegal entry, circulation or presence of foreigners in French territory,” a charge punishable by a heavy fine or up to five years in prison.

She showed the police her press card and explained that she was working on a story at the time of her arrest.

“For two hours, most of the questions put to me were designed to obtain information about my sources and the people I was with,” Christinaz said, adding that she repeatedly told the police that she wanted to avail herself of her right as a journalist to protect her sources.

Christinaz said they police also demanded her mobile phone and its access codes and questioned her about her private life with the aim of estimating her financial resources and the size of any eventual fine. Finally, they photographed her and took her fingerprints.

“Doing a report on migrants should not be regarded as a crime,” RSF deputy editor in chief Catherine Monnet said. “Treating journalists as suspects when they are just doing their job is an obstruction of the right to practice journalism. We also point out that journalists cannot be forced to reveal their sources because the right of journalists to protect their sources is enshrined in France’s 1881 press law.”

The police treated Krafft as witness when they questioned him separately on the afternoon of 12 November, a few hours after Christinaz. So far, the two journalists have no idea whether the French authorities intend to take any further action in this matter.

France is ranked 39th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Trump abandons US commitment to press freedom while in Asia
Published 14.11.2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores US President Donald Trump’s treatment of the press while on a ten day trip to Asia, which included stops in several countries that are home to some of the worst press freedom predators. The trip demonstrates a continuing decline in the US government’s willingness to defend press freedom in its bilateral and multilateral relationships with other countries.

As press freedom has been on a steady downward trend in the United States of America, President Donald Trump took some of his restrictive anti-press practices with him on his official trip to Asia last week. From denying reporters access to certain events, to refusing to take questions, Trump was able to give the leaders of China, Vietnam and the Philippines a front-row seat to his disdain for freedom of the press.

Past presidents have typically made it a point to take journalists’ questions during trips abroad as a political showing of America’s commitment to the First Amendment. Former President Obama was heavily criticised for not allowing questions on his first trip there in 2009, but convinced the Chinese press secretary to take questions when he returned five years later. These official visits have usually been an opportunity for reporters to question foreign officials about issues typically off limits to local reporters, like a given country’s human rights record. For example, during Obama’s trip in 2014, a New York Times reporter was able to question China’s restrictive visa policies that targeted foreign journalists.


No questions allowed at press conference per Chinese request

However, this wasn’t the case with Trump. American reporters following the President on the China portion of his trip were not given the opportunity to ask either Trump or Chinese President Xi Jinping questions during a joint “press conference” that took place 9 November. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated “It was at the Chinese insistence there were no questions today."

Though both Trump and Xi Jinping are known for their hostility towards the press, there is a notable difference between the two countries that makes Trump’s refusal to take questions more concerning. In addition to being the largest prison in the world for both professional and citizen journalists, China has routinely denied medical care to journalists who fall ill in detention. This recently lead to two deaths, including that of Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo.

While China may be one of the worst offenders in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index (176/180 countries), Vietnam ranks just above it. Yet Trump failed to defend access for his press pool there as well.


Access to APEC summit in Vietnam restricted

During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that took place in Danang, Vietnam on 10 and 11 November, the White House press corps’ access to key events was severely limited, leaving many journalists wondering what was happening behind closed doors. First, reporters were barred from covering an APEC dinner on the 10th, which featured guests like Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The press’ exclusion from the dinner was all the more significant given that the investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election and the White House’s repeated denial are currently dominating media coverage in the US.

On 11 November, the majority of the White House press pool were kept in a separate room and barred from covering a photo-op between Trump and other Asian leaders. However, A Fox Newscamera crew and an official White House photographer were permitted to cover the event and tasked with sharing their footage with the rest of the pool.

Restricting reporters’ access while in Vietnam, which ranks 175 out of 180 countries on RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, is certainly an odd way to display American exceptionalism in freedom of information. The Vietnamese government has systematically criminalised freedom of expression during the past year by means of censorship, arbitrary detention and covert state violence. At least 25 bloggers have been arrested or deported. Yet this issue was never able to be raised publicly during the trip due to access restrictions.

How is the US government supposed to advocate for press freedom abroad when it can’t even guarantee access to its own journalists traveling with the President?” asks Margaux Ewen, Advocacy and Communications Director for RSF North America. “Leaders of some of the most repressive countries in the world for journalists are witnessing just how little the American President values the First Amendment, which is completely detrimental to any future US efforts to push for the release of bloggers and reporters in places like China and Vietnamor greater protection for journalists in the Philippines.”

"President Trump is providing the region’s authoritarian leaders with a blank check,” added Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “APEC’s members should remind their partners of the need to respect fundamental rights as, for example, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done, albeit cautiously, while in Vietnam and the Philippines.”


Duterte’s anti-press insults a laughing matter for Trump

When asked about the lack of coverage during the summit on Saturday, Press Secretary Sanders claimed she didn’t realise media access would be as limited during the trip and pledged to rectify that during the remainder of the trip in the Philippines. Yet by Monday, 13 November, the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte was calling journalists “spies” while posing for pictures before a bilateral meeting with Trump. Duterte’s jab was made in response to a reporter’s question of whether President Trump would discuss human rights abuses while in the Philippines, following harsh criticism of Duterte’s infamous “drug war,” which has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings. Shortly after Duterte’s comments, which merely elicited laughter from Trump, journalists were escorted out of the room and weren’t allowed to ask any further questions.

Over the past year, four journalists have been killed in the Philippines in relation to their work, with Duterte’s anti-press rhetoric becoming increasingly violent. He once infamously claimed that “just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a bitch.” Referring to corrupt journalists at the time, he added that “you won't be killed if you don't do anything wrong.” That the US president should find comments like these a laughing matter represents a serious blow to the democratic principles that lay the foundation of the United States of America.

The Philippines ranks 127 out of 180 countries on RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The United States ranks 43rd.




Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Turkey: Blatant disregard for fair trial rights as Altan's entire defense team expelled in free expression case
Published 14.11.2017

On 13 November 2017, the judge in the trial of prominent writers, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak dismissed the Altan’s entire defense team in an unprecedented blow to the right to a fair trial in Turkey. The Altans, who were not present in court but observed the proceedings via video link from Silivri prison, were forced to represent themselves in a blatant violation of their right to practical and effective legal assistance.

ARTICLE 19, PEN International, PEN Norway and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemn this clear violation of fair trial rights and call for their immediate release, and for all charges to be dropped.

The trial, in which the defendants are accused of “preparing the ground” for the failed coup in July 2016 on the basis of their criticism of the government, forms part of a wave of arrests and trials of thinkers, writers, and journalists aiming to silence political dissent following the coup attempt.

This is the first time in 40 years as defense counsel that I have been expelled from court for trying to carry out my duty as a lawyer to defend my client,” said Ergin Cinmen, the head of the Altan’s defense team. He had argued that the defense had the right to see all of the evidence against their clients prior to the prosecutor presenting his final sentencing opinion. After his expulsion by the judge, the three other defense lawyers for the Altans were subsequently expelled from the court by the judge after requesting he recuse himself on the basis of manifest partiality. The judge rejected their right to speak and upon their protest, ejected them for the court for the rest of the day’s hearing.

In the absence of their defense lawyers, the Altans requested their release on bail but this was once again rejected. Ilicak’s request for release was also denied. At the interim decision, the judge also admitted the Parliament of Turkey as a co-plaintiff against the journalists.

The Altans are charged with attempting to overthrow the constitution, the parliament, and the government through violence or force, while the evidence presented consists of their expression. These charges are considered “catalogue crimes” in Turkey, which means that defendants are held in pre-trial detention without consideration of flight risk. The Supreme Court of Appeals of Turkey ruled in another case on 14 July 2017 that these charges require the elements of violence and force to be present and cannot consist of expression alone, without proof that the defendant had prior knowledge of the crime, in this case the coup attempt, and was acting under orders of a terrorist organisation.

In a further concerning development, the prosecutor in the case has recently been changed. “The fact that the composition of the court keeps changing is another violation of due process,” said Burhan Sönmez, Board Member of PEN International.

“The judge in the cases has in his treatment of the defense counsel and the defendants consistently demonstrated his bias against them,” said Pierre Haski, President of RSF.

The Altan brothers and Ilicak are being tried purely on the basis of the exercise of their right to freedom of expression and must be immediately released”; said Katie Morris, Head of Europe and Central Asia Programme at ARTICLE 19. “The denial of their right to a fair trial by Turkey’s judicial system demonstrates the heavy price that Turkish journalists and writers pay for doing their work and undoubtedly has a chilling effect on expression more widely in the country.

Ahmet and Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak are also still subjected to extraordinary restrictions in their access to lawyers who they are only allowed to meet with once a week under surveillance.

We reiterate our call for the immediate release of Ahmet and Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, and for all charges to be dropped.

Other resources on the case:

ARTICLE 19, PEN International, PEN Norway and RSF jointly intervened as third parties in the Altans and Ilicak cases before the European Court of Human Rights outlining the implications of the case for freedom of expression under the ongoing State of Emergency in Turkey.

ARTICLE 19 also submitted an expert opinion in the case at the domestic level at the opening hearing in June.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director


After lack of medical care in prison, Chinese blogger dies
Published 09.11.2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is saddened to learn that the dissident Chinese writer and blogger Yang Tongyan died this week as a result of inadequate medical care while imprisoned for nearly 12 years by the Chinese state, suffering the same fate as Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Aged 56, Yang Tongyan died on 7 November after being “released on medical grounds” in August from Nanjing prison in the southeastern province of Jiangsu and undergoing an operation to remove a brain tumour.

A well-know member of the pro-democracy opposition who wrote under the pen name of Yang Tianshui, he had almost completed a 12-year sentence for “subversion” at the time of his release.

In 2008, Yang was awarded the “Freedom to Write” prize by PEN America, a New York-based association that defends free speech. He was himself a member of the Independent Chinese Pen Centre. He received the 12-year jail sentence in 2006 after posting articles online in support of democratic change in China. He had previously been held for 10 years because of his political views.

He suffered many chronic illnesses without receiving the necessary treatment during a total of 22 years in prison. His death comes just four months after Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace laureate and RSF Press Freedom Prize winner, died in similar circumstances.

Embarrassingly for President Xi Jinping, Yang’s death coincided with US President Donald Trump’s arrival on his first visit to China. The US government had called for Liu’s release prior to his death.


Deliberate policy

“As with Liu Xiaobo, Yang Tongyan’s death has all the hallmarks of murder by lack of medical care, for which the Chinese state is entirely responsible,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “For reasons of discretion, the Chinese government no longer sentences its opponents to death, but it knowingly lets their health deteriorate in prison, which comes to the same thing.”

The mother of Huang Qi, a journalist who was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2004, issued an appeal for help last July, when she feared that the authorities were going to let her son die in prison.

Gao Yu, 73, a famous journalist who was awarded the Plume d'Or de la Liberté in 1995 and UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 1997, is currently under house arrest and is being denied permission to travel abroad for the medical care she needs.

The health of the Hu Jia, a blogger who was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2007 and the Sakharov Prize in 2008, has been ruined by five years in Chinese prisons.


Liu Xia in danger

The international community also fears for the life of Liu Xia, an artist suffering from heart problems and depression who has been under house arrest for the past decade for the sole reason that she was Liu Xiaobo’s wife. PEN America and more than 50 leading writers and artists published an open letter to President Xi last week calling for her release.

One of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists and human rights activists, China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Bahrain: Long jail terms for two journalists convicted on no evidence

Published 08.11.2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by a Bahraini court’s arbitrary conviction of a blogger and a journalist on terrorism charges last week although no hard evidence was brought against them. One was sentenced to life imprisonment, the other to 15 years in prison.

RSF is becoming more and more concerned about the situation of the media in the Kingdom of Bahrain, where the restrictions on access to information keep on growing and imprisoned journalists are mistreated.

Media freedom has been stamped out in Bahrain,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The persecution of the regime's critics is being stepped up and the spaces for free speech keep on being reduced. We are sounding the alarm and we call on the authorities to stop the arrests and arbitrary convictions of journalists and bloggers, including those carried out on the pretext of combatting terrorism".

Blogger Ali Al Mearaj and newspaper journalist Mahmood Al Jazeeriwere convicted by a criminal court on 30 October of “support for terrorist activities” and were sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 years in prison respectively.

Why they were lumped together with some ten other defendants in this terrorism trial is unclear and, according to their lawyers, the prosecution produced no hard evidence to support their conviction. RSF has learned that their lawyers, who plan to appeal, have yet to receive a written – a therefore definitive – version of the court’s verdict.

Mearaj was incorporated into this terrorism case after his arrest in June 2016. He was previously jailed for 27 months on charges of “misusing information technology” and insulting the king.

A journalist with Al Wasat, an independent daily that has been closed by the authorities, Jazeeri has been held ever since he was arrested at his home in December 2015. As with Mearaj, it was in June 2016 that the terrorism charge was brought against him.

Both Mearaj and Jazeeri have also been stripped of the Bahraini nationality. This form of punishment is becoming more and more frequent, according to Bahraini organizations based abroad. Its victims include the award-winning freelance photographer Sayed Ahmed Al Mousawi.

The Bahraini authorities do not hesitate to fabricate charges in order to silence journalists. On 30 October, an appeal court upheld the five-year jail sentence imposed in September 2015 on sports journalist Hassan Ghareeb for allegedly participating in an attack on a police checkpoint although he was covering a football match at the time.


Mistreatment in prison

Detained journalists are furthermore exposed to appalling conditions in prison. RSF has learned that the photographer Ahmed Humeidan has an eye infection that needs to be treated in a specialized hospital, according to the doctor who examined him.

But the prison authorities are refusing to transfer him to the hospital, thereby denying him appropriate medical treatment, on the grounds that this would pose security problems.

Detained since December 2012, Humeidan is serving a ten-year jail sentence that was upheld by a Manama appeal court in September 2014. He was convicted of involvement in an attack on a police station although he was elsewhere at the time.

The well-known human rights defender and blogger Nabeel Rajab was meanwhile transferred two weeks ago to Jaw prison, which he had often criticized in tweets for its frequent use of torture.

According to the information gathered by RSF, the prison authorities have isolated him and have restricted his visits. They are also subjecting him to humiliating practices and are limiting his access to clothes and books.


Tougher line with international press

The authorities are not just silencing Bahraini media such as Al Wasat, the independent local paper that was closed arbitrarily in June. Restrictions on the foreign media have also been stepped up in the past year.

Neither Agence France-Presse, Reuters, the Associated PressFrance 24 nor Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya has an accredited correspondent in Bahrain any more. The BBC and CNN have not had correspondents for even longer, while Al Jazeera ceased to have a correspondent in 2011.

A total of 15 journalists and citizen-journalists are currently detained in Bahrain. They include the blogger, intellectual and human rights defender Abduljalil al-Singace and the photographer Jaffar Marhoon, who were given life sentences in 2011 and 2015 respectively.


Bahrain is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Press release



Does Donald Trump see himself as a media mogul?

Ever since he was elected US president nearly a year ago, on 8 November 2016, Donald Trump has not let a week go by without meddling in the decisions of the US media. He has repeatedly attacked and denigrated journalists. He has accused them of spreading “fake news” and doing their job badly. In light of all the harassment, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) wonders if Trump thinks he is a media mogul.

Since moving into the White House, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his obsession with journalists. The temperamental president wonders why there is no longer any “friendly reporter” in the US to talk about his “tremendous success” instead of covering other subjects. His targeted attacks are getting more and more frequent. The media bashing has never been so visible. He clearly regards media that do their job as “dishonest,” as harmful for the country and above all as “out of control.”

As a former corporate CEO used to firing employees at the click of a finger, Trump is visibly appalled by the insolent freedom with which the media behave. This perhaps explains his tendency to confuse his role as president with that of an authoritarian media tycoon.

At his very first press conference on 11 January, nine days before his inauguration, the president-elect set the tenor of his future relationship with the media, adopting a paternalistic tone that he has maintained ever since. The editorial vision that he offered the US media could be synthesised as: I’ll respect you if you don’t publish negative stories about me.

During this press conference, he “complimented” journalists who had not reported a confidential summary of “unsubstantiated” claims about his links with Russia, and expressed contempt for those who had. One of them, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta, was even denied the right to ask a question.

Though Trump clearly sees himself as an arbiter of what is and isn’t good journalism, he is in fact the President of the United States, the country of the First Amendment, and he took an oath of office to protect and defend press freedom under the Constitution, said Margaux Ewen, Advocacy and Communications Director for RSF’s North America Bureau. “His repeated criticism of media outlets’ and individual journalists’ coverage of his presidency violates that oath. The result is an alarming erosion of the press’ right to inform and the American people’s right to know what is going on in their country.

Four weeks later, a visibly irritated president appeared before the press again. Disappointed by the media’s coverage of the start of his presidency, Trump laid into the room full of “dishonest” individuals who had not done as they were told. “I hope going forward, we can be a little bit different,” he warned.

Trump has suffered many more disappointments at the hands of the media in the past nine months but the media magnate/president has not given up. On the contrary, he has stepped up the pressure.

Take this recent example. An NBC story reporting that he had proposed a tenfold increase in the US nuclear arsenal was branded as “fake news” on 11 October by Trump, who then completely overstepped the limits of his role as president by asking: “At what point is it appropriate to challenge their license?” Mentioning the possibility of rescinding a TV network’s licence was a totally unjustified and disproportionate retaliatory threat.

“Disgusting” freedom

The president keeps on asking questions about how the media work and while doing so, sometimes he even learns something. “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want,” he said later the same day, regarding the NBC report, implying in the process that reporters didn’t worry much about facts. His disgust about press freedom even makes him forget about the First Amendment.

Although free speech is enshrined in the Constitution, it seems that some words are best left unspoken. Jemele Hill, the co-host of ESPN’s “SportsCenter”, annoyed the administration in September when she dared to tweet strong criticism of Trump, referring to him as a “white supremacist.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in effect called for her dismissal on 13 September when she said Hill had committed a “fireable offense.”

This White House comment is not unlike the behaviour of real media bosses such as News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch, who fired the editor of The Times of London in 1982 with the words: “I want your resignation today.” Fortunately, Jemele Hill’s bosses at ESPN didn’t decide to fire her, though she would later be suspended for two weeks after suggesting boycotting an NFL team’s sponsors.

Two days after Sanders’ comment, the dissatisfied president himself targeted the recalcitrant TV network in a tweet. “People are dumping [ESPN] in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!” he wrote. He went even further on 10 October, when he blamed Hill for a fall in ESPN’s viewer ratings, without pausing to wonder about his right to intervene in a TV network’s internal management or evaluate its ratings.

Bad journalists will pay

Trump often comments about the ratings or readership of media outlets, not just ESPN. On 7 August, for example, he described the New York Times as “failing” and said it was sustaining “big losses.”

So, does this mean he cares about the well-being of his country’s media?Not really. These one-sided comments allow him to take revenge on media outlets that, in his view, are not reporting the facts as they should. They allow him to claim that journalists who behave badly are punished by a fall in the number of viewers or readers.

Reference to bad ratings is not the only way Trump publicly denigrates the media. Like a demanding editor, he repeatedly resorts to the “fake news” label in an attempt to discredit “bad” reporting and “bad” journalists. Does this mean he missed his calling? He did say on 16 February, “I'd be a pretty good reporter.”

His journalistic objectivity nonetheless seems to falter if his own self-esteem is under threat. Whenever he deploys the “fake news” label, he is in fact targeting a story, reporter, or media outlet that has reported criticism of him or his policies. The events in Charlottesville, the Alabama Republican primary, Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential campaign, the administration’s response to Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico, and his policy on nuclear weapons are all examples of reporting that has antagonized the “journalist-president.”


There is a particularly striking example that illustrates Trump’s lack of understanding in his relations with the media. At a press conference on 6 July, he denounced CNN’s “very, very dishonest” coverage of him and then added: “NBC is equally as bad, despite the fact that I made them a fortune with ‘The Apprentice,’ but they forgot that.”

So Trump thinks that NBC’s journalists should be indebted to him for producing a TV reality show that made the network some money? And what better way of thanking their former benefactor than to exhibit pro-Trump bias in their reporting? The US president’s approach to media independence is, to say the least, strange.

At the same time, he is generous towards his favourite outlets, the ones he thinks do a good job. Since taking office, he has given 16 interviews to conservative outlet Fox News, which criticizes whistleblowers and, according to Trump, “has the most honest morning show,” referring to “Fox & Friends.” During the same period, he has given only one interview to ABC, two to CBN, one to CBS and one to CNN.

In light of this flagrant bias and the US administration’s many disturbing comments about the media, RSF reminds President Trump and his staff that American journalists do not work for him. They owe him nothing and don’t have to take lessons from him. They work for media outlets whose independence must be preserved at all costs, so that his grotesque tendency to treat the press like children does not destabilize an entire democracy.

The United States is ranked 43rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, after falling 2 places in the last year.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Investigative journalism’s uncertain future in Malta

Published 02.11.2017

The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a well-known Maltese journalist who had been responsible for many sensational revelations in the course of her career, has sent an unprecedented shockwave through Malta’s journalistic community, which is now hesitating between surrendering to fear and continuing her mission to inform with determination.

Two weeks after her 16 October murder, thousands of people took to the streets of Malta’s capital again on 29 October to demand justice and to proclaim their refusal to be reduced silence. Her murder, which beggars belief in a European Union country, has sounded a traumatic alarm for Malta’s journalists, one from which they are struggling to recover.

The message transmitted by Malta’s journalists for the past two weeks has been one of solidarity, but their fear and uncertainty is palpable. “When they targeted Daphne, she wasn’t the only target, it was much more than that,” one of her colleagues told RSF in Malta.

Even if the targeted car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia was the sixth in the space of a year in this small island nation of 430,000 inhabitants, her death has had a profound impact. “Many people, myself included, are still in a state of shock following Daphne’s murder,” Times of Malta columnist Michael Briguglio said. “We are robbed of peace of mind.”

“The fear has affected all Maltese, who are now even scared of posting messages on Facebook,” said one of the few freelance journalists based in Valletta, asking not to be identified.

This fear is all the greater as self-censorship was already the rule for the many journalists living in Malta, where they feel “colonized by gangs of crooks who are above the law,” to use Briguglio words. “Some journalists sit on their stories,” said Caruana Galizia’s sister, Corinne Vuela. “Daphne was the only one who constantly held people in power to account, using her personal, self-funded blog to break her big stories.”


Fighting fear under corruption’s long shadow

Despite the fear and anxiety, the determination of Malta’s journalists is all the stronger for the mission they feel they have been bequeathed by this pioneering reporter’s death.

“This attack on one of us will not stop us from shining a light where others want darkness,” Times of Malta online editor Herman Grechsaid in the statement he read out at a march on October 19. “The attack on one of us will not muzzle us. The attack on one of us will not stop us from fulfilling our role as a watchdog to the institutions. We will stand up to intimidation. We stand here today to give hope to society.”

People see the need for unity, in order to combat the problems that beset Maltese society, especially as Caruana Galizia’s murder bears all the hallmarks of corruption and organized crime, as does much that goes on in Malta.

“There is an underworld in Malta, a parallel world of illegal trade and corruption,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s European Union desk. “The Maltese people who pay tribute to this journalist know full well that without the voice of journalists it will be hard to shed light on some of this island nation’s realities.”


Obstacles to the truth

In Malta, everyone knows that the truth never emerges without pressure from journalists, but it is extremely difficult for journalists to report the facts in a fiscal paradise there financial secrecy reigns and the defamation laws pose a significant obstacle.

Malta’s politicians are quick to file lawsuits when investigative reporting sheds light on their activities or threatens their interests. Journalists and media outlets are often forced to pay exorbitant damages. Caruana Galizia alone was the target of 42 libel suits at the time of her death.

When she reported in a blog post in February that economy minister Chris Cardona and his consultant Joe Gerada had visited a brothel while on an official visit to Germany, four simultaneous libel actions were brought against her and a total of 47,460 euros in her bank accounts were frozen as a precautionary measure.

She responded with condemnation of the disproportionate nature of these measures and a damning assessment of the state of journalism in Malta: “The negative effect it will have on the freedom of the press is immense, because now it is not only libel suits which journalists have got to be wary of, but also precautionary warrants which freeze their bank accounts until the case is concluded. We should not be surprised that journalism is in severe decline in Malta, that fewer people wish to be journalists, that journalists are afraid of doing their job properly, and that corrupt and abusive politicians are winning the game.”

Reports received by RSF confirm this. In July, a Maltese journalist told RSF: “Last week, journalists from the Times of Malta and Malta Independent were illegally pressured to reveal their sources by a magistrate and the police (they resisted and didn’t reveal anything). Sources are also being harassed by the police with vexatious criminal investigations, when the government finds out who they are.”


Polarized journalistic community

Malta’s media also have to deal with the fact that they are extremely divided, like Maltese politics and society as a whole, with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s centre-left Labour Party on the one hand, and the centre-right nationalists on the other.

“The polarization is very strong here and it has always been that way,” said a close colleague of Caruana Galizia who requested anonymity.“We have always had the feeling that the Labour Party and its supporters regarded journalists as their enemies. You can be independent and not support any party but, whatever happens, you will be seen as belonging to one or other of the families.”

This polarization complicates journalism even more in a country where there are no journalism schools, no journalists’ unions and no other form of association among those working in the media.

What the Institute of Maltese Journalists (IGM) says about itself on its website is eloquent on this point. “The Institute of Maltese Journalists was founded as The Malta Press Club on November 3, 1989,” the website records. “Previous attempts to set up a journalists’ association all failed after a few months, partisan political reasons almost inevitably contributing towards their downfall.”

The IGM has the merit of existing, but so far it has just reported attacks on journalists “without defending us, without taking any action that has produced results,” one of its members said.

Despite having little influence, the IGM took part in the big demonstration on 22 October in Malta and asked the police and judicial authorities to respect the confidentiality of the data on Caruana Galizia’s electronic devices, including her sources. Protecting the sources of a journalist dubbed “a one-woman WikiLeaks” is just one of the many challenges for the journalistic community in Malta, which is ranked 47th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director


+44 (0)7583 137751



Independent press on trial this week in Turkey

A total of 26 employees of the opposition newspapers Cumhuriyet and Özgür Gündem are being prosecuted in two emblematic trials that resume today in Istanbul, while a news agency reporter is due to appear in court tomorrow at the other end of the country, in the far eastern city of Hakkari.

All three trials are examples of how Turkey’s judicial system is being used to punish media that criticize the government.

As these trials slowly advance, the periods that the defendants are spending in provisional detention get longer. Cumhuriyet editor Murat Sabuncu will complete his 366th day in detention as an Istanbul court today resumes trying him and 16 other members of the newspaper’s staff.

Cumhuriyet investigative reporter Ahmet Şık, executive board president Akın Atalay and accountant Emre İper are also among those still detained. After long periods in detention, eight Cumhuriyet employees were gradually released in the course of previous hearings.

The 17 defendants are facing the possibility of up to 43 years in prison for criticizing the authorities and for supposedly “defending” what are regarded in Turkey as three terrorist organizations: the Gülen Movement, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a small far-left group, the DHKP/C.

The very different ideologies of these three movements have always been criticized by Cumhuriyet, which was awarded RSF’s Press Freedom Prize in 2015. The evidence being used by the prosecution is nonetheless based above all on the newspaper’s articles, interviews and comments and what its employees posted on social networks.

In the other trial resuming today in Istanbul, the defendants are nine employees of Özgür Gündem, a pro-Kurdish daily that was closed by decree in August 2016. They include the well-known novelist Aslı Erdoğan, the linguist Necmiye Alpay and publisher Zana Bilir Kaya. All three were released on 29 December 2016.

They also included editor İnan Kızılkaya and reporter Kemal Sancılı, who are still in provisional detention. All are facing possible life imprisonment on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” and “endangering the integrity of the state.”

Reporter still held, despite lack of witnesses

Nedim Türfent, the reporter whose trial resumes tomorrow in the eastern city of Hakkari, has been held since 12 May 2016 on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorist propaganda.” DİHA, the pro-Kurdish news agency he worked for, was shut down for allegedly acting as a PKK “press service.”

When the first hearing in his trial was held in June, more than a year after his arrest, 12 of the 13 prosecution witnesses retracted their statements, saying they had been extracted under torture. Another witnesses said he did not recognize Türfent at the second hearing in August. The judges nonetheless maintained his provisional detention order.

“The systematic recourse to provisional detention speaks to the political exploitation of Turkey’s judicial system to punish and gag critical journalists,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Turkey, a member of the Council of Europe, must urgently end this arbitrary form of detention.”

RSF at European Court

The use of provisional detention is meant to be exceptional and justified by specific dangers, and its systematic abuse by the Turkish judicial system is tantamount to a form of political revenge. In the absence of any effective legal recourse, the lawyers of a growing number of detained journalists are referring their cases to the European Court of Human Rights, whose decisions are binding on the Turkish authorities.

On 26 October, RSF and 12 other international human rights NGOs made a joint written submission to the European Court in support of ten of these petitions: those of Cumhuriyet’s administrators and those of Murat Aksoy, Şahin Alpay, Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, Ali Bulaç, Nazlı Ilıcak, Ahmet Şık, Deniz Yücel and Atilla Taş.

Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, also made written submission to the court in support of these cases at the start of October.

The already worrying media situation in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency that was proclaimed after a failed coup attempt in July 2016. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, mass trials are being held, and more than 100 journalists are currently in prison, a world record.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
48 journalists on trial this week in Turkey
Published 24.10.2017

No fewer than 48 journalists will be in court this week in three different trials in Turkey. Most of them are in prison. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the baseless charges on which they are being tried and calls for the immediate release of those detained.

Nowadays, barely a week goes by in Turkey without journalists being arrested or tried. Another six are going on trial today in connection with their coverage of information obtained in 2016 by a group of far-left hackers from the emails of President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, energy minister Berat Albayrak.

The information they published, in which there was a clear public interest, involved petroleum trade with Iraqi Kurdistan, the crackdown on the “Occupy Gezi” movement, and the government’s progressive subjugation of the Turkish media.



Three of these six journalists – investigative reporter Tunca ÖğretenDİHA news agency reporter Ömer Çelik and Mahir Kanaat of the left-wing daily BirGün – have already spent ten months in provisional detention. The other three – Derya OkatanMetin Yoksu, and Eray Sargın – were arrested at the same time as the others but were freed after 24 hours in police custody.

They are accused of distorting the content of Albayrak’s emails, divulging state secrets and benefiting various terrorist organizations by “creating a negative perception of the authorities.”

Despite an obvious ideological contradiction, Öğreten is also accused of being simultaneously linked to the DHKP-C, a far-left armed group, and to the movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, which is alleged by the government to have been behind the abortive coup in July 2016. Similarly incongruous accusations have also been made against some of his colleagues.

The fate of these journalists is yet another example of the absurd and contradictory accusations that many journalists are facing in Turkey,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Provisional detention is being used in a punitive and arbitrary manner. We again call for the immediate release of all media personnel who have been jailed in connection with their work.”


Spate of trials

The trial of 29 journalists accused of Gülen Movement membership also resumes today. Twenty-three of them have been held provisionally for more than a year. The court ordered the release of most of them at the end of the first hearing but their release was blocked at the last moment. Thirteen of these journalists, including Murat Aksoy and Atilla Taş, are also being prosecuted on charges of “trying to overthrow the government and constitutional order.”

Thirteen other journalists, including Faruk ErenErtuğrul Mavioğlu and Celal Başlangıçare due to appear in court on October 26 for participating in a campaign of solidarity with Özgür Gündem, a Kurdish newspaper that had been the victim of judicial persecution.

In this campaign, a total of 56 journalists, human rights defenders, and intellectuals took turns at being the newspaper’s “editor for a day” from May to August 2016. Human rights defender Murat Çelikkan was released on October 21 after several months serving a jail sentence for his role in the campaign.

RSF’s Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğluis another of the participants in this campaign who is being prosecuted. His trial is due to resume in Istanbul on 26 December.

The trial of 11 human rights defenders, including both the president and the director of Amnesty International in Turkey, is due to start in Istanbul tomorrow. Like independent journalists, they are being subjected to vitriolic attacks in Turkey’s pro-government media for, inter alia, following the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial. They are facing up to 15 years in prison on charges of belonging to various terrorist organizations.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The already worrying media situation has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the July 2016 coup attempt. Around 150 media outlets have been closed and more than 100 journalists are currently in prison.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

"Change China before it changes us"
Published 23.10.2017

By Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

In a congress beginning on 18 October, the Chinese Communist Party will extend President Xi Jinping’s term by another five years and will incorporate his “Chinese dream” doctrine into the constitution of the People’s Republic. China’s “New Helmsman” is an enemy of constitutional democracy, universal human rights, civil society and media freedom. And how does he see journalism’s role? While visiting the state TV broadcaster’s headquarters in 2016, he urged journalists to relay “the party’s propaganda” and to “love the party, protect the party, and closely align themselves with the party leadership in thought, politics and action."

In China – ranked 176th out of 180 countries in the 2017 Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – dozens of journalists and bloggers are in prison for resisting orders from the party central committee’s propaganda department. A digital censorship system dubbed the “Great Firewall" keeps China’s 750 million Internet users apart from the rest of the world. Article 35 of the constitution vainly proclaims “freedom of expression and the press.”After demanding these freedoms, Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo paid with his life as result of a lack of medical care in prison.

The party’s goal is not just controlling news and information domestically. China wants to establish a “new world media order.” Li Congjun, who used to run the Chinese state news agency Xinhua and is now a member of the party central committee, explained the strategy in 2011. He said the goal was to overturn an obsolete world order in which information flowed solely “from West to East, North to South, and from developed to developing countries.” Citing a 1980 UNESCO recommendation, he called for the world’s media to become “an active force for promoting social progress.” Progress with “Chinese characteristics,” obviously.

In 2009, the Chinese government created the World Media Summit, sometimes dubbed the “Media Olympic Games,” an initiative entirely designed, organized and funded by Xinhua. In 2014, China also launched the World Internet Conference, to which thousands of businessmen from hundreds of countries flock every year. China even canvassed this year for the post of director-general of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which is the UN agency responsible for media issues.

Beijing is succeeding in influencing the media world beyond its borders. The Communication University of China is working with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government to open a “journalism university” in India. China spends a lot of money on inviting journalists from Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region to come to “develop their critical spirit” in Beijing. Economic pressure forces content providers all over the world to censor themselves in order to access the Chinese market. Even the Cambridge University Press almost got sucked in when it recently purged its China catalogue of around 100 articles that would offend Beijing. It backtracked after an outcry but other less prestigious publishers are not in position to do this.

China is stingy with the press visas it issues to foreign reporters but Xinhua plans to have opened 200 international bureaux by 2020. Xinhua is much appreciated by the world’s autocrats because of its policy of “non-interference” in the domestic policies of the countries it covers. Such leading international broadcast media as TV5VOA and the BBC are unavailable in China outside of luxury hotels but the English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Russian-language broadcasts of China Global Television Network (the former CCTV) currently reach 85 million viewers in more than 100 countries.

Finally, China exports its censorship and surveillance tools. A Portuguese-language version of China’s leading search engine, Baidu, was launched in Brazil under the name of Busca. Content regarded by Beijing as “sensitive” was clearly blocked by Busca although, after protests, this censorship was apparently lifted. China is also trying to promote international adoption of its unencrypted instant messaging service, in which it can access all the data, including conversation detail. If the democracies do not resist, China will not only never be able to enjoy press freedom but will also gradually extend its own lid on free speech to the rest of the world. This is why it is important to change China before it changes us.


This column was published in the following media:



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

​Published 23​.10​.2017



In Malta, RSF urges EU to back campaign for journalists’ safety

In an address to thousands of people who gathered yesterday in Malta to demand justice for slain Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the European Union to press for the creation of a special UN representative for the safety of journalists.

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire’s appeal for a commitment to journalists’ safety by EU institutions and member states came just two days ahead of a European Parliament debate in Strasbourg on press freedom and the protection of media personnel.

Tomorrow’s European Parliament debate will begin with a minute’s silence for Caruana Galizia, a journalist who specialized in investigating corruption and organized crime. She was killed by a car bomb in Malta on 16 October.

“As the shockwaves from Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder continue to be felt throughout Europe and beyond, we call on EU member states and institutions to make a concrete contribution to improving enforcement of international law on the protection of journalists by requesting the creation of the position of special representative of the UN secretary-general for the safety of journalists,” Deloire told yesterday’s rally in Malta.

“We need an international commitment to reducing violence against journalists and to combatting the outrageous impunity for these crimes that still prevails today,” Deloire added.

French President Emmanuel Macron backed the #ProtectJournalists campaign call when he addressed the UN General Assembly on 19 September. The call has also been formally endorsed by dozens of other governments around the world, from Afghanistan to Spain, and from Sweden to Uruguay.

Just a few days ago, the Sri Lankan government announced that it was joining the #ProtectJournalists campaign, which RSF launched in 2015 and which is supported by more than 130 media outlets, NGOs and labour unions.

After RSF, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) met with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in February, he decided to set up a special channel of communication with these media freedom organizations.

The channel is intended to enable direct and permanent communication between them and the UN in cases of emergencies involving the safety of journalists. In August, Guterres named his political adviser, Ana-Maria Menendez, as the “focal point” for urgent cases.

More information is available here on the #ProtectJournalists campaign, including the list of more than 130 media outlets and NGOs that support the initiative.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

​Published 18​.10​.2017



Ukraine arrests second journalist on Interpol red notice

Fikret Huseynli, a journalist of Azerbaijani origin living in exile in the Netherlands, this week became the second foreign journalist to be arrested at a Kiev airport on the basis of an Interpol red notice in the past month. He follows Uzbek journalist Narzullo Akhunzhonov, who was arrested on arrival from Turkey on 20 September.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Ukrainian authorities to free Huseynli at once and calls for an urgent reform of Interpol, whose red notice system is often abused by repressive governments in order to pursue dissidents after they have fled abroad.

Huseynli was about to board a flight to Düsseldorf at Boryspil International Airport on 14 October when he was arrested under a red notice issued by Interpol at the Azerbaijani government’s request. It accused him of “crossing a border illegally” and “fraud.”

Following his arrest, a Kiev court ordered him held for 18 days pending examination of his appeal.

The fact that Huseynli was arrested when he left, and not when he arrived, would seem to reflect the political reasons behind the red notice’s accusations. His arrest appears to have been encouraged by Azerbaijani officials who were at the airport as he was about to leave and who wanted to take advantage of his visit to Ukraine to detain him.

“Ukraine must not abet the attempts of regimes such as Azerbaijan’s to extend their persecution beyond their borders,” RSF said. “We call for Fikret Huseynli’s immediate release, as he would face politically-motivated charges. This latest case underlines the urgent need to reform Interpol’s red notice system in order to quickly end the pursuit of dissidents after they flee into exile.”

Huseynli fled Azerbaijan in 2008 after being persecuted in various ways. He was badly injured in an attack by masked men in 2006, when he worked for the opposition newspaper Azadlig. After fleeing the country, he obtained political asylum in the Netherlands and now works for Turan TV, an Azerbaijani opposition TV channel based outside the country.

The number of Interpol red notices has grown almost five-fold in the past decade, from 2,804 in 2006 to 12,878 in 2016, prompting criticism from civil society groups that has finally received some attention.

Interpol began reinforcing its appeal mechanism in 2015 but much remains to be done, both as regards putting the reforms into practice and providing better filtering of requests from repressive states.

This was stressed in an April 2017 resolution by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which called on Interpol “to continue improving its red notice procedure in order to prevent and redress abuses even more effectively.”

Azerbaijan is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. After eliminating the last vestiges of an independent press in the past three years, its authorities are now trying to extend their reach beyond its borders.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Malta: Call for full investigation into Maltese blogger’s murder

Published 17.10.2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by yesterday’s car bomb murder of Daphne Caruana Galiziaa Maltese journalist and blogger whose allegations about government corruption led to early elections last June. RSF calls for a full and independent investigation into her death.

Caruana Galizia was killed when a bomb placed under her car exploded as she drove away from her home in Bidnija, in the north of the island of Malta.

A specialist in investigating corruption, she had dedicated many blog posts to linking associates of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to offshore accounts exposed by the Panama Papers. 

She also accused the prime minister’s wife, Michelle Muscat, of opening an account in Panama to receive bribes paid by Azerbaijan in exchange for permission for an Azeri bank to operate in Malta.

“We are outraged by Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder and offer our heartfelt condolences to her family and colleagues,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk. “We had condemned previous attacks on this investigative journalist, whose bank accounts were also blocked as a result of her revelations.

“RSF urges the Maltese authorities to shed all possible light on her murder and to identify those responsible. This is dark day for Maltese democracy, freedom of expression and journalism.”

Caruana Galizia had reported receiving threats to the police just two weeks ago, according to Maltese media outlets that declined to give more detail.

Her English-language “Running Commentary” blog would often get more readers than all of the Maltese newspapers, for which she also occasionally wrote. Less than an hour before her death, this tireless whistleblower had posted yet another piece about alleged corruption involving a Maltese politician.

Malta is ranked 47th out of 180 countries in RSFs 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Press freedom organizations condemn US withdrawal from UNESCO
Published 13.10.2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), ARTICLE 19 and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemn the decision by the US government to end its membership of the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), effective 31 December 2018. It is a serious blow to the work of the international community to strengthen press freedom and the free flow of information globally, and will make the world less safe for journalists and other communicators.

We call on the US government to reverse this decision, and strengthen its commitments to multilateral organizations that promote freedom of expression – a core value to international human rights law and the US Constitution.

UNESCO, founded in 1945, is responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. One of its main objectives is to promote the respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms. It also has a specific mandate to promote “the free flow of ideas by word and image; it works to foster free, independent and pluralistic media in print, broadcast and online.”

The departure of the US from the body, described by UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova as “a loss for multilateralism,” is also a significant blow to international efforts to protect and promote freedom of expression, in particular press freedom.

UNESCO has recorded the killings of close to 1000 journalists and media workers since 2007, and is the lead UN agency tasked with ensuring the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity. Support for UNESCO is therefore intrinsically linked to ensuring that journalists are safe to do their work, including in some of the most dangerous countries.

At a time when the world is becoming less safe for journalists, and when restrictions on freedom of expression are multiplying, US withdrawal from UNESCO is deeply troubling, especially when coupled with recent vocal attacks on independent and critical media by US President Donald Trump.

“US withdrawal from UNESCO shows that President Trump’s attacks on critical media are more than empty rhetoric, but indicative of a significant shift in the administration away from championing freedom of expression worldwide,” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “Protecting free speech and ensuring journalists’ safety, core US values, requires investing in multilateralism, not running away from it,” he added.

The US decision to exit UNESCO is a concrete example of the current administration’s contempt for journalism and press freedom," says Christophe Deloire, RSF’s Secretary General. “US withdrawal is an attempt to weaken the important work of UNESCO, when on the contrary, it is paramount that it be strengthened at a time when journalists are repeatedly targeted for simply doing their job.

“UNESCO plays a critical role in promoting the safety of journalists around the world and U.S. withdrawal will weaken UNESCO's ability to address global press freedom violations, creating a power vacuum that could very well be filled by governments that embrace authoritarian tactics," said Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists. "This decision will have global implications for decades to come.”

The US has stated that its decision to withdraw from UNESCO is in part premised on its mounting arrears to the organization, but also on a need for fundamental reforms, including to address an alleged “anti-Israel bias” in the agency. This is the second time the US has left UNESCO, having withdrawn in 1984 to join again in 2003. In 2011, the US withdrew a substantial proportion of its funding to the organization in retaliation for it giving full membership to the State of Palestine.

While the US has indicated that it will remain in observer status at UNESCO, it will have substantially less influence to shape reforms within the agency from the outside.

RSF, ARTICLE 19, and CPJ call on the US government to reverse its decision to withdraw from UNESCO, and instead commit to invest in the institution to increase its effectiveness and impact, including in protecting and promoting freedom of expression, and securing an end to impunity for attacks on journalists.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director




Turkey sentences Wall Street Journal reporter on terrorism charge

The jail sentence that a Turkish court has passed on Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak over her coverage of clashes between Kurdish separatists and Turkish security forces is disproportionate and intended to limit the activities of foreign journalists in Turkey, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says.

The Wall Street Journal announced on Tuesday that Albayrak, who has Turkish and Finnish dual nationality, has been sentenced in absentia to two years and one month in prison on a “terrorist propaganda” charge. She was in New York when the sentence was passed and plans to appeal.

She was convicted in connection with an August 2015 article for which she went to Silopi, in southeastern Turkey, to cover fighting between government forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“We condemn this arbitrary and disproportionate sentence targeting a journalist whose only crime was to go into the field and report the facts, and thereby do her job,” RSF said. “We think the court’s decision is designed to discourage foreign journalists thinking of going to Turkey, and to restrict their activities there.”

Albayrak has been working for the Wall Street Journal’s Istanbul bureau since 2010, covering Turkish politics, the situation of Syrian refugees, and Turkey’s Kurdish minority.

Her conviction comes amid steadily mounting diplomatic tension between Turkey and the United States, in which both have just suspended issuing visas to the other country’s citizens.

Turkey’s already worrying media situation has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after a coup attempt in July 2016. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, mass trials are being held and more than 100 journalists are currently in prison – a world record.

Foreign journalists are no longer spared. Several dozen have been expelled in the past two years and some are still being held. They include Deniz Yücel, a journalist with German and Turkish dual nationality.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Great Firewall of China closes loopholes
Published Published 10.10.2017

In the months prior to the Communist Party of China’s 19th Congress, which begins on 18 October, President Xi Jinping has been deploying a major arsenal of repressive measures against online social networks with the aim of perfecting the “Great Firewall” that censors the Internet in China.

Just weeks ahead of the Congress, which is expected to renew Xi’s mandate for another five years, the US encrypted messaging app WhatsApp suddenly began malfunctioning in China, in a sign that a new turning-point had been reached in the Party’s censorship. Use of WhatsApp had until then been tolerated.

“Control of the Chinese Internet has grown day by day for more than a year,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of the East Asia bureau of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “The president, who likes to call himself the New Helmsman in allusion to Mao Zedong, has established a very sophisticated system of information censorship and surveillance in recent years, one that has gone to a whole new level.”

Since becoming president, Xi has proved to be a determined enemy of press freedom, pursuing complete control of the media in order protect China against what he calls the influence of hostile foreign powers.”

He began by “reorienting” journalists, who had cautiously tried to contribute to the social debate under his predecessor. Now their duties are restricted to the thankless task of relaying “the Party’s propaganda.” He then cracked down hard on bloggers who had taken up the torch of journalism.


Industrial-scale surveillance

Chat forums and social networks, on the other hand, had remained relatively spared. Sina Weibo, whose 340 million regular users exceed Twitter’s, and Tencent QQ and WeChat, which seem set to reach 1 billion accounts in the near future, had become spaces for free speech.

The Chinese appreciated being able to chat with relative anonymity, which also allowed them to exchange information that was missing from the media. The evolving technology and inventiveness of its users limited the impact of censorship, which was mainly effectively in blocking foreign media and social networks such as Google and Facebook.

This era may already be over. Under Xi, Internet censorship has reached industrial levels and has been combined with a formidable surveillance apparatus. According to official sources, China’s Internet espionage apparatus employs two million people, one mole for every 374 Internet users.

The WeChat social network has rightly acquired a reputation for being a police Trojan horse. Since last year, information gathered from WeChat, including conversation detail, can officially be used as prosecution evidence in trials.

To make matters worse, the Cyberspace Administration of China, an entity personally supervised by the president, has in recent months deployed a range of chilling measures directly targeting China’s 750 million Internet users.


End of Internet anonymity

Since last week, the moderators of discussion groups on social networks such as WeChat have been held personally responsible for unhealthy or illegal information” and any content that “distorts the history of China and the Party, misinterprets policy directives and promotes abnormal values.” The definitions are so broad that almost any discussion could be concerned.

Many discussion groups are expected to disband of their own accord. In those that continue, the moderators will undoubtedly be highly vigilant at all times to avoid problems.

This latest provision reinforces already harsh regulations that, since June, have criminalized the “illegal publishing” of content and, since 2013, have exposed anyone posting questionable content that is reposted more than 500 times or is viewed more than 5,000 to the possibility of a three-year jail term.

So, whenever Chinese Internet users are about to “like” or repost content, they will have to ask themselves whether it is compatible with Party doctrine or whether they want to run the risks involved.

Recent changes have also sounded the knell for anonymity on the Chinese Internet. Since the start of the month, online communities are required to verify the identity of their users and to ban comments by unregistered visitors.

Tencent, Sina and Baidu, China’s Internet giants, were slow to comply with this requirement, which is costly and complicated to implement, so the Cyberspace Administration of China imposed heavy fines on them to show who is boss.


Suspended VPNs

There have been regular announcements of new Internet restrictions for more than a year now: a ban on streaming video or audio content without a special license, closure of celebrity news sites regarded as frivolous and incompatible with the party line, a ban on foreign companies posting content online without a permit, and a requirement that they store their data on servers in China they are easier to monitor.

The next upcoming measure may be the most drastic one. The government has ordered telecom operators to put a stop to all Virtual Private Network services (VPNs) by next February. Millions of Chinese, including many researchers and businessmen, and most of China’s foreign residents use VPNs to bypass website blocking. If the VPN ban proves to be effective, the Great Firewall beloved of Xi will become an enhanced reality.

The People’s Republic of China continues to be ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. Only Syria, Turkmenistan, Eritrea, and North Korea have more disgraceful scores.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

RSF urges Turkish authorities to protect Syrian journalists

Published 05.10.2017

Two weeks after a journalist with US and Syrian dual nationality, and her mother, a well-known Syrian dissident and former journalist, were murdered in Istanbul, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Turkish authorities to do everything possible to bring those responsible to justice.

The bodies of Halla Barakat and her mother Orouba were found in their Istanbul apartment on the night of 21 September. A relative was arrested as a suspect shortly afterwards but has not yet been formally questioned or brought before prosecutors.

“At this stage, we urge the Turkish authorities to handle this sensitive case in a transparent manner, to shed all possible light on this double murder and to do everything possible to bring those responsible to justice,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.

“This is not just about rendering justice to the family of the victims but also about more effectively combatting impunity for the crimes of violence against Syrian journalists in Turkey since 2015.”

The Syrian community in Turkey is following the case very closely as it has fuelled fears that other members of the community could meet the same fate because of their political or journalistic activities.

Orouba Barakat’s sister has said on social networks that the double murder must have been carried out on orders from Damascus. According to Turkish media outlets, her brother, Maen Barakat, told the police that, shortly before her death, Orouba received threatening phone calls from persons claiming to be members of Islamic State.

Halla Barakat worked as journalist for the Syrian opposition TV channel, Orient TV, and its website and was about to start working for Montada Al-Sharq (Al Sharq Forum), a news website. She had also worked for the English-language channel operated by the Turkish public TV broadcaster, TRT.

Her mother, who no longer worked as a journalist, was a well-known Syrian opposition activist and was a member of the Syrian National Council before it joined the Syrian National Coalition it 2012. She had been planning to create a group that would help Syrian women arriving in Turkey who had been the victims of oppression and violence.

At least three other Syrian refugee journalists have been murdered in Turkey in unclear circumstances since 2015. The first was Naji Jerf, who was gunned down in broad daylight in the southeastern city of Gaziantep in December 2015. In June of this year, an Islamic State member was given life sentence for his murder but his family was not able to be represented at the trial.

Ibrahim Abdelqader was murdered together with a friend, Fares Hammadi, in the nearby city of Urfa in October 2015. And Mohamed Zaher al-Sherqat was murdered in Gaziantep in April 2016.


Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Press release


Fixers - field reporting’s unseen facilitators

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) endorses the tribute paid to the Iraqi Kurdish journalist and fixer Bakhtiyar Haddad at this year’s Bayeux-Calvados War Correspondents awards in France and announces. RSF will henceforth keep a separate log of events involving fixers, who are indispensable for war reporting although they enjoy no official status.

All the French journalists who worked with Bakhtiyar Haddad recall how he would often burst out laughing. Tragically, he and French reporters Véronique Robert and Stéphan Villeneuve were fatally injured by another kind of explosion, that of a mine on 19 June in Mosul’s old town, which ended up being retaken without them. Haddad’s roars of laughter have fallen silent but the impact of his death has served as a reminder of the importance of fixers, a category of journalist that, although not officially recognised, has emerged as essential in the many wars since the end of the Cold War.

References to “fixers” began during the First Gulf War in 1991. They are the specialists who “fix” or arrange all sorts of things for visiting reporters. Without a fixer, a visiting reporter cannot operate quickly or effectively. The fixer’s list of contacts opens doors and obtains interviews. Fixers serve as a compass in a chaotic universe in which a violent conflict has rendered all the usual landmarks unrecognizable.

“I provide an orientation service that enables journalist to dive in even before they arrive,” said Bitta Bienvenu, a fixer in Central African Republic. The assets of these guides-cum-interpreters-cum-logistics specialists include their local knowledge, their extended family, their ethnic group, their friends and any kind of connection that helps them to guarantee the safety of the journalists who turn to them. Fixers are often also the reporter’s guardian angel.

The homage we must pay to an individual, called Bakhtiyar Haddad, should be accompanied by a thoughtful tribute to his profession, one that has become indispensable in war zones,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

Without fixers, a great deal of reporting would not happen. Without them, there would be many more news black holes. To better reflect their role, Reporters Without Borders will henceforth keep a separate record of acts of violence in which fixers are the victims. Operating behind the scenes and often risking their lives, they work for the same goal as reporters, which is to inform.”

Paying dearly

Like the journalists they accompany into war zones, fixers take enormous risks - to the point that their names sometimes become forever linked. The Afghan Zabihullah Tamanna and the American David Gilkey, the Ukrainian Andreï Mironov and the Italian Andrea Rocchelli, the Gaza-based Palestinian Ali Shehda Abu Afash and the Italian Simone Camili were all killed together by bombs or artillery shelling between 2011 and 2016.

The dangers for fixers are not however limited to those of war zones. Their asset of being a “local,” can also be their biggest weakness. Twice in Afghanistan, when a kidnapped foreign journalist was freed, the accompanying fixer was killed. Ajmal Nashqbandi was beheaded by his abductors in 2007 and Sultan Munadi was fatally shot by the British soldiers who rescued their national Stephen Farrell from his abductors in 2009.

Becoming a fixer means exposing yourself to threats of various kinds, and not only on the war front. Dozens of local journalists have been killed in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan while working as fixers or reporters for foreign media. Working for a foreign media outlet in these countries can make you a target for armed groups that kidnap for ransom or carry out execution-style killings.

Akbar Khan, a member of a leading Pashtun family in Afghanistan, learned this terrible lesson 15 years ago. “I’d received warnings,” he said. “Several people told me I was going to pay dearly for working with foreign journalists.” But he never imagined that something would happen to his family. He never imagined that his two-year-old son would be kidnapped and then killed as a result.

Journalists leave, fixers stay

Unlike visiting foreign reporters, fixers don’t leave the country when the job is done. Central African Republic’s Bitta Bienvenu cites the photo of a soldier executing someone on a Bangui street that was taken by a news agency photographer with whom he worked. The soldier called the news agency to say that, if he had a problem because of the photo, he would be gunning for them. All of the staff were threatened, without distinction. “The journalist went home but I stayed there,” Bienvenu points out.

Proximity deepens the wounds, and creates invisible scars. “This job can break people because they feel powerless in the face of so much misery and suffering” in their own country,” said Salar Salim Saber, a fixer in northern Iraq and Kurdistan. “Journalists chase big stories because it’s their job, says Ömer Faruk Baran, who has been working with foreign media in the Turkish-Syrian border region for three years. But all “the forgotten sorrows” he has helped them to cover have caused him “indescribable grief,” he adds.

Zaher Said, a fixer in Syria, and Abdulalaziz al-Sabri, a fixer in Yemen, today resemble survivors traumatized by over-exposure to war. After frequent brushes with death in the course of gathering information in the field without ever being able to leave the war zone, they have sustained lasting scars and suffer bouts of deep depression.

Suspected of spying

Even crossing a checkpoint between one world and another can be trickier for fixers than the journalists they are with. “The fact that I’m from Donetsk makes both the Ukrainian government and the separatists suspect me,” said Alexandra Hrybenko, who has been arrested and interrogated by the intelligence services on both sides several times. Her compatriot, Anton Skyba, was taken away by gunmen as he escorted a US TV crew towards Donetsk. Thanks to protests by foreign media, he was released five days later, with his head shaved and his face swollen. “I just wanted to forget that nightmare,” he said.

The mere act of working with foreigners can raise suspicion. In a tense environment in which any information could be seen as extremely sensitive, the slightest incident can result in a fixer being accused of spying for a real or imaginary enemy. Saïd Chitour, a fixer for the BBC, France 24 and the Washington Post in Algeria, is suffering the consequences. He has been detained since June 5 on suspicion of providing foreigners with “classified information liable to endanger the country’s interests,” a charge that carries a possible life sentence.

Forced to flee

From spy to traitor is a just a small step. Both Bitta Bienvenu and Akbar Khan helped to produce reports in which one of the persons interviewed was later killed. In Bienvenu’s case, the head of an armed group in Central African Republic was killed a week later in a clash with a patrol of UN peacekeepers and local gendarmes. In Khan’s case, a Taliban commander in Afghanistan was killed by a US drone six months later. Both fixers ended up being accused of treachery.

The ensuing threats were such that both men had to go into hiding. After spending weeks or months concealed in their own home or in the home of friends, they finally fled the country. Bienvenu said: “I’m no longer free. I still feel a weight on me.” Khan, who now lives in France, said: “Losing both your child and your country is too high a price to pay. I’ve lost a lot but the journalists I helped have helped me. They’ve done things for me, and that has given me a lot of strength.”

Possible improvements

Despite the profession’s problems and hardships, few of the fixers contacted by RSF said they regretted becoming one. This is because most of them are local journalists themselves, or aspire to become journalists, or just wanted to see “the truth emerge” in their troubled countries. It is both instructive and “an honor to work with leading media and experienced foreign journalists,” said Abdulaziz al-Sabri, who works as a fixer and cameraman in Yemen. Nonetheless, after being kidnapped by an armed group while out reporting with an Al Jazeera journalist, he has seen that the lack of a press card or ID showing that one works for a foreign media outlet can pose a security problem. As with freelancers, the media need to consider how to provide better protection for their fixers.

Consideration should also be given to insurance, security training and equipment (bullet-proof vests and helmets). “Fixers need the same legal protection as freelance journalists,” said Salar Salim Saber, a fixer whose status has improved since he began working regularly for an international news agency in Erbil, Kurdistan. He also thinks the names of the fixers should routinely be included in the credits of TV reports, as the BBC usually does, because “they are often the ones who found the story and organized the interviews.” And because the harshness of their profession should not be compounded by a complete lack of recognition. It would give them a deserved visibility.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Threats against Hong Kong Free Press
Published 04.10.2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities in Hong Kong to investigate the threats that have been made against the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP), an independent, non-profit news website based in the former British colony.

HKFP co-founder and editor-in-chief Tom Grundy, his family and HKFP staff members recently received letters containing threats. One was sent to the address of Grundy’s family in the United Kingdom, which is “not easy to find, Grundy said.

"We have no tolerance for threats, nor will we allow them to affect our work," Grundy stressed.

“These threats against journalists and their families are unacceptable and require a response,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “We call on the authorities in Hong Kong to identify those responsible for this criminal behaviour and to punish them without delay.”

HKFP was created “as a direct response to the press freedom issues facing the city,” its founders say. It was launched in the summer of 2015 after a crowdfunding campaign gathered four times the anticipated amount, indicating a strong level of public interest amid Beijing’s growing meddling in the local media.

After operating for two years, HKFP claims to have published 9,500 stories and to have 1 million page views a month.

Hong Kong has plunged in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index in the past two decades, and is now ranked 73rd out of 180 countries. It was ranked 18th in 2002, the year the Index was created.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Spain: Catalan referendum: attacks on journalists, biased coverage

Published 04.10.2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled that media personnel were among the victims of police charges against civilians during the illegal independence referendum organized by the regional government in Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, on 1 October.

According to figures provided by the Catalan government, around 850 people were injured as a result of the disproportionate use of force by police who had been deployed by the Spanish government. Those injured included press photographers and reporters who were covering the voting.

The most serious incidents occurred in and around the Ramón Lull School in downtown Barcelona, which served as a polling station. Several photographers were hit or injured in crushes, as the photo-journalist Juan Carlos Mohr reported on Twitter.

Xabi Barrena, a reporter for the Catalan daily El Periódico de Catalunya, was among the journalists attacked by Spanish riot police. He was struck by a police baton while using his mobile phone to film police charges inside the school. When he was on the ground, the police also kicked him.

Sofia Cabanes, a reporter for the digital daily NacióDigital in Terres de l’Ebre, who also freelances for the Spanish news agency EFE, was filming a police charge in Sant Carles de la Ràpita, near Tarragona when a member of the Spanish Civil Guard (a gendarmerie-style force) struck her arm with his baton, knocking her mobile phone to the ground. When she tried to pick it up, one of the policemen deliberately stamped on her hand.

“We are appalled by the images of police violence coming from Catalonia,” said Macu de la Cruz, RSF Spain’s acting president. “The approximately 850 civilians reported injured included many reporters and photographers whose mission was to witness events and use their right to provide information.”

RSF also registered incidents and acts of violence on the eve of the referendum. A female reporter for the La Sexta TV channel was harassed and threatened by a group of far-right demonstrators during a live report. While a crew with the Catalan public TV channel TV3 was covering a citizen vigil outside a nearby voting station, all four tyres of their car were slashed and its windows were broken.

Pro-independence crowds meanwhile constantly harassed Spanish TV reporters during their live reports, making it extremely difficult for them to work.

Rage within Spanish public broadcaster RTVE

Yesterday, the journalists’ association at RTVE, the Spanish public broadcaster that includes public television (TVE) and public radio (RNE), issued a statement accusing RTVE of bias and manipulation in its coverage of the referendum and the police violence.

At the same time, the TVE News Council (an independent body of journalists that monitors TVE’s impartiality), issued a communiqué calling for the immediate resignation of the entire TVE news management for “failing in the public service duty entrusted to it by the law as regards the provision of objective, accurate and pluralist reporting in its coverage of the events of 1 October in Catalonia.”

The communiqué added: “Not only did TVE make no special provision for an event of major importance, which would nonetheless have been easy to arrange, but also every effort was made to broadcast a partial vision of what happened.”

At TVE headquarters at the Torrespaña building in Madrid, journalists demonstrated their anger about TVE’s one-sided coverage of the referendum by brandishing placards with the words #vergüenza in Spanish and #vergonya in Catalan (which both mean “shame”).

“We express our solidarity with the journalists’ association at the public broadcaster RTVE, which has condemned RTVE’s one-sided coverage,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF European Union desk.

“We regret that RTVE has neglected its public service duties and is now offering one of the worst visions of journalism – biased news reporting. It is nonetheless encouraging to see the courage, dignity and ethics of the journalists who, in their actions, are making demands and trying to defend the public broadcaster’s prestige.”

Journalists at RNE, the public radio broadcaster, say it is unacceptable that RNE also failed to plan any special programming for 1 October.

“Members of the public who listened to Radio 1 or Radio 5 in the hope of learning about the latest referendum developments just heard songs or reports that had nothing to do with the news,” the RNE News Council says on its website.

The situation continues to be tense in Catalonia today, two days after the referendum, in which, according to the Catalan government, 90% of the votes were in favour of independence. Catalan unions called a general strike today in protest against the police violence during the referendum.

RSF’s Spanish section has created an online “letter-box” to receive reports of violence and abuses against journalists.

Spain is ranked 29th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director


Exiled Turkish journalist threatened with Interpol red notice

Published 29.09.2017

A prosecutor in Diyarbakır, in southeastern Turkey, yesterday asked the country’s justice minister to obtain an Interpol “red notice” for the arrest of Can Dündar, a Turkish journalist now in exile in Germany, on a charge of propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In response to this development, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for an urgent overhaul of Interpol because of the growing tendency for it to be exploited by repressive governments such as Turkey’s.

The red notice request came just one day after Dündar, the former editor of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He fled to Germany in 2016 after being prosecuted on charges of “divulging state secrets for espionage purposes” and “assisting a terrorist organization.”

The new PKK propaganda charge is based on a speech he gave in Diyarbakır on 24 April 2016 in which he criticized the harassment of critical journalists and accused pro-government journalists of being accomplices to war crimes by supporting the government’s military operations in Turkey’s Kurdish provinces.

The grounds given by the Diyarbakır prosecutor’s office for seeking the Interpol red notice was its inability to question Dündar in connection with this charge.

There is an urgent need for reforms at Interpol, especially as regards the ‘red notices’ that are too often used by governments to hunt down political opponents abroad,” RSF editor in chief Virginie Dangles said.

Interpol must not be coopted into assisting the Turkish government’s attempts to extend its persecution beyond its borders. And the Turkish authorities must stop hounding Can Dündar, a leading figure in the fight for media freedom, and all the other journalists who have been unjustly prosecuted.

The number of Interpol red notices has grown almost five-fold in the past decade, from 2,804 in 2006 to 12,878 in 2016, prompting criticism from civil society groups that has finally received some attention.

Interpol began reinforcing its appeal mechanism in 2015 but much remains to be done, both as regards putting the reforms into practice and providing better filtering of requests from repressive states.

This was stressed in an April 2017 resolution by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which called on Interpol “to continue improving its red notice procedure in order to prevent and redress abuses even more effectively.”

After spending nearly 100 days in detention in late 2015 and early 2016, Dündar was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison in May 2016 (along with fellow Cumhuriyet journalist Erdem Gül) on the charge of “divulging state secrets.” The court let him remain free pending the outcome of his appeal, but he was the target of a murder attempt as he left the courthouse.

Dündar fled the country immediately after the July 2016 coup attempt, which triggered an unprecedented purge against critical media outlets. He and Gül are still also being prosecuted on a charge of collaborating and supporting “the FETÖ terrorist organization” (the Gülen Movement). The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 4 October.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

RSF publishes report on “Respect for media in Catalonia”
Published 28.09.2017

Three days before a planned referendum on independence in Catalonia, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has issued a report on the oppressive climate for media freedom in this northeastern region of Spain, where journalists are complaining of unprecedented harassment by the authorities and on social networks.

Entitled “Respect for media in Catalonia,” the report has been produced by RSF’s Spanish section as the region’s separatist parties try to press ahead with the referendum although it has been banned by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

The report describes the Catalan pro-independence government’s constant pressure on local and foreign media, harassment of critical journalists by separatist movement “hooligans” on social networks, attempts by crowds of demonstrators to intimidate TV reporters, and the generally poisonous climate for press freedom.

The report includes some of the many interviews that RSF has conducted with Catalan, Spanish and foreign journalists who have been the victims of harassment on social networks by Catalan government supporters. It draws attention to the pressure on media outlets that oppose independence and to the hostility they encounter on social networks.

The accounts of foreign correspondents in Spain, especially those based in Barcelona, illustrate the pro-independence movement’s interest in the international media and the pressure it is putting on them because they are seen as a key element in the movement’s visibility strategy.

Catalan journalists working for media outlets that oppose independence told RSF that they have been the victims of intense harassment campaigns on social networks and of policies that deliberately draw attention to them.

“The climate for journalistic freedom has suffered as a result of the dramatic polarization of Catalan politics and society,”said Pauline Adès-Mevel, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk.

“Driven into a corner by the Spanish government’s intimidatory manoeuvres, the regional government has gone too far in its attempts to impose its vision on the local, Spanish and international media. The best indicator of a healthy democracy is a free press in which journalists write what they believe and refuse to censor themselves.”

This very topical report examines some of the latest developments in Catalonia and the climate of intimidation for the Catalan media resulting from the attempts by the police to implement judicial bans on referendum propaganda.

The report also includes the accounts of Spanish TV reporters at the heart of the conflict who have been stigmatized.

“We are deeply disturbed by videos from Barcelona showing attempts to intimidate TV reporters,” Adès-Mevel said. “We urge the Catalan authorities to condemn the stigmatization of the Spanish media, the attempts to blame them for a situation that is political in origin. This blaming of the media echoes the campaigns of Donald Trump and far-right movements.”

The report also examines the pressure that the pro-independence movement is trying to put on Spanish correspondents in Brussels who refer to the European Union’s reluctance to discuss the issue of Catalan independence.

Spain is ranked 29th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Iraq: Media targeted in Kurdistan referendum tension
Published 28.09.2017

After the historic referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan on 25 September and the resulting tension at the local, regional and international levels, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reminds the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of the need to safeguard the right to criticize in what is now an increasingly uncertain political environment.

In particular, RSF urges the KRG authorities to preserve media pluralism and pluralism of opinion and to protect the local and international journalists covering the various developments in the region.

The authorities must not neglect the public's right of access to freely reported news and information and the right to express critical opinions on matters of general interest, rights that are essential to the democratic debate,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.

RSF has compiled a list of violations of the freedom to inform in Kurdistan on the day of the referendum and during the preceding weeks, and of its repercussion beyond Kurdistan’s borders.


Media targeted

On the day of the referendum, Turkey’s High Council for Radio and TV Broadcasting (RTÜK) ordered the Turkish satellite operator Turksat to stop transmitting Rudaw TV, a pro-KRG TV channel, and then banned transmission of two other Kurdish TV channels, Kurdistan 24 and Waar TV, on the grounds that they were “dangerous for Turkish national interests.”

In Kurdistan, four journalists with NRT TV were prevented from entering three voting stations (at the Zhilwan, Qazi Mohamed and Barzani Namir schools) in the city of Erbil. They were also barred from the Hotel Rotana, where several politicians voted.

The ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has had NRT TV in its sights since 2015, and its owner, Shaswar Abdulwahid, campaigned against the referendum. As well as being suspended for eight hours on the eve of the referendum, it has been the target of several attacks and restrictions in recent weeks.

An NRT TV crew was prevented from covering the arrival of the KRG’s president (and KDP leader), Masoud Barzani, in Sulaymaniyah on 20 September. NRT TV’s bureau in Erbil’s Ainkawa district was raided by the security forces in August, just as it was about to open a new studio designed to broadcast referendum-related programmes.

Five days later, NRT TV was suspended for a week in all of the region’s cities on the culture ministry’s orders. And on 31 August, pro-referendum gunmen threatened NRT TV employees in Duhok and tore down an NRT TV poster.

Two other Kurdish TV channels, Roj News and KNN, were also prevented from covering the address that President Barzani delivered in the city of Kirkuk on 12 September. These media channels, in addition to Payam TV, were at several occasions prevented from covering meetings about the referendum in the Kurdistan region or even meetings organized by the Kurdistan referendum delegation in Bagdad.


Journalists threatened

While the referendum received a great deal of international media coverage, local journalists and activists whose coverage was regarded as critical were the targets of intimidation by unidentified gunmen or by the security forces.

Mohamad Wali, a cameraman with Roj News (which supports Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK), was arrested on 20 September while covering a protest against President Barzani’s visit to Sulaymaniyah. His equipment was seized and he was held for eight hours.

Ahmed Shingaly, a Kurdish journalist of Yazidi origin, reported on Facebook on 6 September that four gunmen had smashed one of the windows of his car while it was parked outside his home. He said the attack was probably a reprisal for his articles about the Yazidi community and his criticism of government corruption and certain corrupt officials.

Hoshang Kareem, the host of a daily political programme called “Your Opinion” on the Communist Party-affiliated Rega TV, took a call during the programme on 31 August from a person who threatened to kill him and identified himself as a member of an elite Peshmerga unit.

Sherwan Sherwani, an outspoken journalist who actively supported the “No to the referendum” campaign, reported on Facebook on 14 August that he had gone into hiding because he had been threatened and because the security forces were looking for him.

Ibrahim Abbas, a freelance journalist who was fired from President Barzani’s press office last year and who recently became very critical of the government, especially Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, was beaten up by unidentified gunmen in Erbil on 11 July. He was briefly arrested and threatened in Erbil in May because of what he was posting on social networks.

In June, around 100 journalists and activists signed a statement criticizing the decision to hold the referendum at a time when the security, economic and political environment was so bad, and voicing concern about the possible repercussions at the national, regional and international levels.

The referendum was effectively banned by Iraq’s supreme court and was criticized by a range of countries including Turkey, Iran, Syria and the United States. It was also condemned by the UN Security Council.

Iraq is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Turkey: Kadri Gürsel freed but four other Cumhuriyet employees still held

After an Istanbul court freed well-known newspaper columnist Kadri Gürsel on 25 September but kept four colleagues in detention, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) joins ARTICLE 19 and the International Press Institute in calling for the release of all journalists held for political reasons in Turkey.

Read the joint statement here or below


Gürsel and his four colleagues are part of a group of 17 members of the staff of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet who are the subject of a controversial trial. The four still held provisionally are editor Murat Sabuncu, investigative reporter Ahmet Şık, executive board president Akın Atalay and accountant Emre İper.

Because of the newspaper’s criticism of the government, the 17 journalists and staff members are facing up to 43 years in prison on charges of being accomplices to terrorism. In particular, they are alleged to have “defended” three organizations that are branded as “terrorist” in Turkey – the Gülen Movement, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the small, far-left group, DHKP/C.

The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for 31 October.

“This Kafkaesque trial, in which journalists are being treated as terrorists, cannot go on,” RSF said. “Kadri Gürsel’s release is no more than a very partial achievement. These absurd proceedings must be abandoned and all of the Cumhuriyet employees and journalists must be freed.”

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The already worrying media situation has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after a coup attempt in July 2016. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, mass trials are being held and more than 100 journalists are currently in prison – a world record.



Turkey: Kadri Gürsel released, four remain behind bars in Cumhuriyet case


ARTICLE 19, the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders welcome Monday’s release of Cumhuriyet columnist and IPI Turkey representative Kadri Gürsel after more than 11 months in pre-trial detention. Gürsel was freed following a third hearing in the trial of over a dozen journalists and staff working for Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey’s last remaining national opposition papers.

All three organisations, representatives of which attended Monday’s hearing at Istanbul’s Çağlayan courthouse, repeat their call for the release of the four Cumhuriyet journalists still behind bars – Chief Executive Akin Atalay, Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, investigative journalist Ahmet Şık and accountant Emre İper – and all other journalists detained in Turkey on politically motivated charges.

"The ruling is bittersweet," IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “We're extremely glad that Kadri Gürsel was released after nearly 11 months, but equally disappointed our other colleagues were not. Monday’s proceedings, with a parade of witnesses offering irrelevant commentary instead of facts, demonstrated again how absurd this case is. And this ruling, while a step forward, is a reminder of the extreme pressure those who fight for press freedom and government accountability still face in Turkey."

The Cumhuriyet journalists and staff are charged with aiding a terrorist organisation without being a member and face between 7.5 years and 43 years in jail. Among other allegations, they are accused of supporting the Gülen movement, despite Cumhuriyet’s long track record as a leading critic of the movement. Evidence cited in the indictment includes an alleged change in the editorial policy of the paper in addition to comments, interviews and social media posts of the journalists.

“Gürsel’s release is a welcome relief, but he should never have been there anyway,” said Katie Morris, Head of Europe and Central Asia Programme at ARTICLE 19 “Any celebrations are undermined by the continued detention of his colleagues at Cumhuriyet, not to mention all the other journalists spending yet another night in jail in Turkey, for no reason other than doing their job” she added.

Three witnesses gave testimony at the third hearing, which related to a separate civil case regarding a dispute within Cumhuriyet’s board. Despite their disagreements, the witnesses stated that they did not believe that the defendants should be charged with aiding a terrorist organisation, and urged the court to release them.

"This Kafkaesque trial, in which journalists are being treated as terrorists, cannot go on,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Kadri Gürsel’s release is no more than a very partial achievement. These absurd proceedings must be abandoned and all of the Cumhuriyet employees and journalists must be freed.”

Other circumstantial evidence against defendants lacks credibility. Notably, the indictment lists the number of “Bylock” users with whom the defendants allegedly had contact. Bylock is a secure messaging mobile application allegedly used by members of the Gülen movement, which Turkish authorities blame for last year’s failed coup. Use of the application is now considered evidence of membership in a terrorist organisation. The defendants in the Cumhuriyet trial are not themselves accused of having used the application, but rather of having entered into contact with individuals who did. The indictment against Gürsel cites as evidence text messages from Bylock users to which Gürsel did not reply.

While the evidence that the journalists did contact Bylock users is slim at best, international standards on the right to freedom of expression protect journalists’ right to communicate with a wide range of sources in order to cover stories in the public interest. Merely communicating with a terrorist group can not be interpreted as support for that group, just as criticism of the government cannot be interpreted as sympathy for a terrorist organisation.

At least 170 journalists and media workers are in jail in Turkey. The Turkish government claims that no journalists are in jail in relation to their work. However, as in the Cumhuriyet case, indictments frequently cite mainly newspapers articles, columns or interviews as proof of terrorist or similar activity, in addition to circumstantial evidence lacking in credibility.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Press release


Journalist still held in Spain:
urgent need to pursue Interpol reforms

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its appeal to the Spanish authorities not to extradite Hamza Yalçin to Turkey. A Swedish journalist of Turkish origin, Yalçin will complete his 50th day in detention in Spain tomorrow. RSF also urges Interpol to be more wary of abusive international arrest requests from Turkey and other repressive countries.

RSF has often criticized Interpol’s manipulation by repressive regimes, which are quick to issue “red notices” for the arrest of critics living in exile. Yalçin’s example shows that this practice now poses a threat to the many Turkish journalists who have fled their country.

No right to due process in Turkey

Arrested at Barcelona airport on 3 August on the basis of a Turkish request to Interpol, Yalçin was transferred to Can Brians prison the next day pending receipt by the Spanish judicial authorities of a formal extradition request, and then Spain’s decision on this request.

If extradited to Turkey, Yalçin would face a sentence of up to 22 and a half years in prison on charges of belonging to the terrorist group THKP-C and of “insulting” the Turkish president in his magazine, Odak. The well-known Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón announced that he would defend Yalçin for no charge.

After participating in revolutionary movements in Turkey in the 1970s, for which he spent six months in prison before escaping in 1979, Yalçin was granted political asylum in Sweden and went on to obtain Swedish citizenship in 2005.

As soon as Yalçin was arrested in Spain, RSF voiced its opposition to his extradition to Turkey, where journalists are not guaranteed the right to a fair trial. With more than 100 journalists currently detained, most of them on terrorism charges, Turkey is now the world’s biggest prison for media personnel.

Most of the detained journalists are still awaiting trial. Many of them have languished in prison for nearly a year while their requests for release pending trial are systematically rejected without receiving serious consideration.

“Under international accords, a person should not be extradited to a country where they face the possibility of an unfair trial, torture or the death penalty,” said Macu de la Cruz, RSF Spain’s acting president. “And if a judge nonetheless ordered Hamza Yalçin’s extradition to Turkey, it would be the Spanish government’s duty to block it.”

Urgent need to pursue Interpol reforms

The number of “red notices” – arrest warrants transmitted by Interpol – has grown almost five-fold in the past decade, from 2,804 in 2006 to 12,878 in 2016, and repressive regimes have contributed to the rise. RSF and other human rights NGOs have for years been denouncing the surge in politically-motivated red notices targeting dissidents in exile.

The criticism from civil society groups finally received some attention. Interpol began reinforcing its appeal mechanism in 2015 but much remains to be done, both as regards putting the reforms into practice and providing better filtering of requests from repressive states.

In a resolution in April 2017, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on Interpol “to continue improving its Red Notice procedure in order to prevent and redress abuses even more effectively.”

“Dozens of Turkish journalists have had to flee abroad since the coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“But like other exile journalists all over the world, they are now threatened by political manipulation of Interpol. The reforms begun by Interpol must now be completed as a matter of urgency so that it is better able to guard against abusive requests from Turkey and other repressive states.”

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Turkey: Show trials of journalists are a travesty of justice

Published 19 September 2017

This week, ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are monitoring two trials of journalists in Turkey.

On Monday, 18 September, they attended the first hearing in the trial of 30 journalists, columnists and staff working for Zaman newspaper, including Şahin Alpay, Ali BulaçAhmet Alkan Turan and Mümtazer Türköne. Today, on Tuesday 19 September, they are attending the second hearing in the case of 17 journalists and columninsts including Ahmet and Mehmet Altan. ARTICLE 19 and RSF call for the journalists to be released from pre-trial detention and for the charges to be dropped.

In both trials, the defendants are accused of involvement in last year’s failed coup. They face charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence or force,” “attempting to overthrow or interfere with the work of the national assembly through violence or force” and “attempting to overthrow or interfere with the work of the government.” In the Zaman case, the defendants are also charged with membership of a terrorist organization, which refers to the Gülen movement, the organization the Turkish government blames for the coup attempt. In the Altans’ case, the defendants are charged with aiding a terrorist organization without being a member, which carries the same sentence as membership.

In both cases, the defendants face three aggravated life sentences. Most of them have already been in pre-trial detention for between 12 and 14 months. In neither case does the indictment include specific allegations of direct involvement in the coup itself or of incitement to violence.

In the Zaman indictment, the prosecutor claims that the defendants sought to create a public perception favorable to the coup. The indictment does not establish clear and individualized evidence against the defendants. On the contrary, it states that the articles do not contain individual crime elements, but reflect the editorial policy of Zaman newspaper, which was allegedly determined by Fethullah Gülen, the religious leader of the Gülen movement. It is argued that this demonstrates they were part of a terrorist network. No attempt has been made in the indictment to explain how newspaper articles or columns constitute violence or force.

In the Altans’ case, the indictment outlines a number of columns or articles written by the defendants which express views critical of the government, in addition to a television interview in which the prosecutor claims they gave subliminal messages in support of the coup. Apart from this, some circumstantial evidence about contact they had with alleged members of the Gülen movement is included.

ARTICLE 19 and RSF, along with a number of other international human rights or press freedom organizations, monitored the first hearing of the Altans’ trial in June 2017. ARTICLE 19 submitted an expert opinion to the court, which outlined how the charges against the defendants do not comply with international standards on the right to freedom of expression. The opinion further concluded that these cases appear to be politically motivated.

In addition to the groundless charges, ARTICLE 19 and RSF are concerned about undue pressure on human rights lawyers. Veysel Ok, the lead defense lawyer for Ahmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, is also on trial this week in a separate case where he is charged with “insulting Turkishness” and “insulting the judiciary” based on an interview he gave in 2015 where he criticized the Turkish justice system, stating that the judges lacked independence. Another human rights lawyer, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, is a defendant in the Zaman newspaper case. His name only appears once in the indictment and no evidence is cited against him. He was the lawyer representing the Zaman case at the Constitutional Court and also wrote columns for Today’s Zaman.

Both cases represent show trials aimed at silencing dissent and alternative viewpoints, particularly criticism of the government. In both cases, ARTICLE 19 and RSF call for the journalists to be released and for the charges to be dropped in the absence of individualized evidence of involvement in an internationally recognised crime.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Loup Bureau – no longer a Turkish government hostage

Published 15 September 2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is extremely relieved by French freelance journalist Loup Bureau’s announced release in Turkey on 15 September, after being held for 51 days. He is about to be deported back to France.

“Loup Bureau’s release follows more than 50 days of denial of justice and arbitrary detention,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “This young French reporter was turned into a Turkish government hostage and was used to intimidate journalists who would like to cover developments in Turkey. We continue to be fully engaged in seeking the release of all other journalists still held in Turkey just for doing their job.”

Bureau was arrested in southeastern Turkey on 26 July and was placed in provisional detention in Şırnak prison on 1 August on a charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.”

The charge was based on his journalistic work in this unstable region, in particular on a TV report he made in Syrian Kurdistan in 2013 about Kurdish militias fighting Islamic State.

Bureau’s release follows an official visit to Turkey by French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who was contacted by RSF on the eve of his departure and was urged to raise Bureau’s case. RSF pays tribute to all the efforts undertaken by French diplomats and to the work of Bureau’s lawyers.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The already worrying media situation has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after a coup attempt in July 2016. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, mass trials are being held and more than 100 journalists are currently in prison – a world record.

Foreign journalists are no longer spared. Several dozen have been expelled in the past two years and some are still being held. They include Deniz Yücel , a journalist with German and Turkish dual nationality. 



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

RSF appeals to Aung San Suu Kyi in open letter about press freedom in Myanmar
Published 7 September 2017

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

State Counsellor

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Minister of the President’s Office

of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar

State Counsellor Office No 8

Naypyitaw, Myanmar


Paris, 7 September 2017


Dear State Counsellor,

After your party, the National League for Democracy, won the November 2015 general election, Myanmar’s journalists hoped that they would be free to work and would no longer have to fear arrest or imprisonment when they criticized the authorities. Two years later, Reporters Without Borders (RSF, also known under its French name Reporters sans frontière) is forced to conclude that media freedom has clearly not been one or your government’s priorities.

Now that clashes between Myanmar’s armed forces and Rohingya fighters have left more than 400 dead and caused an exodus of around 130,000 refugees to Bangladesh, it seems urgent that journalists should be allowed to do their job of investigating and reporting in the western state of Rakhine. In RSF’s view, this is the only way to be able to shed light on the responsibility of the various parties for triggering the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in this region.

Yesterday, you blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation”, objecting to the expression “ethnic cleansing”, which has been used several times by Nobel laureates to describe what the Rohingya minority has suffered in Rakhine.

Since the start of the current crisis, Myanmarese and foreign journalists have been systematically denied access to the conflict region by the military authorities, with the result that the only reliable information has come from interviews with refugees who fled into Bangladesh and from the smoke of burned villages that can be seen from the border. RSF firmly condemns this state of affairs, which recalls the worst moments for media freedom during the five decades of military dictatorship in Myanmar.

These restrictions have been compounded by cases of blatant censorship. In particular, RSF voices its support for the BBC, which had to suspend local retransmission of its Burmese-language service on September 4. The BBC was censored by its local broadcast partner, which refused to retransmit content if the term “Bengalis” was not used to refer to Rohingyas.

RSF regards these violations of the freedom to inform as unacceptable in a country that claims to be in a transition to democracy. As head of the government, your silence on these media freedom violations is absolutely deafening. Must we remind you of what you said when you were freed in 2010, namely that “the basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech”? Must we remind you of the assurances you gave to RSF in 2011 about your commitment to media freedom?

Today we have to point out that many journalists have been silenced since you took over as head of your country’s government in April 2016.

In June of this year, RSF condemned the detention of three journalists – Aye Naing and Pyae Phone Naing of Democratic Voice of Burma and Thein Zaw of The Irrawaddy – under the Unlawful Association Act, a law widely used by the previous military government to silence dissent when you were heading the opposition from prison or house arrest.

At the start of June, we issued a press release about the defamation suit that the armed forces brought against two Voice Daily journalists over a satirical article regarded as insulting. Shortly before that, Myo Yan Naung Thein, an imprisoned blogger who is a member of your party, was convicted in April of defamation over a comment criticizing the head of the armed forces. At the start of this week, RSF issued a press release deploring the fact that the journalist Swe Win was going on trial on a charge of defaming Ashin Wirathu, a fundamentalist Buddhist monk who is notorious for his use of hate speech.

These are just a few of the nearly 70 journalists who have been prosecuted under article 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Act. RSF asks you to ensure that this article is amended again because it still criminalizes the provision of news and information and because its vagueness facilitates disregard for the rule of law with respect to journalists and their work.

Awarded the Sakharov Prize in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, you are a leading figure in the defence of human rights in general and freedom of the press in particular. RSF urges you to remain equal to the moral authority that these awards gave you, by doing what is necessary to better ensure respect for the freedom to inform.

I respectfully thank you for the attention you give to this letter.



Christophe Deloire


North Korea sentences South Korean journalists to death in absentia

Published 7 September 2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the death sentences that North Korea’s central court has passed in absentia on four South Korean journalists because of their positive reviews of an “insulting” book about North Korea’s growing market economy.

The sentences, which have “no right to appeal,” were passed on Son Hyo-rim of the conservative newspaper Dong-A Ilbo and Yang Ji-hoof the similarly conservative newspaper Chosun Ilbo, and on the newspapers’ publishers, Kim Jae-ho and Pang Sang-hun respectively.

The offending book, published in English in 2015 with the title of North Korea Confidential, was republished in Korean translation in South Korea last month with the title of Capitalist Republic of Korea, an allusion to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In the cover photo, a dollar sign replaces the red star.

The court said the book had “defamed and distorted” North Korean reality but its verdict did not mention its authors, the Economist magazine’s former Seoul correspondent, Daniel Tudor, and James Pearson, a Seoul correspondent for Reuters. The sentences will undoubtedly help to publicize the book, called “one of the best books of 2015” by the Economist.


Absurd and dangerous sentences

RSF urges North Korea to immediately quash these absurd sentences. “These journalists did nothing wrong,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “They just did their jobs, which was to inform their readers by reading and reviewing this book. We call on the South Korean authorities to place these journalists under the closest possible protection.”

One of the world’s most radical totalitarian regimes, North Korea is ranked last in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. It is given to extreme rhetoric that is not always followed up by action. In June, Pyongyang called for the execution of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her intelligence chief for allegedly plotting to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

In 2012, North Korea threatened to bomb South Korean media outlets that had criticized celebrations for the 66th anniversary of the Korean Children's Union, in which 20,000 children were mobilized for the event. South Korea’s Channel A called it “a Hitler-style political show.”

Pyongyang is capable of carrying out assassinations beyond its borders but, because of the logistics involved, the practice is reserved for major political targets. The latest victim was Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother and potential successor, who was murdered at Kuala Lumpur international airport in Malaysia on 13 February.

The most recent successful assassination in South Korea was in 1997, when Yi Han-yong, a defector distantly related to Kim Jong-il, was gunned down outside his Seoul home.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

How Iran tries to control news coverage by foreign-based journalists
Published 6 September 2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns attempts by the Iranian judicial system and intelligence services to influence the Persian-language sections of international media outlets by putting pressure on Iranian journalists based abroad and on their families still in Iran.

How do the Iranian intelligence services pressure Iranian journalists who are working abroad? BBC World Service director Francesca Unsworth shed some light on this when she reported on 15 August that the assets of more than 150 BBC Persian staff, former staff and contributors have been frozen in Iran, preventing them from conducting financial transactions there.

This is one of the many methods use by the Iranian authorities since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. However, because of a more conciliatory foreign policy since Hassan Rouhani became president in 2012, the regime has limited its use of direct harassment in favour of more subtle threats.

Nowadays, the families of foreign-based journalists are “politely” summoned to interviews with intelligence officials but the message is still the same: the journalists must “stop collaborating with enemy media” without delay.

In the past year, RSF has learned of ten families of journalists who have been summoned to such interviews, usually with intelligence ministry agents. In all, at least 50 journalists based abroad have been threatened in some way in the same period. At least 16 of them have received death threats.

It is not just BBC Persian employees who are targeted. All international media outlets with Persian-language services are concerned, regardless of the country in which the media are based. Journalists with Radio Farda (Radio Free Europe’s Persian-language section), with such state-funded broadcasters as Voice of AmericaDeutsche Welle and Radio France Internationale, and privately-owned broadcasters such as Manoto TV and Radio Zamaneh have also been threatened by Iran’s intelligence services or judicial system.

The pressure is sufficiently intimidating that most of the journalists and media representatives contacted by RSF asked not to be identified. A few did however agree to be named.


Intimidation and death threats

Radio Farda director Arman Mostofi said four of his station’s journalists have been the targets of a total of about ten death threats, all of them anonymous.

“These threats are obviously not signed,” Mostofi said. “They sometimes take the form of a comment beneath an article. The journalist may subsequently be contacted in another way but it’s exactly the same message that will be transmitted. Sometimes the message includes information that only members of the intelligence services could know.”

The threats are often explicit. Fahimeh Khezr Heidari, the presenter of a Radio Farda programme called Taboo that has “funny stories and ethnic jokes,” often receives threats aimed at getting her to stop the programme. In mid-February, she found the following message posted in the comments section: “Ms. Khezr Heidari, Monday will be a horrible day for a member of your family because you did not take our last warning seriously. Thank you, my corrupt sister.”

Radio Zamaneh editor in chief Mohammadreza Nikfar said most of his journalists are often the targets of phishing attempts, in which people may be tricked into letting others take over their online identities. But he gave examples of other forms of harassment as well.

“The family of one of our journalists was summoned by intelligence ministry agents,” he said. “After showing articles by him that had been posted on our website, they said: ‘Tell him to stop collaborating with Radio Zamaneh.’ Another journalist, a former prisoner of conscience, has been threatened several times by telephone. They tell him his family will suffer the consequences if he does not return to Iran.”

Since 2012, at least five journalists have been arrested after returning to Iran and have been given sentences ranging from three to twelve years in prison.

The pressure is clearly real but it is hard to gauge its effectiveness and its impact on the attitude of the journalists concerned and their reporting. But it does have an impact, according to a former journalist with an international media outlet’s Persian-language section, who asked not to be identified.

“When your father calls and an intelligence ministry agent takes the phone and says, ‘your father is here and we’re talking about you,’ and you know that your family is being harassed and is in danger of being arrested, how can your write freely?” he asked. “After members of my family had been summoned for questioning, I could no longer work as I had before.”

Radio Farda’s Mostofi insists that the station’s raison d’être is “not giving in to pressure and resisting self-censorship.” He said he warns journalists about the threats they face and tells them they don’t have to continue. “But 99% of the time, the journalists are determined, and decide to continue their work.”

A journalist with Manoto TV, a privately-owned station based in London that is very popular in Iran, said she gets threats all the time. She said that so far this year she has received a death threat and her family in Iran has been summoned twice for questioning.


Families: an effective pressure point

Harassment of families is a constant threat, even if it is evolving, as the editor in chief of an international media’s Persian-language section explained.

“The pressure on families has declined this year in Tehran but has increased in the provinces,” he said. “The only difference is that the interviews are now more courteous. The agents address families politely. But even if courteous, they still represent a threat.”

Even when they do not have refugee status, most journalists living abroad are exposed to the possibility of being prosecuted on a charge of “collaborating with enemy media” or espionage and of being given a long jail sentence, which prevents them from returning to Iran.

Spouses often encounter problems when visiting Iran. Many have had their passports confiscated on arrival and, to recover them, they have had to go to the intelligence ministry, where they are typically questioned about their partner’s work, their relationship and sometimes their private life.

Parents who want to visit their foreign-based offspring have similar difficulties. When they obtain permission to travel, they are subjected to extensive interrogation on their return.

“While staying with me, a member of my family was instructed to take photos of my house, my street and, if possible, my workplace and my colleagues,” a London-based Iranian journalist said. Another said: “I’ve had to stop writing under my real name ever since my wife was arrested during a trip to Iran.”


Cut off from domestic sources

The regime also harasses the sources in Iran that are used by international media, so that they are denied access to information. Such sources include Mehdi Khazali, the editor of the blog Baran, who was arrested by plainclothesmen in Tehran on 12 August.

Tehran prosecutor Abass Jafari Dolatabadi announced on 28 August: “Using a woman as an intermediary, Mehdi Khazali sent false information about the government to counter-revolutionary websites based abroad and to VOA.”

In recent months, Khazali had openly criticized the head of the judicial authority, Sadegh Amoli Larijani, in interviews for VOA and DorTV. His family said he began a hunger strike on his first day in detention. In 2011, he was given a 14-year jail sentence.

Amadnews, a website that often publishes confidential information about corruption involving government officials, has become one of the leading targets of the government’s attacks and threats in the past two years.

The website’s founder, Roholah Zam, the son of a reformist official, currently lives in France but his family in Iran has been subjected to the most appalling persecution. Two of his sisters and his brother-in-law were detained for four months last year, and his youngest brother, Mohamad Milad Zam, was arrested at home on 26 August and was taken to an unknown location.

Amadnews editor Sam Mahmoudi Sarabi and some of the site’s contributors were threatened repeatedly in late August. A single tweet announcing a story about Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently elicited death threats against him. In the past six months, ten journalists have been arrested in Iran by the justice system’s intelligence service for allegedly collaborating with the site.

Iran is ranked 165th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director




Azerbaijani government tries to export intimidation to France

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) will testify for the defence in the Azerbaijani government’s lawsuit against French broadcast journalists Elise Lucet and Laurent Richard, which a court in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre will begin hearing tomorrow.

The two journalists are accused of defaming the Azerbaijani government by referring to it as a “dictatorship” in 2015, when it received a visit from the French president.

RSF regards the lawsuit as an act of intimidation highlighting the Azerbaijani government’s contempt for free speech. Not content with eradicating all pluralism at home, the regime is now targeting its critics abroad.

Introducing a “Cash Investigation” programme about the background to the presidential trip on the France 2 TV channel in September 2015, Lucet described Azerbaijan as “one of the world’s harshest dictatorships.”

In a radio programme, Richard referred to Azerbaijan as a “dictatorship” and its president as a “despot.” He was previously arrested at the end of his reporting trip to Azerbaijan in May 2014 and his equipment was seized.

Trying to intimidate journalists in France

The head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, Johann Bihr, Azerbaijani journalist Agil Khalil and husband-and-wife human rights defenders Leyla Yunus et Arif Yunus will all testify in defence of the two French journalists.

Khalil fled to France in 2008 after escaping several murder attempts in Azerbaijan. Leyla and Arif Yunus fled to the Netherlands after being imprisoned for 18 months despite being in very poor health.

“By suing two French journalists who just used their right to free speech, the Azerbaijani government is demonstrating its complete inability to tolerate criticism,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“We must not let Baku export its censorship to France. We call on as many media outlets as possible to come and cover this attack on their freedoms by a foreign government. We will definitely be there to ensure that the world sees the true face of President Ilham Aliyev’s regime.”

As far as RSF knows, this is the first time that a foreign government has brought a defamation suit against journalists before a French court. Lola Karimova, the Uzbek president’s daughter, was acting as a private individual when she sued the French news website Rue89 in 2011 for calling her a “dictator’s daughter” who was helping to “launder her country’s image.”

The Aliyev regime’s true face

Azerbaijan is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. For the past three years, its authorities have systematically eliminated what remained of media independence. In 2014, they throttled the newspaper Zerkalo economically and forcibly closed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Baku bureau.

Crippled by its financial director’s arrest in 2016, the last opposition newspaper, Azadlig, has stopped publishing, and its leading journalists have been forced to flee abroad.

The Turan news agency, the country’s last independent media outlet, became the latest victim in August of this year. Its director has been jailed and its bank accounts have been frozen, forcing it to suspend all activities. Access to all the main independent news websites is blocked.

At least 16 journalists, bloggers and media workers are currently imprisoned in connection with the provision of news and information – usually on trumped-up charges. This means that Azerbaijan is second only to Turkey in Europe in the number of media personnel detained. Beatings, blackmail and bribes are also used to silence the few remaining critics.

Dozens of journalists have fled the country in recent years to escape the crackdown. By persecuting their relatives, the government even manages to put pressure on those, such as Ganimat Zahid and Emin Milli, who continue to work as journalists after fleeing abroad. The main media support NGOs were shut down in 2014.

Aliyev, who succeeded his father as president in 2003, is on RSF’s list of press freedom predators. He was “reelected” with nearly 85% of the votes in a 2013 poll that was criticized by the OSCE. The results were “leaked” on the eve of the voting.

A September 2016 referendum reinforced his powers and, on 21 February of this year, his wife was appointed first vice-president, becoming Azerbaijan second most important official.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

RSF offers its condolences to Kim Wall’s family

Published 23 August 2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is deeply saddened by the confirmation that Swedish journalist Kim Wall died while doing a story on Danish inventor Peter Madsen and his home-made submarine, and offers its condolences to her family and colleagues.

The Danish police announced today that DNA tests have established that a deliberately mutilated body found in Danish waters two days ago is indeed Wall’s.

Wall set off with Madsen in the Nautilus, the world’s biggest home-made submarine, on the evening of 10 August and never came back. Madsen was rescued when the Nautilus sank the next day but there was no sign of Wall. He arrested on a manslaughter charge on 12 August.

Normally based in New York and Beijing, Wall, 30, had worked for the New York Times, the Guardian and Libé.

RSF pays tribute to the diligence with which the Danish authorities have investigated the case in order to solve the mystery of Wall’s disappearance.

Ranked 4th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 index, Denmark’s record on respect for press freedom is one of the best in the world.

Bahraini authorities still hounding journalist Nazeeha Saeed
Published 22 August 2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the warrant for journalist Nazeeha Saeed’s arrest that was issued in Bahrain on 14 August in connection with her conviction in May for “working without a permit” and the fine she was ordered to pay when the conviction was upheld in July.

We urge the authorities to cancel the warrant for Bahraini journalist Nazeeha Saeed’s arrest,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “They have no grounds for persecuting her in this way because her lawyer appealed against her conviction to the Court of Cassation on 10 August.”

The former correspondent of France 24 and Radio Monte-Carlo Doualiya who is currently abroad, Saeed received a call from the Southern Region police on 14 August notifying her that a warrant had been issued for her arrest.

According to RSF’s information, the warrant is a result of the fine she was supposed to pay after an appeal court decision on 18 July confirming her conviction by a lower court in May on a charge of working as a journalist without a permit.

Her lawyer, Hameed Al-Mullah, asked the judge concerned to rescind the arrest warrant on the grounds that an appeal has been lodged with the Court of Cassation. The judge rejected the request on 20 August.

The lower court fined Saeed 1,000 dinars (2,320 euros) when it convicted her on 25 May of working without a permit. The information ministry began the proceedings against Saeed in July 2016, after refusing to renew her press accreditation the previous month, three months after she submitted her renewal request.

It was the first time in more than ten years that the authorities refused to renew her accreditation. They also banned her from travelling abroad, without providing any explanation.

At least five Bahraini journalists working for international media outlets such as Agence France-Presse, the Associated PressFrance 24 and Reuters have been refused accreditation renewal, although Saeed is the only one to have been prosecuted.

The Bahraini authorities have been cracking down harder on the media and, in a completely arbitrary manner, closed Al-Wasat, the country’s only remaining independent newspaper, last month.

Bahrain is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director



Media attacks and jail – the price of solidarity

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores the growing harassment of media freedom defenders in Turkey, in particular pro-government media attacks on journalists covering the trial of 17 Cumhuriyet newspaper employees, and the incarceration on 14 August of a journalist for taking part in a campaign of solidarity with a pro-Kurdish newspaper.

For the past ten days, pro-government media have accused around 30 journalists covering the Cumhuriyet trial of being “traitors” and “Erdoğan enemies” bent on “sowing chaos and “promoting a coup d’état.”

The campaign’s targets have included such leading media figures as Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Banu Güven, Soner Yalçin, Fatih Polat and Canan Coşkun, and such media freedom defenders as Erol Önderoğlu of RSF and Faruk Eren of DİSK Basın-İş.

The basis for these wild allegations is nothing more than their (real or alleged) membership of a WhatsApp group that was created to swap information about the trial of the Cumhuriyet employees, which began on 24 July.

“These insane claims would be laughable if they did not put the targeted journalists in grave danger,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We condemn this new government-orchestrated campaign, which is designed to instil fear and complete the process of silencing all media opposition.”

Media lynching

Since 12 August, the newspapers Sabah, Akşam, Star, Türkiye and Güneş have been developing a conspiracy theory implicating journalists covering the Cumhuriyet trial, opposition parliamentarians and eight leading human rights defenders, including Amnesty International Turkey director İdil Eser.

The eight human rights defenders have been detained since 6 July, when they were arrested while attending a seminar given by two foreign trainers in an Istanbul hotel. President Erdoğan and the pro-government media have branded the seminar as a “meeting of chaos” designed to “prepare an uprising.”

It was while examining the phones of the detained human right defenders that police investigators discovered the existence of the Cumhuriyet trial WhatsApp group. This was all that the pro-government columnists needed to launch their attacks.

One columnist suggested that the group, called “We will all be free on 24 July,” was being used to coordinate plans for a coup. Another named some of the alleged members as “journalists linked to the chaos group.” Another took this list, added more names and wrote: “Look who’s working with [the terrorists]! They are going to put the streets to the torch, or they will blow themselves up!”

The government’s growing harassment and control of the media has been accompanied in recent years by increasingly extensive use of this kind of smear campaign. These campaigns often pave the way for the arrests of the targets or sometimes even by physical attacks against them.

Jailed for a solidarity campaign

This latest intimidation campaign comes at a critical moment for media freedom defenders.

Journalist and human rights defender Murat Çelikkan was imprisoned on 14 August after being sentenced to 18 months in prison on a charge of “propaganda for a terrorist organization” because he took part in a campaign of solidarity with the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem.

He was one of 56 journalists, human rights defenders and intellectuals who, in defence of pluralism, took turns at being Özgür Gündem’s “editor for a day” from May to August 2016 because it had been hounded by the justice system. Çelikkan is the first to be sentenced to serve actual jail time for his role.

“A society without pluralism is not a democratic society,” he said in his defence in court. “Punishing and convicting people who report the news, who work as journalists and defend freedom of expression, harms not only these people but also the entire democratic system.”

RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu is also being prosecuted for his role in this solidarity campaign. His trial is due to resume on 26 December before the same Istanbul court that passed the prison sentence on Çelikkan.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The already worrying media situation has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after a coup attempt in July 2016. Around 150 media outlets have been closed and more than 100 journalists are currently in prison.

Sign the petition for the release of Turkish human rights defenders!



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

US – RSF condemns the violent assaults on journalists covering Charlottesville protests

Published 15 August 2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the violent assaults and harassment of journalists covering the “Unite the Right” protest and counter-protests in Virginia this weekend, where at least four media professionals were punched in the face, sprayed with urine and hit with a stick.

“RSF is deeply disturbed by the violence exhibited by protesters toward members of the media at this weekend’s protests,” says Delphine Halgand, Director of RSF’s North America bureau. “It is crucial that journalists are present to document such protests, and they should feel safe to do so without risking injury or worse. These kinds of violent attacks are unfortunately not so uncommon in the United States recently. For example, in May the Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs was attacked by a congressional candidate, and during the #BlackLivesMatter protests journalists were thrown to the ground. We condemn all physical attacks on journalists who are merely trying to do their jobs, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of the victim who was killed at the protest.”

Journalists across the nation traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend to cover the protest, which attracted hundreds of white supremacists and antifascists. Some said their newsrooms had been preparing for this protest, which many assumed would turn violent, for weeks and months. It was “all hands on deck,” according to The Daily Progress’ Ryan Kelly, who captured one of the more graphic images of the weekend.

The Hill’s Taylor Lorenz was livestreaming after a protester named James Fields Jr. slammed his car through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19 others, when a counter-protester approached her and yelled, “Stop the f--cking recording,” before punching her in the face and knocking her phone to the ground. The counter-protester, Jacob L. Smith, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault and battery. After, as Lorenz was recording a video of the protests for Snapchat Live, a group shoutedat her, “Don’t snitch, media b-tch.”

Renowned television anchor Katie Couric, who was covering the protest on Saturday for her upcoming National Geographic series, tweeted that two of her producers were sprayed with urine in Charlottesville.

The following day, on Sunday night, August 13, an unnamed CBS 6 photojournalist was filming an anti-racist counter-protest in Richmond when he was approached by a protester who told him to stop recording. When the journalist responded, “I can do whatever I want, get out of my face,” the phone was knocked out of his hands. When the reporter appeared in the video to push back the protester, another then hit him with what he described as a big stick. The reporter was taken in an ambulance to a hospital, where he received four staples in his scalp.

Outside the Charlottesville courthouse on Monday, August 14, where Fields’ initial hearing took place, the violence continued through verbal attacks exchanged by the protesters and counter-protesters. “Unite the Right” activists gathered and screamed at journalists covering the hearing, “You are all to blame for this,” though their shouts were soon confronted by counter-protesters who yelled back.

RSF reminds journalists to take extra precautions while covering protests. RSF’s “Safety Guide for Journalists,” which was published in coordination with UNESCO, includes rules and advice for journalists working in crowds, demonstrations and riots.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Shawkan completes fourth year in prison for taking photos

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the immediate release of Mahmoud Abu Zeid, a freelance photojournalist also known as Shawkan, who completes his fourth year in detention without due process on 14 August.

Mahmoud Abu Zeid was arrested while on assignment for the British photo agency Demotix in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square on 14 August 14 2013, covering the use of force by the security forces to break up a demonstration by supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

Now aged 29, he has been held ever since although he has not been convicted.

Four years of constantly extended provisional detention is not an act of justice, it is an excessive political punishment that is typical of the oppressive climate for journalists and bloggers in Egypt," said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.

Shawkan's only crime to have wanted to do his job as a news photographer. Four years in prison for trying to cover a protest is an unacceptable price. Shawkan has no place in prison. He must be freed unconditionally at once."

His treatment has been marked by irregularities right from the time of his arrest. Two foreign reporters who were arrested with him, US journalist Michael Giglio and French journalist Louis Jammes, were freed a few hours later with the apologies of the police. But Shawkan was immediately imprisoned.

Shawkan has been held in violation of article 143 of Egypt’s code of criminal procedure, which limits pre-trial detention to a maximum of two years. His trial did not start until March 2016.

He is being subjected to a mass trial with 738 other defendants, mostly members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been regarded as a terrorist organization in Egypt since December 2013. Despite the lack of any evidence against him, he is facing a possible death sentence.

In this highly sensitive case, some ten charges have been brought against him, including murder, attempted murder and membership of a banned organization (the Muslim Brotherhood). Now suffering from hepatitis C and anemia, he is also in very poor psychological shape.

Egypt is experiencing a dramatic decline in the freedom available to civil society, media freedom is in the process of disappearing, dozens of news websites are blocked, and journalists are harassed and threatened, when not unjustly sentenced to long prison terms.

As a result, Egypt is now ranked 161st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Press release


Journalists in new wave of arrests

The Turkish police carried out a new wave of arrests this morning under a combined warrant issued today for 35 journalists and media workers suspected of installing the encrypted messaging app ByLock on their smartphones.

The authorities are now treating installation of this app as proof of membership of the movement led by the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, which is accused of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt.

Turkey’s Court of Cassation nonetheless ruled on 16 June that “use of [ByLock] would constitute incontestably incriminating evidence in the event that it was technically and indisputably established that communication took place at the behest of the [Gülen] organization and with the aim of exchanging secret messages.”

In practice, the judicial authorities tend to criminalize any link with ByLock users, as they have in the case of Cumhuriyet columnist Kadri Gürsel.

“Lumping together all ByLock users and anyone who contacts them as criminals is totally illegal,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The judicial authorities cannot accuse journalists on the basis of this app alone, without establishing a specific and individual link to criminal activities.”

Nine journalists and media workers have so far been arrested under this warrant. They include Burak Ekici, the editor of the online edition of the left-wing newspaper BirGün.

They also include Muhsin Pilgir of Cihan (and formerly Zaman), Ömer Faruk Aydemir of IHA, Sait Gürkan Tuzlu, Cüneyt Seza Özkan (formerly of Samanyolu), Yusuf Duran, Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt, Mutlu Özay and Ahmet Sağırlı (who was fired last week from the weekly Türkiye).

Ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Turkey is the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists, with more than 100 currently detained.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Press release



Uzbek journalist won't be deported immediately, but he remains in detention

A Moscow appeal court today froze Uzbek journalist Khudoberdi Nurmatov’s deportation to Uzbekistan but ordered that he remain in detention. The result of urgent intervention by the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Nurmatov, also known by the pen-name of Ali Feruz, the decision will remain in effect until the European Court issues a ruling on the case, which could take a year.

“We are relieved that Ali Feruz is no longer exposed to the possibility of imminent deportation to Uzbekistan and we thank the European Court for its intervention,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“But this journalist has only won a postponement and could remain in detention for a very long time. We again urge the Russian authorities to free him without delay and to grant him asylum or, failing that, to let him go to another country where he could find refuge.”



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director


CHINA: RSF press freedom laureate gets four years for blogging about protests

Published 8 August 2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Chinese government’s war against citizen-journalists, whose latest victim is Lu Yuyu, the winner of the 2016 RSF-TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Chinese government’s war against citizen-journalists, whose latest victim is Lu Yuyu, the winner of the 2016 RSF-TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize. He was sentenced last week to four years in prison for documenting China’s growing social unrest on a blog.

A court in Dali, in the southwestern province of Yunnan, imposed the sentence on 3 August after convicting Lu of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a deliberately vague charge used by the regime to silence critics.

“Lu Yuyu committed no crime and should have been given a medal for his extraordinary work of documenting and contextualizing the scarce information about social unrest and labor protests, which was the very essence of citizen-journalism,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau.

“This verdict is the latest episode in a Chinese government crackdown on all those who defend the people’s rights, including the freedom to inform, against the violence of the state apparatus.”


30,000 protests nationwide

What with land seizures, factories going bust and appalling work conditions, China has seen a wave of strikes and protests in recent years that testify to growing social and economic tension. But in this continent-sized country, it is hard for protesters to coordinate or even keep abreast of what is happening in other cities and provinces.

Born in 1979 in Guizhou province and a onetime migrant worker himself, Lu was briefly arrested at a demonstration in 2012 about local government corruption. Thereafter he began compiling an exhaustive picture of social unrest in China, posting the information on a blog he called “Not News” ( and on linked social network accounts.

From 2012 to 2016, Lu and his partner, Li Tingyu, posted information about 30,000 strikes and protests throughout China on their website, for which they were awarded the Reporters Without Borders-TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize in the Citizen-Journalist category in 2016.


Abducted by plainclothesmen

Kidnapped by plainclothes police in Dali on 16 June 2016, Lu and Li were held incommunicado for a week and were denied the services of a lawyer for three weeks in violation of China’s criminal law. It was later reported that Lu was beaten in prison and went on hunger strike in protest.

In theory, Lu can appeal against his conviction but his chances of success are infinitesimal. In China, one person in a thousand is acquitted in a criminal trial and the percentage approaches zero for citizen-journalists.

Lu’s partner Li, who was born in 1991, was tried secretly on 20 April after being forced to recuse her lawyer, but the court did not announce any verdict. After the trial, she was placed under house arrest.

China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
Press Release
7 August 2017

Bahrain: FCO Silence on Nabeel Rajab “Appalling”, Say 13 Rights Groups and MPs Ahead Of His Trial

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's silence on the sentencing of human rights figure Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain has been called "appalling" in a letter to the Foreign Secretary, signed by 13 rights groups and parliamentarians. 

The President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights faces trial on 7 August for tweeting about the Yemen war and torture in Bahrain. He faces up to 15 years. He was sentenced in absentia following an unfair trial to two years in prison for giving media interviews on 10 July. Rajab has not been allowed to speak to his family since 15 July. Rajab has been held largely in solitary confinement in the first nine months of his detention. This led to his health deteriorating in April, and he is currently recovering in the Ministry of Interior clinic.

Despite British Embassy representatives regularly attending Rajab's trials, the 10 July sentence, which clearly violated his freedom of expression, went unremarked on for over two weeks. On 26 July, the FCO stated in response to a parliamentary question: "We note the two year sentence given to him and understand there are further steps in the judicial process, including the right of appeal".

The letter, signed by 13 rights groups says: "It is appalling that while the FCO recognises the brave work of human rights defenders worldwide, it has turned a blind eye to the human rights abuses in Bahrain, including the reprisals against Mr Rajab". They raise the FCO's Human Rights and Democracy Report, published last month, which applauds the work of human rights defenders globally and state that silence on Rajab's case contradicts policies to support human rights defenders.

The FCO's response evaded providing an opinion on Rajab's sentence and compares unfavourably with its response to a previous sentence Rajab received in 2012 on similar charges related to his expression. At that time, Middle East Minister Alistair Burt stated he was “very concerned” at the sentencing of Mr Rajab on charges related to his free expression, and added, “I have made it clear to the Bahraini authorities that the human and civil rights of peaceful opposition figures must be respected”. Burt was reshuffled out of the Foreign Office in 2013, but reappointed Middle East Minister following the June election.

The rights groups told the Foreign Secretary today: "British silence on this case contradicts FCO support for human rights defenders internationally and the FCO’s own past record on Mr Rajab’s case. We urge you to overturn this policy of silence and support Nabeel Rajab and all human rights defenders in condemning his sentence and calling on the Government of Bahrain for his immediate and unconditional release and the dropping of all pending charges against him".

While the UK was initially silent on Rajab's sentence, key allies of Bahrain including the United States and the European Union as well as Germany and Norway all called for Rajab's release shortly after the ruling. The US, EU and Norway called for Rajab's release, and Germany deplored his sentence. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' office called for his unconditional release.

"The FCO's weak language on Nabeel Rajab's case falls in line with the UK's overall disappointing position on free expression in Bahrain and more widely in the Gulf. Boris Johnson should call for Rajab's immediate release and take broader steps to ensure that human rights - not just arms sales - are a priority in the UK's relations with Bahrain and the other Gulf states", said Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director for Reporters Without Borders.

"Instead of working with civil society and human rights defenders to address systemic problems and reform in Bahrain, as it has previously committed to, the government of Bahrain continues to persecute human rights defenders like Nabeel Rajab simply for exercising their right and duty to promote and protect human rights", said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: "Boris Johnson should be ashamed of his isolated policy, which is at total odds with the foreign policy of all Bahrain western allies and partners. True partners should speak out to their allies when they cross the line. The Bahraini government's abuses don't seem to matter to Boris Johnson's Foreign Office, which only appears to be vocal against repression when it's by governments that don’t host the Royal Navy or trade with the UK”.

The letter was signed by Article 19, English PEN, FIDH, Front Line Defenders, Index on Censorship, the Jimmy Wales Foundation, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders and World Organisation Against Torture, alongside the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Gulf Centre for Human Rights and European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights. The letter was also signed by Sue Willman, Director of Deighton Pierce Glynn, Julie Ward MEP and Tom Brake MP.

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales is also separately seeking an urgent meeting with the Foreign Secretary to raise concerns over the treatment of human rights defenders in Bahrain and about the breaches of freedom of expression and fair trial and due process in Nabeel Rajab's case.

“The trial in absence and subsequent imprisonment of Nabeel Rajab was in flagrant breach of his rights to a fair trial process. The criminalisation of Nabeel Rajab - for sharing an opinion - is contrary to international rights and protections of freedom of expression. Whilst Mr Rajab’s health continues to deteriorate, due his treatment in prison, this case stands as a sad indictment of Bahrain’s attitude to citizens who voice criticism. It is not too late for proper due process to be applied in this case; this would result in Mr. Rajab’s immediate release”, said Kirsty Brimelow QC of Doughty Street Chambers.

Press release


RSF urges Turkey to free French freelancer held on terrorism charge

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of French freelance reporter Loup Bureau, who is the latest journalist to be jailed on a terrorism charge in Turkey. He has been held for the past eight days in the southeast of the country.

Bureau was arrested on 26 July near the Iraqi border, in an unstable region where he was preparing a report on the Kurdish issue and what life is like for the local population. After five days in police custody, he was charged and taken to a prison in the town of Şırnak on 1 August.

He is accused of terrorism-related activities, a charge often brought against journalists nowadays in Turkey. Last week, RSF attended the start of the trial of 17 employees of the independent newspaper Cumhuriyet who are facing up to 43 years in prison on terrorism charges.

“We call for Loup Bureau’s immediate release,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We are extremely concerned about his imprisonment and the serious charges brought against him. He is just a journalist. We hope that the Turkish investigators will soon recognize this.”

Aged 27, Bureau is on the point of completing his journalism studies and is due to defend his thesis next month. He has already covered many of the world’s hotspots including Egypt, where he spend a year after the 2011 revolution, and Ukraine, where he was one of the authors of an award-winning report on the Maidan protests.

He has also covered Pakistan’s Tribal Areas and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. It seems that a report he did for TV5Monde in 2013 on Syrian Kurdish militias fighting Islamic State is being treated by Turkish judicial investigators as evidence against him.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The situation of its media was already worrying but has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the July 2016 coup attempt. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, mass trials are being held and more than 100 journalists are currently in prison – a world record.

Foreign journalists are no longer spared. Several dozen have been expelled in the past two years and some are being detained. They include Deniz Yücel , a journalist with German and Turkish dual nationality.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

IRAN: Rouhani urged to keep media freedom pledges during second term

Published 3 August 2017

As Hassan Rouhani prepares to be sworn on August 5 for a second term as the Islamic Republic of Iran’s president, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges him to finally keep his promises to the Iranian people and to carry out a series of measures that would increase media freedom and promote the rule of law.

Above all, RSF calls for the unconditional release of the 10 journalists and 17 citizen-journalists currently detained in Iran, which is one of the world’s five biggest prisons for journalists and citizen-journalists. It is also one of the biggest prisons for women journalists.

During Rouhani’s first four-year term, at least 200 journalists and citizen-journalists were summoned, detained, and interrogated and at least 32 of them were given sentences ranging from three months to 16 years in prison.

The judicial system and the Revolutionary Guards, who are overseen by the Supreme Leader, were responsible for much of the persecution of journalists and the suppression of independently-reported news and information, but Rouhani’s minister of intelligence was also implicated.

Intelligence ministry officials arrested many journalists and citizen-journalists, including at least six during a wave of arrests from December 2016 to March 2017. Three of them – Narges MohammadiHengameh Shahidi and Zeinab Karimian – were women journalists. They are still detained in extremely worrying conditions.

During a campaign meeting that President Rouhani gave on May 15, his supporters chanted slogans calling for the release of political prisoners and blaming Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for their detention. “My arms don’t have enough strength on their own to solve certain problems but they will be more effective with a vote of more than 51%,” Rouhani responded.

Rouhani won 57% of the votes cast four days later. He must not forget that it was his comments about free speech and media freedom and the release of political prisoners that persuaded progressively-minded Iranians, especially women and young people, to vote for him en masse.

As long as these demands are not satisfied, the Iranian people will not be able to regard themselves as free. RSF therefore urges President Rouhani:

- To keep his pledge to the millions of Iranians who are calling for an end to the arbitrary house arrest of Mehdi Karoubi, the owner of the now closed newspaper Etemad Melli; Mir Hossien Mousavi, the owner of the now closed newspaper Kalameh Sabaz; and Mousavi’s wife, the writer Zahra Rahnavard. These leaders of the protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection in June 2009 have been branded as “leaders of sedition” and are being denied their rights. Their detention violates Iranian law as well as international standards.

- To seek the unconditional release of the 27 journalists and citizen-journalists currently imprisoned in Iran. The freedom to inform and be informed will not be guaranteed as long as journalists continue to be systematically imprisoned.

- To overhaul Iran’s media legislation in order to protect media freedom in accordance with article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party.

- In particular, to decriminalize media offenses and guarantee the freedom to inform without discrimination based on language, religion or political opinion. A revision of the 1986 press law (amended in 2000 and 2009 to include online publications) is urgently needed. The law allows the authorities to verify that the media “do not endanger the Islamic Republic,” “do not insult the Supreme Leader,” and “do not disseminate false information.” Amendments that require online publications to be licensed must be repealed.

- To ensure that journalists enjoy the right to free association, including the right to form unions and join them in order to protect their interests.

- To ensure that Iranian citizens enjoy the right to be informed and the right to free, uncensored and unmonitored Internet access. The creation of a “Halal Internet” (National Internet) designed to impose a digital apartheid constitutes a grave danger for Iran.

- To end arbitrary acts and impunity. The instigators and perpetrators of the murders of dissident journalists have never been punished. The many cases include Ebrahim Zalzadeh, Majid Charif, Mohamad Mokhtari, Mohamad Jafar Pouyandeh and Pirouz Davani, all executed by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security in November and December 1988. They also include the deaths in detention of Zahra Kazemi (2003), Firat news agency reporter Ayfer Serçe (2006), blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi (2009), former Abrar Economy reporter Alireza Eftekhari (2009), journalist and women’s rights activist Haleh Sahabi (2011), Iran-e-Farda journalist Hoda Saber (2011) and blogger Sattar Beheshti (2012).

Iran is ranked 165th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

RUSSIA: RSF urges Russia not to send Uzbek journalist back to Uzbekistan


RSF urges Russia not to send Uzbek journalist back to Uzbekistan

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Russia authorities not to expel Khudoberdi Nurmatov, an Uzbek journalist seeking asylum in Russia. A Moscow court has ordered him sent back to Uzbekistan, which is ranked 169th out of 180 countries in the RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Arrested on 1 August, Nurmatov was taken later the same day before a judge, who issued the expulsion order at around 11 pm. The speed was suspicious, especially as the order was issued after the legal closing time for the courts. Nurmatov was placed in a detention centre for foreign nationals.

Also known by the pen-name of Ali Feruz, Nurmatov tried to take his own life at the end of the hearing, his lawyer said.

“Ali Feruz must not be sent back to Uzbekistan,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “He would be in great danger if expelled to that country, which criminalizes independent journalism and systematically uses torture. We urge the Russian authorities to overturn this decision on appeal and to release this journalist without delay.”

Stripped of his passport several years ago, Nurmatov was first arrested in March for “residing in an irregular manner” in Russia, although his asylum application sufficed to give a legal basis to his presence in the country.

Nurmatov fled Uzbekistan in 2009 to escape growing pressure from the Uzbek intelligence services. His mother lives in Russia and has Russian nationality. His asylum application was finally rejected in May but he had filed an appeal against this decision.

After helping various human rights groups, Nurmatov had been working for more than a year for the Moscow-based independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta , writing articles on Uzbek domestic policy and the appalling conditions in which Central Asian immigrants live in Moscow.

In Uzbekistan, the regime has a complete monopoly of news and information, and independent journalists who try to keep working are exposed to terrible reprisals. Many reports have documented the widespread use of torture in Uzbek prisons.

The Russian and Uzbek governments are linked by security cooperation accords that are often invoked to the detriment of international humanitarian law. Several Uzbek citizens who had been seeking asylum or had been granted refugee status have gone missing in Moscow in recent years only to reappear some time later in Uzbek jails.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director

Images intégrées 1



SYRIA: Bassel Khartabil, Syrian Software Developer's Execution in 2015 Confirmed


Press release



Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has received confirmation that Bassel Khartabil Safadi, a Syrian software developer and free speech activist, was executed by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in October 2015.

Bassel Khartabils wife, human rights lawyer Noura Ghazi Safadi,confirmed on Monday 1 August that he was executed a few days after his removal from a Damascus prison to an unknown location on 3 October 2015. Until now, there had been no news of him since that date. He was 34.

An open source culture advocate who tried to promote unrestricted online access to news and information in Syria, Khartabil had been held ever since military intelligence arrested him in Damascus on 15 March 2012 ­– almost certainly in connection with his activities.

“We offer our condolences to the family of Bassel Khartabil, whose release we had repeatedly demanded,” RSF said. "After this news of yet another shocking crime, we reiterate our call to the UN Security council to refer crimes against journalists in Syria to the International Criminal Court.”

Khartabil’s wife told the media in November 2015 that she had learned from Syrian intelligence sources that a military field court might have sentenced him to death. Human Rights Watch noted at the time that “military field courts in Syria are exceptional courts with secret closed-door proceedings that do not meet international fair trial standards.”

Khartabil founded the Aiki Lab in Damascus in 2010 with the aim of developing digital art practices and teaching collaborative technologies. He also participated in international projects such as Mozilla Firefox, the Arabic version of Wikipedia and the Syrian branch of Creative Commons.

He was responsible for the “New Palmyra” project, a website with a downloadable 3D version of the ancient city of Palmyra as it was before its destruction by Islamic State fighters. He was on Foreign Policy magazine’s list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2012, and won the Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award in 2013.

Syria is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.



Rebecca Vincent
UK Bureau Director



Rebecca Vincent