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5 actions you can take for journalists in September 2021

Journalists, media professionals and activists face danger everyday for holding the powerful to account for human rights abuses around the world. No-one should be sentenced to death just for doing their job.

It’s imperative that journalists safely continue to show the world for what it is, without being harassed, imprisoned, or killed.

Sylvia Liber, Photojournalist and Photography judge for the Amnesty International Australia Media Awards

Here are 5 actions you can take right now to defend the rights of journalists and media professionals:

Call on the Australian Government to prioritise humanitarian visas for Afghans

For two decades, Afghan journalists have put their lives on the line to support Australian men and women. In recent weeks and months, the Taliban has recaptured much of Afghanistan. These people face significant threats to their and their families’ safety from the Taliban.

Amnesty International Australia, the Refugee Advisory Group, and Afghan diaspora communities are calling for the Australian government to urgently expand the humanitarian program, to provide safe passage. The government did this in 2015 when they offered 12,000 additional places in the humanitarian program for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Call on the Australian Government to Prioritise Humanitarian Visas for Afghans.

Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule.
(Photo by Wakil Kohsar/AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Demand the release of 10 journalists in Yemen

Akram, Abdelkhaleq, Hareth and Tawfiq were just doing their job when they were detained and charged with “spying” and “creating several websites on the internet and social media.”

They have now been detained, alongside six other journalists, for five years. In December 2020 Amnesty International learned that Tawfiq al-Mansouri had been denied medical treatment while detained. Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“He should never have been imprisoned in the first place, let alone sentenced to death. Pending his overdue release, al-Mansouri must immediately be granted access to the medical care he so desperately needs by doctors of his choosing. We further call on the Huthi de facto authorities to immediately quash the death sentences issued to the four journalists after an unfair trial, to drop all pending unfounded charges and to release them without delay.”

Lynn Maalouf

Call on the Huthi de facto authorities to immediately quash their death sentences, and release all ten journalists.

Call for an end to the ongoing harassment and arrests of Maria Ressa

In June 2020 a Manila court convicted Maria Ressa and former journalist Reynaldo Santos of cyber libel. Both now face up to six years in prison, and have been ordered to pay nearly USD8000 in damages. Ressa and Santos are being singled out for their critical reporting of the Duterte administration, including ongoing human rights violations in the Philippines.

Since President Duterte came into power in 2016, thousands of poor and marginalised people have been murdered by police and others in extrajudicial killings. Maria and her team at the media outlet Rappler have been tireless in their efforts to investigate and expose this campaign of violence, intimidation and repression — even risking their own safety and freedom to do so.

In February 2019, Maria was arrested and detained overnight on “cyber-libel” charges. In June 2020 she was convicted of these charges which Maria say is an “abuse of power” and “weaponization of the law”.

The ongoing harassment and arrest of Maria is a disturbing attempt to silence independent journalism in the Philippines. Please join us in calling for the Department of Justice to quash the conviction end to politically-motivated prosecutions.

Maria Ressa. © Rappler
Maria Ressa. © Rappler

Demand the Chinese authorities release Yang Hengjun

Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun has been detained by the Chinese authorities since January 2019. Yang, a prominent writer and blogger, has amassed a large following for his novels and his often outspoken commentary on Chinese public affairs.

The government has accused him of espionage. For over a year the authorities denied him access to lawyers and to his family. For months following his detention, no one saw or heard from Yang.

Following public pressure, he was finally allowed to meet with Australian consular staff and his lawyer.

There are grave concerns that he is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Yang, who was previously in good health, is now suffering from hypertension, kidney problems, tinnitus and memory loss.

After a closed trial in May 2021, there has still been no verdict published. Demand the Chinese authorities release Yang Hengjun immediately and unconditionally.

Support Australian journalists by following the Amnesty International Australia Media Awards

The Amnesty International Australia Media Awards are held to recognise excellence in reporting of human rights issues in the Australian media.

Each year the awards acknowledge those Australian media stories that have presented a fair and balanced report of a human rights issue, highlighted hidden abuses and encouraged an audience’s greater understanding of a human rights issue. By following the awards you can support the hard work of Australian journalists as they challenge injustice.

Winners of the 2017 Television Award from “The Feed” SBS VICELAND at the Amnesty International Media Awards. © Joseph Mayers Photography