Detained Iranian journalist and more cases in September's One Free Press Coalition List

Editor-in-chief of monthly Sedaye Parsi political magazine, Masoud Kazemi (left), and Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova (right) are mentioned in September's list of "10 Most Urgent" cases. PHOTO: CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN/
Editor-in-chief of monthly Sedaye Parsi political magazine, Masoud Kazemi (left), and Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova (right) are mentioned in September's list of "10 Most Urgent" cases. PHOTO: CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN/FACEBOOK, KHADIJA ISMAYIL/FACEBOOK

In June, courts sentenced Masoud Kazemi, editor-in-chief of monthly Sedaye Parsi political magazine, to 4½ years in prison on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda and insulting the supreme leader and other Iranian officials.

His story, alongside nine others, are told in September's list of "10 Most Urgent" cases of journalists under attack that has been compiled by the One Free Press (OFP) Coalition, a group that comprises pre-eminent editors and publishers who safeguard journalists persecuted for pursuing the truth.

The charges stem from posts that Mr Kazemi made on Twitter in November 2018, relaying his reporting on corruption in Iran's Ministry of Industry, according to Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty external broadcast service.

He had also asked President Hassan Rouhani and other officials questions about the murder of Iranian intellectuals and political activists by Intelligence Ministry agents in the late 1990s, said Radio Farda.

Following imprisonment, he will be subject to a two-year ban from working as a journalist.

To counter the rising threat to media freedom, the OFP Coalition was established during a meeting of the International Media Council at the World Economic Forum in March.

The Straits Times joined the alliance in May.

This month's list also features Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who spent 537 days in jail, after uncovering massive levels of corruption in Azerbaijan that involved President Ilham Aliyev.

According to The Washington Post, Ms Ismayilova uncovered hidden financial links in the telecommunications, construction, gold mining, hotel, media and airline services industries in Azerbaijan. The money flows and property holdings she exposed belonged to Azerbaijan's president and his family.

She was arrested on Dec 5, 2014, for charges of tax evasion, embezzlement and "illegal business", said Amnesty International UK.

In August, she was harassed further when courts upheld the tax evasion charges from her time as bureau chief for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty a decade ago - a non-profit entity not subject to the tax, she claims.

Additionally, Ms Ismayilova is subject to a travel ban, financial penalties, frozen assets and an inability to report.

Here are eight other cases mentioned in September's list of "10 Most Urgent" cases, in no particular order:

Aasif Sultan, India


Journalist Aasif Sultan has been imprisoned for one year without due process for covering conflict. PHOTO: FREE AASIF SULTAN/FACEBOOK

Amid a week-long communications blackout in Kashmir in August, the Committee to protect Journalists documented the detainment and harassment of at least three journalists, two of whom have been released. That's in addition to Aasif Sultan, a reporter for Kashmir Narrator, who has been behind bars for more than a year. He was arrested during a raid of his home in August 2018, months later was charged with "complicity" in "harbouring known terrorists", and has been repeatedly interrogated and asked to reveal his sources in a cover story written about a militant leader slain in July 2016.

Erick Kabendera, Tanzania


Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera has been charged with money laundering, tax evasion and assisting an organised crime racket. PHOTO: DAILY NATION/FACEBOOK

After police detained freelance journalist Erick Kabendera on July 29 claiming to question his citizenship status, they charged him on Aug 5 with money laundering, tax evasion and assisting an organised crime racket. The charges appear to be efforts at justifying government detention and retaliation for his critical journalism, including recent reporting o alleged divisions in Tanzania's ruling party for regional weekly The East African. The money-laundering charge disqualifies him for bail, and assisting a criminal racket could carry a jail sentence of up to 15 years. According to The Citizen, Mr Kabendera's case has been adjourned to Sept 12.

Lydia Cacho, Mexico


Lydia Cacho has experienced death threats online and via phone, sexual violence, imprisonment and an assassination attempt. PHOTO: LYDIA CACHO R/FACEBOOK

Despite government-provided protection since 2009, one of Mexico's most well-known investigative reporters, Lydia Cacho, continues to suffer retaliatory attacks for her freelance reporting and work promoting freedom of expression. In July, burglars raided her home, killing her pets and stealing electronic devices containing information about sexual abuse cases she was investigating. Throughout her career, she has also experienced death threats online and via phone, sexual violence, imprisonment and an assassination attempt.

Roberto Jesús Quiñones, Cuba

On April 22, Cuban police beat and detained Roberto Jesús Quiñones while he was covering a trial as a contributor for CubaNet. Upon his release five days later, Cuban authorities alleged that his conduct during detention constituted "resistance" and "disobedience", for which they imposed charges and a fine. On Aug 7, a municipal court of the Cuban city of Guantánamo sentenced him to one year in prison for refusal to pay the fine. United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Cuba's "flagrant disregard for legal norms".

Azimjon Askarov, Kyrgyzstan


The Kyrgyz court upholds the life sentence of award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov for documenting human rights abuses.  PHOTO: COURTESY OF SON SHERZOD ASKAROV 

Award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov, who is an ethnic Uzbek and has contributed to independent news websites including Voice of Freedom, has spent nine years in prison on trumped-up charges for reporting on human rights violations. Despite persistent international condemnation and calls for Askarov's release, a Kyrgyz court that had reviewed his case in light of new legislation ruled to uphold his life sentence on July 30.

Claudia Duque, Colombia


Claudia Duque endured kidnapping, illegal surveillance and psychological torture as a journalist. PHOTO: INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S MEDIA FOUNDATION

In a 26-year career as an investigative journalist, Claudia Duque's reporting has spurred opening of criminal cases against army members and political and judicial workers. During that time, however, she has endured kidnapping, illegal surveillance and psychological torture. In July the court overseeing the trial of Duque's perpetrators ordered an injunction prohibiting Duque to question the court or the perpetrators, and to give opinions about the trial. If the gag order stands, Duque could face a 10-year prison sentence for speaking on the impunity surrounding her case.

Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia


The late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi attending a press conference in 2014. PHOTO: AFP

Oct 2 will mark one year since the brazen killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. To date, there has been no independent criminal investigation, despite findings from the UN and CIA pointing to the Saudi crown prince's involvement, calls for the White House to release intelligence reports, and a Congress-imposed deadline for presidential reply under the US Global Magnitsky Act, which President Donald Trump declined to honour in February.

Azory Gwanda, Tanzania


Azory Gwanda, who was working in rural Tanzania, has been missing since Nov 21, 2017. PHOTO: MWANANCHI PUBLICATIONS LIMITED

Azory Gwanda, a freelance journalist investigating mysterious killings in rural Tanzania, has been missing since Nov 21, 2017. The government has failed to conduct a credible investigation or provide clear answers about his fate. On July 10, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Palamagamba Kabudi said in an interview that Gwanda had "disappeared and died", but backtracked amid requests for clarification.


This is the seventh list released by the OFP Coalition. The coalition's other members include the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, The Boston Globe, Buzzfeed, Huff Post (formerly The Huffington Post), Insider Inc, Quartz, Time, Voice of America, The Washington Post, Wired and Yahoo News.

 

European members include CNN Money Switzerland, Corriere Della Sera, De Standaard, Deutsche Welle, Euractiv, Le Temps, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Republik, Reuters and Suddeutsche Zeitung.

From Asia, The Financial Times, India Today, Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Asia have joined the network together with The Straits Times, while those from the rest of the Americas are AmericaEconomia, Estadao, Office of Cuba Broadcasting and TV Azteca.

Members of the public can join the conversation using the hashtag #OneFreePress and follow developments on Twitter @OneFreePress. To see the "10 Most Urgent" list every month, readers can visit www.onefreepresscoalition.com or @OneFreePress on Twitter.