Bahrain: Joint letter on human rights situation to the United Nations Human Rights Council

Your Excellencies,

Ahead of and during the upcoming 56th Session of the Human Rights Council, we urge you and your delegation to raise concerns over the human rights situation in Bahrain, particularly regarding the continued arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and opposition leaders in Bahrain, many of whom have been wrongfully imprisoned since 2011.

Thirteen years since Bahrain’s popular uprising, systemic injustice has intensified and political repression targeting dissidents, human rights defenders, clerics and independent civil society has effectively shut any space for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression or peaceful activism in the country. Despite a series of legal reforms and the creation of new national human rights institutions, based on recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, an independent panel commissioned by the King in response to international concern over the suppression of the 2011 protests, most of these measures have had little impact in practice.

The recent royal pardon issued by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on 8 April 2024, on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr and the King’s Silver Jubilee, was a significant move. The pardon included the release of more than 650 political prisoners, marking a change in state policy from previous royal pardons, according to research conducted by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. While the gesture is notable, Bahrain authorities must cease unjustly prosecuting their critics in the first place.

We also express concern that this pardon excluded many who played significant roles in the 2011 pro-democracy uprising, with an estimated 550 political prisoners remaining behind bars.

As Eid al-Adha approaches on 16 June 2024, and ahead of HRC56, we see a critical window of opportunity to advocate for further releases. We request that your governments continue to monitor the situation in Bahrain and raise concerns with Bahraini authorities at the highest level, publicly and privately. We further call on you to demand the immediate and unconditional release of all individuals imprisoned for their political beliefs and the retrial of those convicted and sentenced to death following unfair trials in full compliance with international fair trial standards.

Cases of concern

We bring to your attention specific cases of individuals who remain unjustly imprisoned in Bahrain, in violation of their human rights and despite widespread international condemnation.

  • Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a Bahraini-Danish human rights defender, has been arbitrarily detained since 2011 for his role in peaceful demonstrations. Bahraini authorities have subjected Al-Khawaja to severe physical, sexual, and psychological torture, and his health has deteriorated significantly during his prolonged imprisonment.
  • Abduljalil Al-Singace, an award-winning human rights defender and blogger, remains arbitrarily detained since 2011 after being sentenced to life in prison on charges of “plotting to overthrow the government”. He is now approaching three years since he began a solid-food hunger strike after authorities confiscated his research manuscripts, sustaining himself only on multivitamin liquid supplements, tea with milk and sugar, water, and salts. Despite his disability and hunger strike, he continues to be denied adequate medical care.
  • Hassan Mushaima, an opposition leader aged 76, is serving a life sentence solely for exercising his right to freedom of association and expression. Over the past few months, his health has deteriorated. He continues to be denied access to adequate healthcare and remains arbitrarily detained. Since they were transferred to Kanoo Medical Center in 2021, Al-Singace and Mushaima have been held in prolonged solitary confinement and denied access to sunlight.
  • Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of dissolved opposition party Al-Wefaq, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2018 on politically motivated charges related to espionage. He has been imprisoned since 2014 on a separate conviction related to speeches he delivered in 2014 against parliamentary elections that his party boycotted. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience and called his conviction “a travesty of justice.”

Over a decade ago, the Human Rights Council issued a statement of concern “about guarantees of due process in the trials of 13 political activists who had their sentences, including life sentences, upheld in January 2013.” We note that of the “13 political activists” referenced, ten remain arbitrarily detained, including some of those listed above.

In 2023, the Committee to Protect Journalists documented the imprisonment of journalists, including Ali Mearaj and Hassan Qambar, who were excluded from the recent releases.

Additionally, twenty-six individuals in Bahrain remain on death row at risk of imminent execution, many of whom allege torture and unfair trials. Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa, who have now spent over a decade unlawfully detained, were sentenced to death in an unfair trial marred by torture allegations.

Conclusions and recommendations

In light of the above, we respectfully urge your delegation to take a proactive stance in the lead-up to Eid al-Adha and during the upcoming session and:

  • Call on Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release all individuals imprisoned solely for exercising their human rights.
  • Address these developments in your national capacity and jointly with other states, including during the Interactive Dialogues with the Special Rapporteurs and Independent Expert on health, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, independence of judges and lawyers and international solidarity.
  • Issue a statement raising concern about individual cases of human rights defenders and opposition leaders who continue to be arbitrarily detained in Bahrain in violation of international law.

With assurances of our highest consideration.


  1. Access Now
  2. ALQST
  3. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
  4. Amnesty International
  5. Article 19
  6. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)
  7. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
  8. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  9. DAWN
  10. English PEN
  11. European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
  12. Fair Square
  13. Femena
  14. Freedom House
  15. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  16. Human Rights First
  17. Human Rights Sentinel
  18. Human Rights Watch
  19. IFEX
  20. Index on Censorship
  21. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  22. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  23. MENA Rights Group
  24. No Peace Without Justice
  25. PEN America
  26. PEN International
  27. Rafto
  28. Redress
  29. Scholars at Risk
  30. The #FreeAlKhawaja Campaign
  31. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  32. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Trump has dented the American Dream

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”115976″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Happy New Year – or is it Groundhog Day?

In England, we’ve entered our third Covid-19 lockdown. This week dozens of people have been arrested in Hong Kong for contravening the National Security Law and the news has been dominated by American politics. It could still be 2020…

Given the misery of the ongoing pandemic and the horrendous accounts of arrests and imprisonments around the world by repressive regimes, I’d really like to be writing something positive. About the hope that the election of the Reverend Raphael Warnock has inspired – the first black Senator for Georgia in history to be elected: the son of a cotton picker, a pastor who preaches from the same pulpit as Martin Luther King Jr, the man who officiated at John Lewis’ funeral last year.  About the bravery of individuals in Hong Kong as the police systematically seek to arrest people. About the strength of Loujain al-Hathloul’s family as they continue to speak out while she is sentenced.

But instead, the words and actions of one man and his followers have overshadowed that hope, strengthand bravery, even in the face of a global public health emergency which has now killed over 1.88 million people.

Since Joe Biden was declared the winner of last November’s US presidential election we’ve seen for the first time in living memory a losing politician in a western democracy fail to accept the result and undermine faith in the very institutions that they seek to govern.

As an observer, some of Trump’s protestations have been so ludicrous that we’ve been able to laugh. But while Trump and his allies have been a source of amusement, he clearly had a plan and his actions and those of his loyalists were designed to test the strength of the US constitution and the USA’s commitment to democratic values.

On Wednesday, we saw the impact of the rhetoric, of the lies, of the hate and fear. Not only did President Trump succeed in inciting violence in the US Capitol to try and intimidate legislators to unilaterally change the outcome of the election. His words led to bloodshed within a building that for many has been a global symbol of stable democracy.  His speeches inspired extremists to lay siege to the ‘People’s House’. His tweets directed the mob to target his political opponents, leaving five dead and countless others hurt and traumatised by this experience. It is no wonder that many social media platforms felt the need to suspend his accounts.

I strongly believe in the First Amendment, but no one has the right to incite violence and no one has the right to undermine the core democratic values that we all want to live by. Not even the President of the United States of America.

Our right to free speech is incredibly important, but there is a difference between free speech and incitement. Between free expression and outright lies. And those lines, while usually blurred, on this occasion are stark and people died because the President crossed them.

We have seen extraordinary journalism in the US over the last few days – highlighting the true value of a free press. And now, in the last days of the Trump presidency, much is being written about the impact on US democracy and the future of the Republican Party after its leader tried to lead what can only be considered an insurrection against the legislature.

But the real damage done this week wasn’t solely in America. Everybody looks for leadership, for inspiration, for security. Since the end of World War 2 the United States has been more than a superpower, more than a nation state, it has embodied a set of ideals for people who live under totalitarian regimes. It has been seen, rightly or not, as the epicentre of the Free World, the defender of democratic values and most importantly a beacon of hope for those that have none.

This has been undermined by Donald Trump’s leadership nearly every day since he took office four years ago. And this week the world witnessed him incite violence against his own politicians. He attacked the free media. He lied about free and fair elections in the US. He inspired an extremist militia to storm Congress and the Senate. And five people died. While the world watched.

Repressive regimes around the world have already and will continue to use these events to undermine the concept of America and American values in their own countries. The impact of 6 January will be deep and far reaching and people will suffer because of it.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have a huge amount of work to do to rebuild faith in the American dream – and not only in the USA. The world is watching.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][three_column_post title=”You may also want to read” category_id=”41669″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Project Exile: Threatened in Mexico, facing deportation in the USA

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This article is part of Index on Censorship partner Global Journalist’s Project Exile series, which has published interviews with exiled journalists from around the world.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”106335″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]On a sunny day in June 2008, in the small city of Ascensión in northern Mexico, journalist Emilio Gutiérrez received a phone call from a friend. She was very nervous and said she needed to meet him in person urgently. When the friend, a local teacher named Olga, arrived, her message was unequivocal.

“They are going to kill you,” she said. A family member she knew was in the Mexican military and had told her he had been assigned to be part of a special project to kill the journalist. He was telling Olga in order to warn Gutiérrez. A single father who had been threatened by the military previously and recently noticed that he was under surveillance, Gutiérrez took his 15-year-old son Oscar and left home. Within days, he was heading towards the US border in El Paso, Texas.

“I was never interested in coming to the United States because I liked my job, I like my country, I had my family there, I practically had everything,” Emilio says, in an interview with Global Journalist. “I never got a passport because I didn’t want to leave Mexico.”

El Paso means “the step” in Spanish. And for Emilio it was a step away from fear and persecution; and he hoped, a step towards freedom. He never imagined coming to the USA would mean family separation and a tedious decade-long legal battle that would leave both his and Oscar’s life in limbo – and facing repeated deportation orders. His life in exile highlights not only the dangers Mexican journalists face: according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 32 have been killed in Mexico since 2008, the year Emilio left. But it also demonstrates the challenges journalists seeking asylum in the USA confront in working through a slow-moving and sometimes capricious immigration system.

Boots and hat reporter

Emilio’s story began in Nuevo Casas Grande in the northern state of Chihuahua as a curious and ambitious 18-year-old. He started in journalism as a photographer for a local newspaper and then began reporting. Motivated by the idealism of many young journalists, Emilio hoped to improve society by changing people’s views of the world.

“In my country, we have had to live a lot of despair because of poverty and lack of education,” he says. “A feeling of nonconformity and rebellion was born in me at a young age knowing that I was able to change the mentality of people through the media.”

In 2000, Emilio moved to Ascensión, a city of 13,000 about two hours southwest of Ciudad Juarez and its sister city of El Paso, Texas. Much of his job was in the countryside, and Emilio became a boots-and-cowboy-hat reporter for the newspaper El Diario del Noroeste, covering issues from local politics to school events. But by 2005, life was changing in northern Mexico as conflict among drug cartels and between the Mexican state and criminal gangs sent crime and violence soaring – the start of what would be a dark era in Mexican history.

A power struggle between the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel and the Gulf cartel left as many as 1,000 dead in 2005 and made border cities like Nuevo Laredo the scene of nightly gun battles. President Vicente Fox responded by deploying the army to northern Mexico to try to control the violence. But reporters weren’t immune to the toll: in 2014 and 2015, six Mexican journalists were murdered after reporting on organised crime and government corruption.

In early 2005, the mayor of a small Mexican border town called Puerto Palomas contacted Emilio to complain that the Mexican army had seized control of a hotel in town named La Estrella, according to documents later filed in US immigration court. Emilio published an article 4 February of that year titled “Demands to Stop Impunity,” criticising the army’s takeover of La Estrella. Like many sensitive newspaper stories, the article ran without a byline – so as to offer some measure of protection to the reporter.

It didn’t work. About a week later, Emilio received a call from an army officer. One of his superiors wanted to meet him in person. “Either you come see us, or we will come to see you,” he was told.

Meeting the general

Emilio came to the meeting in downtown Ascensión accompanied by Oscar, then 12, thinking he would meet the officer in a hotel dining room. It was evening when he arrived, and Emilio left Oscar in the car. But the journalist never made it to the hotel. Instead, he was taken to a pickup truck where he later testified he was met by the Mexican Army general Alfonso Garcia Vega. 

Vega was upset. “So you are the son of a bitch that’s writing these stupidities?” Vega asked him, according to court records.

There wouldn’t be another article, Vega warned Gutiérrez. Mexico’s secretary of defence was very angry, the general warned. “Why don’t you write about drug traffickers?” Vega asked him. “You don’t write about them, but you write about us. We, who get rid of drug traffickers. I feel like getting you in my truck to take you to the mountains, so you can become aware of our work and how we get rid of the drug traffickers.”

Soldiers surrounded Emilio, nearly pinning him against the general’s truck, he later told a US immigration court. He was eventually released, but Emilio wondered if it was only because people from the town had passed by him and greeted him while he was speaking with the soldiers.

When Emilio made it back to Oscar and his vehicle, he drove away and then telephoned his editor to tell him what had happened. The next day El Diario struck back, publishing an article about the incident headlined “Members of the Military Threaten Reporter’s Life,” based on Emilio’s account.

He also sought to raise the issue with the government. Emilio filed a complaint about the incident with the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office and wrote to the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico City. The prosecutor’s office told him they would investigate the threat, but Emilio never heard from them again. The human rights commission conducted an investigation and concluded that no members of the Mexican military had been responsible for the incident. However, the commission did send a letter to the local command of the Mexican army, instructing them to avoid acts that intimidate or hinder freedom of expression.

Emilio Gutiérrez. (Credit: Lynette Clemetson)

Emilio Gutiérrez. (Credit: Lynette Clemetson)

Soldiers in the house

This outcome didn’t make Emilio feel safe. So over the next three years, Gutiérrez went back to reporting local news, politics and sports, taking care not to report on the Mexican military. It was a big subject to ignore: by 2006 the Mexican military was in an all-out war with drug cartels that killed hundreds of people each month. For a time, Chihuahua was the scene of the bloodiest fighting, with 6,757 deaths from cartel-related violence between 2006 and 2010, according to the Associated Press.

For Emilio, there were no further threats. That is, until one night in early May 2008. He and Oscar were at home when he heard a loud noise outside his home just after midnight. In court, Emilio later testified that he went to his living room and saw a group of about 50 soldiers. They kicked in his front door and pointed their guns at him as he stood in his living room in his underwear.

After Emilio told them he was a journalist, they forced him to the ground and told him they were searching the house for drugs and guns after receiving an anonymous report – though they had no search warrant. After the soldiers were through and prepared to leave, one soldier, who Emilio later identified as a lieutenant, told him to “behave” and gave him a telephone number to call in the event that he wanted to report any illegal activity.

When the men had left, Emilio called the police to report the incident – but no police ever came. The next day, Emilio told his editor of the events, and soon thereafter he helped the paper publish an article headlined “Soldiers Raid Journalist’s Home”.

That didn’t end things. A few weeks later, Emilio noticed men with military-style haircuts watching his home. Frightened, he and Oscar went to spend the night at a friend’s house. That night, he got the call from Olga warning him that the military was planning to kill him – and he and Oscar were soon driving towards the US border and safety.

Emilio and Oscar, then 15, arrived at the border without passports. Emilio told US border agents that he was a journalist who had received death threats and was seeking asylum. The two were separated. Oscar was sent to a detention centre for minors for seven months, while Emilio was held in a separate detention centre.

“My son is my life,” Gutierrez says. “To be separate and to not know what was coming destroyed a part of our lives.” 

During two and a half months in custody, father and son were able to speak on the phone briefly just three times. The two were released in Texas in early 2009 to await adjudication of their asylum applications by US immigration authorities.

In the meantime, the Gutiérrezes moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, about an hour’s drive from El Paso. After seven months of detention, Emilio’s financial situation was dire – so he sold his house in Mexico for a fraction of its value. After a time, he received a US work permit and took as many jobs as possible to survive while awaiting an asylum hearing. He did landscaping, washed dishes and eventually ran his own food truck.

Trial by immigration court

The case moved slowly through the system, and Emilio had to periodically report to US immigration authorities to show he hadn’t fled. He cycled through a number of immigration lawyers. Hearings were postponed, and months turned into years. Oscar, no longer a boy, left high school and began culinary school. In November 2016, seven years after the Gutiérrezes left Mexico, Emilio had a hearing on the merits of his asylum case before a US immigration court in El Paso. 

It didn’t go well. The government’s immigration counsel questioned why would be targeted by the military if his name wasn’t on the offending articles, why the journalist who covered the hotel takeover would be threatened, but not the mayor, the original source of the articles. The government also suggested that the raid on Gutiérrezes’ home had been routine at that time of the drug war, and suggested that if he felt threatened, Emilio could have moved elsewhere in Mexico. The prosecutor also questioned why the journalist had rejected an offer of bodyguards from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission and instead chose to remain in the USA, despite the fact that the bodyguards might come from the Mexican military itself.

In July of 2017, US immigration judge Robert Hough ruled against the Gutiérrezes. Among other conclusions, Hough noted that Emilio had failed to obtain corroborating testimony and documents from witnesses in Mexico. The judge questioned why he had fled to the USA instead of moving elsewhere in Mexico, and whether the Mexican military would still kill him if he returned home. Emilio and Oscar were ordered to be removed from the USA, nine years after arrival.

The removal didn’t come immediately. Emilio and his lawyer sought to appeal Hough’s decision before the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals. Yet that would take time. Fortunately for Emilio, he had gained some notable allies in the US media. In October of 2017, he went to Washington, DC to accept the National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award.

In his acceptance speech at a black-tie gala, Emilio criticised the Mexican government for failing to protect journalists – but also blasted the USA, saying that American officials were failing to protect human rights at home even as they lectured other countries on the subject.

Detained again

Just over two months later, in December 2017, Emilio and Oscar appeared in El Paso for a routine immigration check-in while their appeal was still pending. To their surprise, they were placed in handcuffs and informed they would be deported immediately. 

Emilio’s lawyer, Eduardo Beckett, managed to win an emergency stay of the deportation order from the Board of Immigration Appeals just before they could be taken back to Mexico. But instead of being released to go home pending a hearing before the board’s appellate body, the two were placed back in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency detention centre. 

The months ticked by. Emilio grew frustrated and worried. He didn’t have access to his blood pressure medication. Life in the detention centre was grim.

“They destroy you mentally, physically and morally,” he said. “The person that isn’t sick gets sick in the detention centres.”

Outside the El Paso detention centre, Emilio’s supporters were looking for a lifeline. In February 2018, the National Press Club reached out to Lynette Clemetson, the director of a programme for journalists at the University of Michigan. The National Press Club was seeking support for an amicus brief in the Gutiérrezes’ case.

Clemetson started to read more about Gutiérrez and in April of 2018, she and the NPR journalist Luis Trelles went to meet him and Oscar in the detention centre in El Paso. When she met Gutiérrez, she decided to interview him for one of the university’s prestigious Knight-Wallace fellowships.

“Emilio has faced a bureaucracy and a migratory system that does not see the danger that he has faced due to his job,” said Trelles.

Clemetson and Trelles were sympathetic – and soon offered him a fellowship, but Gutiérrez was unable to accept since he was still in detention.

In May of 2018, there was a moment of victory. After the National Press Club, the Pen America Center and 16 other organisations filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Emilio’s behalf,  the Board of Immigration Appeals stayed the Gutiérrezes deportation order and ordered the El Paso immigration court to rehear the case. Despite this, Immigration and Customs Enforcement kept the Gutiérrezes in detention for two additional months. After seven months in detention,  Emilio and Oscar were released in July. Clemetson and the Gutiérrezes flew together to Michigan – where Emilio began his fellowship.

“His case exemplifies what we are supposed to stand up for,” said Clemetson.

Emilio Gutiérrez has received support from the Knight-Wallace programme at the University of Michigan as well as from numerous press freedom groups. (Credit: Lynette Clemetson)

A fleeting victory

During his time at the University of Michigan, Emilio took classes on migration, human rights and English. University life in Michigan was a change from Las Cruces, but still his future was clouded by uncertainty. The rehearing on his asylum case was still pending, and though Emilio had more allies helping him prepare supporting evidence, including a brief from a who’s who list of the most prominent journalism associations, nothing was certain. 

Among the problems for his asylum case was the fact that Alfonso Garcia Vega, the Mexican army general who threatened Emilio back in 2005, had since died. Despite this, Emilio argued that he still faced threats from other officers who worked with Vega and from the Mexican military generally, given his outspoken criticism of its corruption during his years in the USA. 

In addition, Emilio still had been unable to obtain written corroboration of his accounts of threats from his former editor at El Diario or from the friend who warned him of the threat to his life. “Nobody wrote a letter of support because they are afraid,” says Gutierrez. 

Another challenge was that the rehearing of his case was once again assigned to Judge Hough in El Paso, the same judge who had denied Emilio’s initial asylum request and ordered he and Oscar be deported. Such rulings by immigration judges are the norm in the El Paso immigration court, where on average only six per cent of asylum requests were approved between 2013 and 2018, according to data from Syracuse University’s TRAC database. That compares with a national approval rate for asylum of 35 per cent in 2018. 

In October of last year, a decade after they left Mexico, Emilio and Oscar had their request for asylum heard a second time in El Paso. In addition to Emilio, Clemetson, of the Knight-Wallace Foundation, testified in court on his behalf. But unfortunately for the Gutierrezes, the outcome was still the same. In a decision issued on 4 March, Hough found that Emilio’s testimony was “weak” and not credible. He found that the documentary evidence supporting Emilio’s argument that his life was threatened in Mexico to be insufficient, and that the threats against him by the Mexican military did not meet the legal test for demonstrating persecution. 

“Nothing in the record indicates that the respondent’s notoriety as a journalist would outlast his decade-long absence from Mexico, or that the military would single him out,” Hough wrote. 

For a second time, Oscar and Emilio were ordered to be deported back to Mexico. 

Hough, of course, could be right. Perhaps those who targeted him in the Mexican military have moved on.

But in the meantime, Mexico is as dangerous as ever for journalists. In January, a radio journalist who had been under protection by a Mexican government programme to defend journalists and human rights defenders was found dead near a highway in Baja California. Since then, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, another Baja California journalist was badly beaten by baseball-wielding men; a radio reporter in Sonora was shot dead in his home; an Oaxaca journalist survived being shot in the back and arm; and a sports reporter in Sinaloa was found dead after being apparently beaten to death. 

Nor is there reason to believe that the Mexican government can keep the military from carrying out attacks on civilians it chooses to target. A study published in 2017 by the Washington Office on Latin America found that of 505 investigations opened by Mexico’s attorney general into human rights violations by members of the military, just 16 ended with a conviction. Nor is the government better at investigating attacks on journalists. Attacks on reporters in Mexico are so common that the government has a special prosecutor to investigate such crimes. Since its creation in 2010, the office has opened 1,000 investigations, but obtained just seven convictions, according to Human Rights Watch. 

In an interview with Global Journalist, Emilio says he’s frustrated with the US immigration system and plans another appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. Yet with two adverse rulings against him, his chances appear slim. In the meantime, he and Oscar live with the knowledge that they might be deported at any time. Still, Emilio is determined that no matter the outcome, he can’t go back to Mexico and live safely. 

“I hope the judge realises that we are not asking for asylum because we are looking for a green card, we are seeking asylum to preserve our lives,” he says.


Note: Global Journalist executive editor Kathy Kiely has done advocacy for the Gutierrezes through the National Press Club. Kiely was not involved in the editing or reporting of this story.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_video link=”″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship partner Global Journalist is a website that features global press freedom and international news stories as well as a weekly radio program that airs on KBIA, mid-Missouri’s NPR affiliate, and partner stations in six other states. The website and radio show are produced jointly by professional staff and student journalists at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, the oldest school of journalism in the United States. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Don’t lose your voice. Stay informed.” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_separator color=”black”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship is a nonprofit that campaigns for and defends free expression worldwide. We publish work by censored writers and artists, promote debate, and monitor threats to free speech. We believe that everyone should be free to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution – no matter what their views.

Join our mailing list (or follow us on Twitter or Facebook). We’ll send you our weekly newsletter, our monthly events update and periodic updates about our activities defending free speech. We won’t share, sell or transfer your personal information to anyone outside Index.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][gravityform id=”20″ title=”false” description=”false” ajax=”false”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content”][vc_column][three_column_post title=”Global Journalist / Project Exile” full_width_heading=”true” category_id=”22142″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

USA: Climate for press freedom worsens in Missouri and surrounding states

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Climate for press freedom worsens in Missouri, surrounding states

St. Louis, Missouri — An already adverse environment for journalists in the Midwestern United States has worsened in the year since President Trump’s inauguration, an international group of media watchdogs concluded after travelling to the state of Missouri. The group also met with journalists from Illinois and Wisconsin.

The fact-finding mission this week concluded in St. Louis, where journalists were indiscriminately arrested in 2014 and 2017 during protests in response to police shootings in the city and its suburb, Ferguson. The group also met with journalists from the city of Columbia and the capital, Jefferson City, as well as representatives of the Missouri Press Association and national media groups headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism.  

The group, which included leaders of Index on Censorship, the Committee to Protect Journalists, IFEX, Article 19, and the International Press Institute, found that local public officials have embraced Trump’s rhetoric toward the media and bypassed the press in favour of social media. A Wisconsin sheriff used expletives to deny an interview. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has called the media “fake news,” refused interviews, and directed his staff to use software that immediately erases mobile chats.

“The hostility to the press at the national level gives a free pass for state officials to use harmful rhetoric and has contributed to a polarisation in public attitudes toward the press,” said Marty Steffens, North American chair and member of the executive board of the International Press Institute, a global network of journalists and editors. Steffens, also a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, served as local host for the mission.

Journalists stressed that the threats are not new, but an acceleration of existing trends of public mistrust and political obstruction of the press. They were split on how the national discourse has affected their daily reporting, with some saying they see it as simply one more factor in an already difficult environment.

A longstanding unwillingness of authorities in Missouri to comply with freedom of information laws has worsened since Trump’s election, with extended delays, prohibitive costs, and the use of technological tools to prevent the release of public records, journalists said. They cited a lack of effective independent oversight and inadequate training of public officials regarding what is known as the Sunshine Law.

“The reality of shrinking newsrooms and financial resources for news media makes the adherence of authorities to both the letter and spirit of the Sunshine Law ever more important. The disregard being shown poses the question whether the current legal structure is fit for purpose,” said Thomas Hughes, executive director of Article 19.

Hostility to the media comes as the Midwestern press corps has been hit hard by changing economic conditions. News staffs in Missouri as well as Chicago and Milwaukee, Wisc., told the group that declining revenues have reduced reporting ranks by two-thirds. One Wisconsin editor said some public meetings go uncovered, leaving the public uninformed about the use of tax dollars.

Proposed legislation in some Midwestern states would shift mandated paid public notices to government websites, making the information harder to find and exacerbating the media’s economic woes, especially at small community newspapers. This also raises the spectre that authorities could use public notice revenues as a means to influence editorial content.

“While many reporters are more galvanised than ever in the current news climate, local media and city newspapers said they did not receive the bump in funding and subscriptions that bolstered national papers after the election,” said Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Journalists said lack of financial resources make it harder to fight back when politicians deny access.”

One photographer from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch told the delegation that at public demonstrations, journalists are increasingly caught between aggressive police and sometimes hostile protesters. In St. Louis and Ferguson, police have adopted increasingly militarised tactics such as “kettling”— a surround-and-arrest tactic that sweeps up working journalists and bystanders. In the fall of 2017, at least 10 journalists were arrested in St. Louis during protests over a police shooting. Two new protest laws up for consideration in the state could raise the stakes for journalists who are swept up in arrests.

“Nothing fake about the dedicated and resilient journalists working in Missouri encountered during this tour. They continue to play a key role in keeping the public informed and the democracy healthy in spite of myriad challenges,” said Annie Game, IFEX executive director.

CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organisation that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

Media contacts: 

Bebe Santa-Wood
Communications Associate
[email protected]
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