New York, March 30, 2020 --The Committee to Protect Journalists today launched the #FreeThePress campaign to call for the unconditional release of all jailed journalists to ensure their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the past four years, CPJ's annual census has found a record-high number of journalists in jail because of their work -- at least 250. Those journalists now face a potential death sentence.
The World Health Organization has said prisoners are particularly vulnerable to the virus, as self-isolation in jail is impossible, and prisoners are routinely denied medical treatment.
“CPJ has long held the view that jailing journalists for what they publish, broadcast, or write is a violation of international law,” said Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director. “But our current appeal is of a humanitarian nature. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly through prisons. We urge world leaders to take quick and decisive action to free all journalists behind bars, as a matter of life and death.”
CPJ also published a petition and an open letter to world leaders demanding the immediate release of imprisoned journalists. The campaign will feature video messages from formerly imprisoned journalists. The campaign will culminate on World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2020.
CPJ's coronavirus response page includes news coverage of journalists being arrested, assaulted, or censored for their work on the virus, as well as Q&A interviews with reporters on the front line. CPJ Emergencies is regularly updating its physical, digital, and psychosocial safety advice, which is available in more than 15 languages, and journalists and newsrooms can submit questions to CPJ's safety experts.
CPJ suggests the hashtag #FreeThePress on social media.