Ugly time for journalists: June's 10 most urgent cases around the world

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

In June, the list of journalists that have undergone imprisonment, violence, and tortures across the globe includes the cases of Masrat Zahra, Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco and Azimjon Askarov.


1. Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram al-Waleedi, Hareth Hameed and Tawfiq al-Mansouri (Yemen)


After the sentence of death earlier in April, June 9 will mark 5 years in detention for Yemeni journalists Abdulkhaleq Amran, Akram al-Waleedi, Hareth Hameed and Tawfiq al-Mansouri. The Ansar Allah group, known as the Houthis, charged the four with spreading false news "in support of the crimes of Saudi aggression and its allies against the Republic of Yemen." Their lawyer, who is planning to appeal, has been allowed to have limited courtroom access. More than 150 organizations have called for the decision to be overturned.

2. Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan)

Last month a Kyrgyz court heard the final appeal, and upheld the life sentence, in the case of award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov. June 15 marks 10 years since the ethnic Uzbek was arrested on trumped-up charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer. His wife, Khadicha Askarova, has written a letter to Kyrgyzstan’s president begging for his release as his health deteriorates with a harsh imposition for limited access to health care.

Azimjon Askarov, a contributor to independent news websites, including Voice of Freedom and director of the local human rights group Vozdukh (Air). Courtesy of Sherzod Askarov

3. Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco (Mozambique)

Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco, a reporter and news presenter for Palma Community Radio broadcaster, has been missing since April 7, when he left work in the northern Cabo Delgado province and texted a colleague saying he was "surrounded by soldiers." Civil society organizations have sent a letter to Mozambican President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi expressing huge concern about the deteriorating human rights situation exemplified by Mbaruco’s apparent military-enforced disappearance. Yet, the Ibraimo is still missing.

Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco, a reporter and news presenter for Palma Community Radio broadcaster, hasn't been heard from since April 7. Courtesy of Juma Abu Mbaruco

4. Nariman Memedeminov (Russia)


In mid-May, a Russian appeals court upheld charges against Nariman Memedeminov, a Ukrainian freelance journalist who was sentenced last October to 2,5 years in prison. He had already served 1,5 years in pre-trial detention between his arrest in Russian-controlled Crimea and conviction for making "public calls to terrorism" in his reporting. His defence team is planning to file a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.

5. Nouf Abdulaziz (Saudi Arabia)


June 6 marks two years since Saudi blogger and postgraduate student Nouf Abdulaziz was arrested at her home, among a broad wave of activists silenced for their work relating to gender equality. A trial is pending for the public prosecutor to present several charges including "contact with foreign entities". Abdulaziz is being held in Riyadh’s al-Hair Prison, one of 26 journalists imprisoned in Saudi Arabia according to CPJ’s 2019 prison census, tying it with Egypt for the third-leading jailer of journalists.


6. Wawa Jackson Nfor (Cameroon)


Journalist Wawa Jackson Nfor faces arraignment before a new judge on June 8, after more than two years in pretrial detention on accusations of publishing secessionist information. A guilty verdict could carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. National gendarmes in Nkambe, a city in Cameroon's English-speaking Northwest region, arrested Nfor without a warrant in May 2018.

Cameroonian journalist Wawa Jackson Nfor Courtesy of Derrick Bakah

7. Arphine Helisoa (Madagascar)


The director of Madagascar's Ny Valosoa -meaning ‘The Reward’- newspaper, Arphine Helisoa, faces trial for allegations of "incitement" and spreading "false news" regarding President Andry Rajoelina. Even though she has been released since April 4 arrest, a conviction could carry up to five years in prison and possible prohibition of additional rights, including voting, for up to 10 years. Helisoa has been previously detained in 2019 for "defamation" for a report alleging improper use of military equipment.

Arphine Helisoa, the director of Madagascar’s Ny Valosoa (The Reward) newspaper. Courtesy of Nadia Raonimanalina

8. Masrat Zahra (India)


Masrat Zahra, a freelance photojournalist in Kashmir, could face a very high fine or up to seven years in prison under a law permitting India's counterterrorism police to detain suspects for extended periods without a formal charge. Police summoned her for questioning earlier in April, opening an investigation of photographs posted on social media “glorifying anti-national activities” without specifying which images were deemed "an offence against the state."


9. Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia)

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are reportedly working on new legislation to push the Trump administration to release secret findings on the full extent of Saudi Arabia’s role in Jamal Khashoggi’s death. In the time since the Washington Post columnist was killed inside Istanbul's Saudi consulate in 2018, there has been no independent criminal investigation, and the U.S. executive branch ignored a mandated release of an intelligence report due January 19, 2020.

10. Óscar Parra and the Rutas del Conflicto team (Colombia)


Media outlet Rutas del Conflicto, which is dedicated to documenting Colombia’s armed conflict, and its director, Óscar Parra, have been targeted by military intelligence officials in an extensive monitoring operation. The information collected from more than 130 individuals, including 30-plus journalists, included personal information such as professional contacts, family and friends, according to a May 1st report from Colombian newsweekly Semana, titled “The Secret Files”.

Image credit DW

We at Urban Kapital call for immediate justice for each of them, and for all those who are still unheard.

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