Afghan journalists facing an impossible choice under the Taliban


An Afghan female journalist hosts a radio program at the radio-television channel Ghazal, April 7, 2021.
Mohammad Jan Aria/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

For five days after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban insurgency, Mariam (not her real name) didn’t leave her house. As a professional athlete, this was very unusual. However, 23-year-old Mariam is also one of the city’s up and coming journalists and staying at home did not feel right. 

The militant group, known for their regressive ideology and restricting women’s rights and freedoms, had forced many Afghan women to retreat in to the shelter of their homes in the days following the siege. But Mariam had enough. “I wanted to get back to work. I wanted to get out,” she said.

So on Friday, an otherwise normal day off in Kabul, Mariam decided to go to her workplace, a newsroom in the centre of the city. “Around 11.45 am, as I was getting into the car, I got a call from an unknown number. I answered it and the man on the other line, asked, ‘Are you Mariam?’ and I froze in my tracks.” 

“He sounded friendly, as though we might have been old friends,” she said.

But something about his voice made her very uncomfortable. Still, she replied, “Yes I am.” He then asked her, “Do you know me?” and she replied, “I don’t and I don’t have your number saved either. Who is this?”

Without answering her question, the man continued, this time in a much less friendly tone. “He identified the location of my office and asked if I worked there. I was so scared, I didn’t reply. He then said, ‘We [the Taliban] are coming for you’ and I immediately hung up and put my phone on airplane mode.”

Mariam is not alone.

In her short career as a journalist and TV presenter, ‘Marzia’ has received many threats from insurgents as well as fundamentalist groups who disapprove of her work in the media. As a woman and as a member of Afghanistan’s persecuted Hazara ethnic group, she was no stranger to threats, but they were always a world away from her vibrant and empowered life in Kabul. Until, that is, the country fell into the hands of the Taliban on 15 August.

‘Fauzia’, another Afghan female journalist, said: “Of course there were challenges of being a journalist in Afghanistan; it was never easy. But I could deal with those because we had platforms, and more importantly, we had the media, to help us fight for our rights.” Fauzia is currently on the run due to the threats she has received.

The Taliban seized control of the majority of the country earlier this month, including the capital. The Afghan president along with many top government officials were forced to flee after being asked to resign on the pretext of creating a transitional government. The militants, however, have taken control of the capital and large parts of the country creating panic and chaos among those who have been outspoken critics of the Taliban. 

Since the fall, there has been a rush of Afghans trying to escape the country to avoid persecution from the Taliban who are known to be vengeful. The Journalists in Distress (JID) network, a collaborative effort of media support organisations like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) are working in collaboration to evacuate Afghan journalists to safety. 

Nadine Hoffman, deputy director of the IWMF said: “The race to evacuate Afghan media workers and their families has been the most challenging and complex emergency the press freedom community has faced. Conditions on the ground, particularly at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, have made this gargantuan task feel at times insurmountable.”

“Those individuals we are supporting to evacuate have faced extreme physical duress; they have been beaten, shot at, and threatened in their homes by the Taliban. It is heartbreaking to watch this tragedy unfold. Women journalists voices in Afghanistan are being silenced.”

In a statement on Monday, the CPJ shared that they had registered and vetted the cases of nearly 400 journalists in need of evacuation, and is reviewing thousands of additional requests. Other organisations have similarly large lists of media persons seeking safe passage out of Kabul.

In a press conference held the day after the fall, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid assured that media will remain independent but said the journalists “should not work against national values”.  However, despite the group’s assurance of a full amnesty to those who work in media and the previous government, Afghan journalists do not trust the terror group with a history of violence against the Afghan media.

Already, several journalists have reported being threatened by Taliban members across the country. Meanwhile, the CPJ also documented multiple attacks on the press from the Taliban in the last week, including physical attacks. A female state TV anchor was also forced off the air, underlining the Taliban’s lack of commitment to protecting the rights of journalists.

Several at-risk journalists shared that the Taliban had been visiting their homes collecting information on “those who worked with infidels” and warned that action would be taken later, implying this would happen after the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. 

“We knew sooner or later they would come looking for us so we destroyed all our documents, certificates and IDs that show our work with the Americans,” said a journalist from Nangarhar province, ‘Sahar’. “It was the body of my lifetime of achievements, and I set it all on fire,” she added, the grief evident in her voice.

However, it did little good, as the Taliban came to Sahar’s neighbourhood armed with biometrics devices seeking to identify people with data that was shared with the previous government. “They haven’t come to our house yet. I know they will kill me. They have already killed some of my friends,” referring to the journalists assassinated in March in Jalalabad.

Sahar’s fears are not unfounded. Taliban fighters killed the relative of a Deutsche Welle (DW) journalist on Thursday, while looking for him during a similar door-to-door search as described by Sahar. “They shot dead one member of his family and seriously injured another,” DW reported.

Earlier this month, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Toofan Omar, the owner of Paktia Ghag Radio. Officials in Kabul said Omar was targeted by the Taliban due to his work.

Last month, the group killed and mutilated the body of Danish Siddiqui, an Indian journalist working with Reuters, in Spin Boldak in Kandahar province. 

Notably, of the total seven journalists killed in Afghanistan this year, four have been women, highlighting the increased risks women in media like Mariam, Fauzia and Sahar face. Already, earlier this year, the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee reported that nearly 20 per cent of Afghan women quit the media due to the threats they faced. The Afghan media watchdog reported that at least nine provinces in the country had no female journalists employed in the media, essentially depriving women’s voices and presence in the national debate.

These figures are feared to have risen considerably in the last week. “Soon there will be no one left to tell the story of Afghanistan,” Fauzia remarked.

After the call Mariam received on Friday, she made a decision she never thought she would ever have to make. Choking back tears, she said. “I decided to leave my homeland; a country I had previously wanted to serve.”

“I went back home, packed a small bag and left for the airport with my sister. We got on the first plane they [offered]. I don’t even know where we are going but I know we can’t live there.”

[All names of journalists in this article have been changed to protect their identities.][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Silencing the Spanish media

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Spanish journalist Silvia Nortes reports on the trend amongst Spanish journalists of self-censoring in the face of job losses and a divided society, a special piece as part of the 2020 spring edition of Index on Censorship magazine” google_fonts=”font_family:Libre%20Baskerville%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700|font_style:400%20italic%3A400%3Aitalic”][vc_single_image image=”112712″ img_size=”large” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]

Paulino Ros, a journalist with 35 years’ experience in radio, admits he self-censors. It’s understandable – after all, he lost a job because of his reporting of a corruption case.

“The case was confirmed two months later and charges were laid by the Court of Instruction and the police made arrests. Even so, my crime of publishing ended up costing me my job and, even worse, my health,” he said. Ros censors himself “almost every day, so as not to displease my superiors. I stick to the editorial line”.

He is not alone. The co-founder of major Spanish newspaper El País, Juan Luis Cebrián, said recently that plenty of journalists were tailoring what they wrote or said because there was “no free debate, because people think it is better not to mess with that because of social rejection”.

Unlike Ros, most are reluctant to admit to this on record, but the idea that self-censorship is rife is backed up by statistics. The 2016 Annual Report of Journalism by the Madrid Press Association recorded alarming data, for example: 75% of journalists yield to pressure, and more than half acknowledge they usually censor themselves.

And it’s getting worse as certain issues within society are becoming more divisive. In Spain, social movements are strong engines of heated debates. The controversy they generate can pose a danger to journalistic independence, due to the temptation to follow a majority view.

The tension is obvious when reporting on Catalonia, where the resurgence of the independence movement has given rise to a silencing form of nationalism. Journalists working in Catalonia for national media, such as television channels Antena 3 and La Sexta, are branded as “manipulators” by pro-independence social movements. Reporters Without Borders has recorded a series of attacks on journalists in Catalonia since 2017. As the organisation notes, covering quarrels and demonstrations in Barcelona “has become a high-risk task for reporters”. It adds that insults, the throwing of objects, shoving and all kinds of physical and verbal aggression have become routine, especially during live television broadcasts.

The women’s movement can cause the bravest of reporters to duck into a corner. In May 2019, feminist magazine Pikara made a podcast with a midwife, Ascensión Gómez López, about childbirth. June Fernández, founder of Pikara, tweeted a quote from the midwife to promote the podcast: “The epidural turns childbirth into a silent act, disconnected from the body. In childbirth we groan, as with orgasms. But silence is more comfortable in an aseptic environment.”

Two days later, the tweet received more than 1,200 replies, mostly from outraged women, as well as comments from magazine contributors. “Idiots”, “Irresponsible” and “You contribute to worsening the women’s situation” were some of the responses. It was a week in which Pikara was preparing a crowdfunding campaign. “What if lots of people decide not to support us?” Fernández wrote in an article. She told how staff had discussed whether they should have self-censored, as journalists who do not self-censor face the prospect of losing support. But she argued that self-censorship was not a route they wanted to go down.

That was not Pikara’s first controversy. A previous one came when it interviewed a porn star, Amarna Miller. Following much criticism, the magazine issued a letter to readers to justify the decision, and lost a subscriber. The publication also became embroiled in a debate after publishing an opinion piece arguing against breastfeeding.

Pikara’s experience illustrates the power that an audience’s opinion has over editorial decisions. Even feeling the need to state openly that it will not self-censor says a lot.

Andrea Momoitio, a journalist with Pikara, told Index about the intense “agitation around certain movements” and worried that the “media are heading towards niche journalism”. She added: “The more specialised the public is, the more we know their interests, the harder it is to do independent journalism.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_icon icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-quote-left” size=”xl”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading text=”Journalists working in Catalonia for national media, such as television channels Antena 3 and La Sexta, are branded as “manipulators” by pro-independence social movements” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left” google_fonts=”font_family:Libre%20Baskerville%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700|font_style:400%20italic%3A400%3Aitalic”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

As editor-in-chief of local newspaper La Opinión in Murcia, Lola García selects content every day.

“Sometimes journalists cannot detach themselves from what surrounds them, so it is easy to get carried away. We need to be more alert than ever,” said García.

“Everything is polarised and, on many occasions, it is necessary to take sides. The key is to do it with truthful and fact-checked information.”

Indeed, the polarisation of Spanish politics, which became evident with extreme right-wing party Vox getting 52 seats in parliament last November, has been reflected in the media. Outlets show marked ideologies and provoke opposing and radical opinions.

In certain cases, this exaltation of ideology turns journalists into advocates for one side or the other. “The role of journalists as analysts is being left aside,” Momoitio said.

This also happens when pitching ideas for pieces or investigations.

Investigative journalist Paula Guisado, who works for national newspaper El Mundo, thinks the difference between self-censorship and a simple choice of content is “very subtle”.

“In my case, it’s a matter of knowing what the media outlet I work for prefers to publish. I invest my time in pitching topics I know will be better received. In corruption scandals, for instance, we all know El Mundo prefers to talk about PSOE [the left-wing party now in power] and El País would rather investigate [the right-wing] PP.”

Rather than seeing this as self-censorship, Guisado says it is “taking advantage of the environment you are working in”.

But García said: “When decisions are made based on non-journalistic criteria, it is self-censorship. When media business, ideology or other interests come into play, the pressure on journalists is intense.”

Job insecurity lies at the heart of this issue. The aforementioned 2016 Annual Report of the Journalistic Profession noted this pressure comes mostly from “people related to ownership or management of the media outlet”, especially when it comes to freelancers. In addition, failing to give in to the pressure can lead to consequences including, in many cases, being dismissed.

Luis Palacio Llanos, who oversees these reports, sees a possible relationship between the precariousness of the industry and self-censorship. “Between 2012 and 2018, and probably before that, unemployment and job insecurity was the main professional concern for Spanish journalists, according to our annual surveys. In 2019, this fell to second place, surpassed by bad pay, another sign of a precarious industry. In addition, journalists always rated their independence when carrying out their job below 5 on a scale of 0 to 10. Over the past few years, less than a quarter of journalists stated they had never been pressured to change significant parts of their pieces.”

The financial crisis that began in 2008 had a lot to do with the rise of self-censorship among journalists. The fall in advertising caused thousands of layoffs and the closure of hundreds of media operations. By 2012, more than 6,200 journalists had lost their jobs, according to the Spanish Federation of Journalist Associations. By 2014, 11,145 journalists had been fired and 100 media outlets had closed.

Momoitio believes the crisis and self-censoring go hand in hand. “The audience demands a very compassionate journalism, which does not take you out of your comfort zone. Journalism is going through such a long crisis that it has to adapt to these requests.”

Palacio added: “Surely the crisis and the deterioration in working conditions have been the main factors in the increase in self-censorship. This has been superimposed on a structural crisis that began at the end of the 20th century alongside the expansion of digitalisation.”

Digital is, of course, another aspect. Social media was central to the Pikara episode. In a time when information reaches millions of people in a matter of seconds, the reaction of a large digital audience can make journalists more vulnerable – and cautious.

“Social media greatly promotes self-censorship,” said Momoitio. The audience “follows you because you tell the stories they want to hear, from their perspective. That is very dangerous and irresponsible”.

García added: “Social media is a double-edged sword. There is greater projection, but it can trigger uncontrolled reactions.”


Silvia Nortes is a freelance journalist based in Murcia, Spain

Index on Censorship’s spring 2020 issue is entitled Complicity: Why and when we chose to censor ourselves and give away our privacy  

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Violence, corruption and censorship: The realities of being a journalist in Bulgaria


After Bulgarian news reporter Maria Dimitrova helped expose an organised crime group from Vratsa’s involvement in fraud and drug trafficking, she received threatening text and Facebook messages. One of the gang’s victims, who spoke to Dimitrova for her report, was later attacked by three unidentified men. According to investigative journalism outlet Bivol, investigators from the Vratsa police precinct, where Dimitrova was questioned, “acted cynically and with disparagement”.

In November 2017, Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom platform, which monitors press freedom violations in 43 countries, revealed that members of the gang had planned to murder Georgi Ezekiev, the publisher of the Zov News, where Dimitrova works/had worked.

Zoltan Sipos, MMF’s Bulgaria correspondent, says such violations have had a marked impact on the country’s media, adding that “sophisticated” soft censorship is a “big problem”.

“Self-censorship is also an issue in Bulgaria, though the nature of this form of censorship is that its existence is difficult to prove unless journalists come forward with their experiences,” he says.

Under increasing pressure from the government and a media environment becoming more and more censored, journalists within Bulgaria are finding themselves in danger. With an inadequate legal framework, pressure from editors and other limitations, journalists regularly self-censor or suffer the consequences.

Sipos has made 40 reports of media freedom violations in Bulgaria since the project’s launch in 2014.

In May 2018, a report was filed of an investigative journalist was assaulted outside his home in Cherven Bryag, a town in northwestern Bulgaria.

Hristo Geshov writes for the regional investigative reporting website Za Istinata, works with journalistic online platform About the Truth and hosts a programme called On Target on YouTube. In a Facebook post, he said the attack was a response to his investigative reporting and “to the warnings [he] sent to the authorities about the management of finances by the Cherven Bryag municipal government”.

Geshov faced harassment after publishing a series of articles about government irregularities, in which he claimed that three municipal councillors were using EU funds to renovate their homes.

“It is unacceptable that Bulgarian journalists should be the target of physical attacks and that there should even be plots to kill them, simply because they are engaged in investigating official corruption,” Paula Kennedy, the assistant editor for Mapping Media Freedom, said.

“The authorities need to take such attacks seriously and do more to ensure adequate protection for those targeted.”

Bulgarian journalists are also being limited by legislation designed by politicians as a means of censorship. Backed by Bulgarian MPs, amendments to the Law for the Compulsory Depositing of Print Media would force media outlets in the country to declare any funding, such as grants, donations and other sources of income that they receive from foreign funders. Ninety-two members of parliament voted for the amendments on the first reading on 4 July, with 12 against and 28 abstentions. Unlike most legislation, there was no parliamentary debate beforehand.

With the second reading due in September, when it will have to be once again approved by parliament, and the president still has the right to veto it, amendments would force outlets to clearly state the current owner on their website, how much funding they received, who it was from and what it is for.

MPs claim the aim is to make the funding of media organisations more transparent.   

Referred to as “Delyan Peevski’s media law”, the amendments were first proposed in February 2018 by MP Deylan Peevski, a politician and media owner. Almost 80% of Bulgarian print media and its distribution is controlled by Peevski, former head of Bulgaria’s main intelligence agency and owner of the New Bulgarian Media Group.

The amendments will create two categories of media, separating those funded by grants and those who receive funding from “normal” practices such as bank loans, which they are not obliged to declare. Peevski-owned media is funded predominantly through bank loans, with his family receiving loans from now-bankrupt Corporate Commercial Bank.  

There are few independent media outlets remaining in Bulgaria, with fears the new law will only increase the level of self-censorship within the country. Amendments will put additional pressure on media outlets that rely on foreign grants and donations to maintain their editorial independence.

Atanas Tchobanov, co-founder of Bivol, told MMF the amendments are a way to “whiten [Peevski’s] image”, adding: “The bill is exposing mainly the small media outlets, living on grants and donations. If a businessman gives [Bivol] €240 per year with a €20 month recurrent donation and we disclose his name, his business might be attacked by the Peevski’s controlled tax office and prosecution.

“Delyan Peevski has blatantly lied about his media ownership in the past. Then, miraculously, he started declaring millions in income, but this was never found strange by any anti-corruption institution.”

The level of transparency required of independent media owners has become a major issue within the country, threatening independent journalism and editorial independence.

Speaking at the biannual Time to Talk debate meeting in Amsterdam, Irina Nedeva from The Red House, the centre for culture and debate in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, Bulgaria, tells Index: “We live in very strange media circumstances. On the surface, it might look like Bulgaria has many different private media print outlets, radio stations, many different private tv channels, but in fact what we see is that especially in the print press, more of the serious newspapers cease to exist.”

“They don’t exist anymore, they can’t afford to exist because the business model has changed and what we see is that we have many tabloids,” she adds. “These tabloids are one and the same just with reshaped sentences.”

Nedeva is concerned that such publications don’t adequately criticise the government or businesses. “They criticise only the civil society organisations that dare to show the wrongdoings of the government for example.”

In an effort to examine media ownership within Bulgaria, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom undertook a press freedom mission in June 2018. The mission found money from government and advertising is distributed to media considered to be compliant. EU funding is controlled by the government, giving those in charge the power to decide which publications receive what. This has created an atmosphere of self-censorship, dubbed “highly corrupting” by an ECPMF into press freedom in Bulgaria.

“There seems to be no enabling environment, politically or economically for independent journalism and media pluralism”, describing the media situation as a “systemic symptom of a captured state,” Nora Wehofsits, advocacy officer for ECPMF tells Index. “If the new media law is accepted, it could have a chilling effect on media and journalists working for “the wrong side”, as the media law could be used arbitrarily in order to accuse and silence them.”

Lada Price, a journalism lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University and Director of Education at the Centre for Freedom of the Media describes for Index the role the media owners play: “There’s lots of abuse of power for personal gain and I think, therein lies the biggest issue for free speech in Bulgaria. Media outlets are not being bought for commercial purposes, but for political purposes. They like to follow their own political and business agendas, and they’re not afraid to use that power to censor criticisms of government or any corporate partners.”

Price says that while the constitution guarantees the right to receive and disseminate information, the media landscape in Bulgaria is very hostile for journalism “because of the informal system of networks, which is dominated by mutual, beneficial relationships”.

“There is a very close-knit political, corporate and media elite and that imposes really serious limits on what journalists can and can not report,” she says. “If you speak to journalists, they might say whoever pays the bill has a say on what gets published and that puts limits on independence. There is no direct censorship, but lots of different ways to make journalists self-censor.”

ECPMF also said in its report into press freedom in Bulgaria that the difficulties media workers face are due to the current censorship climate, adding: “It is difficult to produce quality journalism due to widespread self-censorship and the struggle to stay independent in a highly dependent market.”

Funding from the EU and its allocation has become a controversial issue for media outlets in the country. In January 2018 ECPMF called for fair distribution of EU funds to media in Bulgaria, saying “the Bulgarian government should disseminate funds on an equal basis to all of the media, also to the ones who are critical of the government”. It also requested that the EU actively monitor how EU taxpayers’ money is spent in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian journalism is heavily reliant on EU funding and during the economic crisis of 2008/2009, advertisement revenues fell, making both print media and broadcasters much more dependent on state subsidies.

“When it comes to public broadcasters, they are basically fully dependent on the state budget,” says Price. “That means funding comes from whoever is in power, so they are very careful of what kind of criticisms [they publish], who they criticise. Their directors also get appointed by the majority in parliament.”

“The funding schemes that put restrictions on journalism is by EU funding, which shouldn’t really happen,” she adds. “But if you have your funding which is aimed at information campaigns then that is sometimes channelled by government agencies, but only towards selected media, which we see in the form of state advertising, in exchange for providing pro-government politic coverage.”

According to the US State Department’s annual report on human rights practices, released in April 2018, media law in Bulgaria is being used to silence and put pressure on journalists. ECPMF, in a report released in May 2018, described the current legislation as not adequately safeguarding independent editorial policies or prevent politicians from owning media outlets or direct/indirect monitoring mechanisms.

This was also reiterated by the US State Department’s report, which highlighted concerns that journalists who reported on corruption face defamation suits “by politicians, government officials, and other persons in public positions”.

“According to the Association of European Journalists, journalists generally lost such cases because they could rarely produce hard evidence in court,” the US State Department said.

The report also showed journalists in the country continue to “report self-censorship, [and] editorial prohibitions on covering specific persons and topics, and the imposition of political points of view by corporate leaders,” while highlighting persistent concerns about damage to media pluralism due to factors such as political pressure and a lack of transparency in media ownership.

Nelly Ognyanova, a prominent Bulgarian media law expert, tells Index that the biggest problem Bulgaria faces is “the lack of rule of law”.

“In the years since democratic transition, there is freedom of expression in Bulgaria; people freely criticise and express their opinions,” she says. “At the same time, the freedom of the media depends not only on the legal framework.”

In her view, the media lacks freedom because “their funding is often in dependence on power and businesses”, and “the state continues to play a key role in providing a public resource to the media”.

“The law envisages the independence of the media regulator, the independence of the public media, media pluralism. This is not happening in practice. There can be no free media, neither democratic media legislation, in a captured state.”[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwd2lkdGglM0QlMjI3MDAlMjIlMjBoZWlnaHQlM0QlMjIzMTUlMjIlMjBzcmMlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRm1hcHBpbmdtZWRpYWZyZWVkb20udXNoYWhpZGkuaW8lMkZzYXZlZHNlYXJjaGVzJTJGNzUlMkZtYXAlMjIlMjBmcmFtZWJvcmRlciUzRCUyMjAlMjIlMjBhbGxvd2Z1bGxzY3JlZW4lM0UlM0MlMkZpZnJhbWUlM0U=[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1536667459548-83ac2a47-7e8a-7″ taxonomies=”8996″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

#IndexAwards2003: Fergal Keane, Outstanding Commitment to Journalism Integrity


Fergal Keane is a journalist who made his name as a war reporter at the end of millennium, covering conflicts from Congo and Rwanda to Kosovo. In 2003, the Index on Censorship recognised his efforts with their award for Outstanding Commitment to Journalism Integrity. It wasn’t Keane’s first award, and it wasn’t his last either. On top of his Orwell Prize (1996) and Amnesty International Press Award (1993) and Television Prize (1994), his OBE and his BAFTA (both from 1997), Keane has since added a Sony Gold award in 2009, for his inspiring Radio 4 series ‘Taking a Stand’, and the Ireland Funds Literary Award in 2015.

In 2004, following decades in the profession, Keane made the decision to stop entering active war zones. “I couldn’t justify potentially robbing my children of a father,” he told the Daily Telegraph in 2010. “I couldn’t do it anymore.” But despite a slight career shift, Keene continues his commitment to journalism and justice just as fervently. He is now a special correspondent for the BBC, still writing and broadcasting on topics like the refugee crisis, the Yemen conflict and the South Sudan civil war – though sometimes from afar – as well as often being dispatched to the latest scenes of terrorism in Europe, whether France, Belgium or Germany. Wherever he is, he retains an insight and awareness of historical context that few can match.

Beyond the BBC, he is also the author of several well-received books and in 2011 he received an honorary degree from the University of Liverpool, where he is now three years into a Professorial Fellowship. He is part of the university’s Institute of Irish Studies, teaching students on the Understanding Conflict masters programme.

Speaking to the university’s website in 2015, Fergal criticised the “endlessly reductive” mainstream press and urged his students to “always challenge your opinions with facts, every day of your life. You will only know what your opinions are worth if they are taken out of the box and subjected to the most severe tests. Facts, facts, facts.”

Not all Keane’s work is confined to journalism, however. In 2005, he founded Msaada, an NGO dedicated to assisting Rwandans – and Rwandan society – to recover from the 1994 genocide, through meaningful, income-generating projects. It continues to support such projects today.

Samuel Earle is a member of Index on Censorship’s Youth Advisory Board. He is a freelance writer and recent masters graduate from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he studied Political Theory. He lives in Paris.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”85476″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=””][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards

Seventeen years of celebrating the courage and creativity of some of the world’s greatest journalists, artists, campaigners and digital activists

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