Fifty-five journalists from 21 countries fled their homes due to violence, imprisonment, and death threats in the past year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says in a new report published this week.
The annual survey, marking World Refugee Day on June 20, spotlights the plight of journalists who have been forced into exile from some of the world’s most repressive nations, and have received assistance from CPJ over the last 12 months.
The top countries driving out journalists were Iran and Somalia, followed by Ethiopia, Syria, and Eritrea, among others.
“Journalists all over the world are being forced from their homes to escape persecution, imprisonment and sometimes even death,” María Salazar Ferro, CPJ Journalist Assistance Program coordinator, said.
“When journalists flee, their absence often weakens the besieged media community already struggling to provide insightful reporting about sensitive issues.”
Journalists assisted by CPJ consistently cited fear of violence as the top reason for fleeing.
The most deadly country for journalists in 2012 was Syria, where at least 28 were killed for their work, according to CPJ research. Violence was also rife in Mexico, where reporters are faced with intimidation and death threats if they do not self-censor.
In East Africa, where CPJ supported 18 exiles fleeing since May 31, 2012. In Eritrea, Africa’s worst jailer of journalists, many who fled had been unlawfully imprisoned without charge or trial.
Journalists also face imprisonment in Iran, where authorities cracked down on freedom of speech ahead of elections. Those who do manage to escape violence, intimidation, and jail in their home countries do not necessarily find an easier life in exile, CPJ said.
Many are unable to secure entry visas, and it can take up to two years to register for asylum, the report said.
“As refugees they are often stigmatised, and can face the very same threats they fled from in the first place, the New York-based media watchdog said. Even when journalists are able to successfully build a new life in a new country, they pay a psychological toll. Only about one-fifth of exiled journalists are able to resume work in their field.”
Forced exile can wreck journalists’ lives, as well as the lives of their families, Salazar Ferro said.
(Source: CPJ, edited by Issa Sikiti da Silva). See CPJ new report here.