Updated: May 3
2 May 2023 – Ahead of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation projected images of journalists who have been unjustly detained around the world at London’s Canary Wharf.
The illuminations featured Australian-Chinese journalist Cheng Lei, Hong Kong journalist Jimmy Lai, Iranian journalist Niloofar Hamedi, French-Afghan journalist Mortaza Behboudi, American journalist Evan Gershkovich, and Ethiopian journalist Meskerem Abera, all of whom have been imprisoned simply for writing the truth.
Cheng Lei is a former television anchor for the Chinese-state run media outlet CGTN. Ms Lei was arrested for “illegally supplying state secrets overseas”. Beijing barred Australian officials from Lei’s March 2022 closed-door trial. World Press Freedom Day marks Ms Lei’s 922nd day of detention.
Jimmy Lai is a Hong Kong journalist and publisher who founded the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper. Mr Lai, a British citizen, was originally detained for allegedly violating Apple Daily’s office lease. The newspaper was later forcibly closed and six other staff members are also detained. Mr Lai has been denied his choice of lawyer for his upcoming National Security Law trial. Mr Lai has been in prison for 852 days.
Niloofar Hamedi is a reporter for Shargh, a reformist newspaper in Iran. The Iranian regime arrested Ms Hamedi for visiting and reporting on Mahsa Amini who was detained for not wearing a hijab and whose death while in custody sparked nationwide protests. Ms Hamedi has been in prison for 222 days.
Mortaza Behboudi is an Afghan journalist who sought self-imposed exile in France, freelancing for many French media outlets including France Télévisions, TV5 Monde, Arte, Radio France, Mediapart, Libération, and La Croix. Mr Behboudi was immediately arrested by the Taliban upon returning to Afghanistan as a reporter. Mr Behboudi has been in prison for 115 days.
Evan Gershkovich is a Wall Street Journal reporter who was detained by the Russian Federation for “collecting state secrets about Russia’s military industrial complex”. Mr Gershkovich has been in prison for 34 days.
Meskerem Abera is the founder and editor of the YouTube-based media outlet Ethio Nikat Media. Ms Abera was arrested, for the third time, in April 2023 for allegedly creating “vigilante groups”. Ms Abera was previously arrested for “trying to undermine the government” through her journalism. Ms Abera has been in prison for 23 days.
Press freedom is not free. It is being threatened in China, Hong Kong, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, Ethiopia, and throughout the world. There were 363 journalists jailed at the end of 2022 as well as 65 held hostage, 49 missing, and 57 killed in 2022.
The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation’s President, Mark Clifford, said:
“Journalism is not a crime. The journalists spotlighted at Canary Wharf are just a few of the hundreds of journalists worldwide who risk their liberty and, too often, their lives just to tell the truth. Freedom of the press is a right under international law. It is also the mark of a free and open society. On World Press Freedom Day, the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation calls on governments that hold journalists in jail to set them free.”