More than 200 Journalists Exiled since 2001, says CPJ

28 June 2007 at 23:02 | 13621 views

Eritrean journalist Milkeas Mihreteab narrowly escaped arrest when his
private newspaper office was raided by the authorities six years ago. He
crossed local borders on foot before getting passage to the United States,
where he was eventually granted asylum. In the U.S., Mihreteab has worked
at a coffee shop and as a security guard, but never as a journalist.

And with more than a dozen journalists imprisoned in Eritrea, his prospects for
going home are grim.

Mihreteab is just one of 243 cases of journalists forced into exile in the
past six years because of their work, according to a new report by the
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Launched on World Refugee Day (20 June), "Journalists in Exile" found that
of the 243 journalists, more than half of them came from just five
countries: Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Colombia and Uzbekistan. At least
three journalists a month flee their home countries to escape threats of
violence, prison or harassment, and only one in seven ever returns home.

Most of them flee to North America, Europe and Africa. In Canada - ranked
fourth as a major host country in CPJ’s survey - two IFEX members support programmes to help writers in exile.

There’s Canadian Journalists for Free Expression’s (CJFE) Journalists in
Exile (JEX) programme, which has welcomed more than 70 journalists from
around the world who fled their homelands because they were persecuted for
their work.

Launched in 2000, JEX serves to give a voice to exiled
journalists and to put them in touch with each other as well as the
Canadian media industry. CJFE has worked with JEX on a number of
initiatives, including language workshops, a profile directory of JEX
members and a JEX website - and provides a place for JEX members to meet
and share experiences and expertise.

CJFE also worked with PEN Canada and
other media groups to develop a one-year journalism programme at Sheridan
College for international, professionally-trained journalists. The
programme’s inaugural year is currently underway.

International PEN’s Writers in Exile Network, currently chaired by PEN
Canada, helps freed writers escape further persecution and find safety.

Most PEN centres were already assisting writers in exile with immigration
and asylum procedures, health, professional development and security, so
they created a network in 1999 to share information and be more efficient.

PEN Canada now offers exiled writers short-term university positions to
support them financially and give them a toehold in Canada’s literary and
academic community.

Some journalists who arrive in France find refuge at the Maison des
Journalistes, a safehouse in Paris. While it’s difficult to get exiled
journalists work in the French media - many don’t know the language, and
the French unions say hiring foreigners takes away jobs from those already
in France - the Maison offers them an opportunity to continue their work.
According to CPJ’s survey, more than two-thirds of journalists currently in
exile have been driven out of their jobs.

"The goal is to aid exiled journalists with the difficulties they face when
fleeing countries where they are persecuted, adapting to life in France,
and integrating into the French society," director and former Radio France
producer Philippe Spinau said in the World Association of Newspaper’s RAP
21 newsletter. Most of the Maison’s journalists are referred by Reporters
Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

The Maison publishes "L’Oeil de l’exilé", a weekly online journal that
showcases their articles. Journalists receive a daily meal ticket, a public
transportation pass and calling cards, as well as a room in the house,
located in a former factory. They can also take French classes and go on
"cultural" excursions. The Maison takes in 15 journalists at a time for up
to six months, usually when a journalist first lands and needs help
applying for asylum. Since its launch on World Press Freedom Day (3 May) in
2002, the Maison has housed 119 journalists from 40 different countries.

Other similar projects are underway in Berlin, Germany and Cadiz, Spain.
The Exiled Journalists Network in the UK, the only media group run by and
for exiled journalists, has just received unanimous backing from the
National Union of Journalists to create a safehouse in London, UK.

In Africa, where porous borders and harsh press freedom conditions
contribute to a steady exodus of journalists - 60 percent, according to CPJ
- the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD-Net)
offers a protection and internship programme for up to six months - within
the continent - for journalists at risk. Using its extensive partnerships
across the region, the network gives journalists temporary asylum and
resettlement in safer countries, even providing them with one-time relief

CPJ’s report "Journalists in Exile" includes a statistical analysis, an
audio report from a Colombian refugee and a multimedia slideshow. See:

Visit these resources:
- CJFE’s JEX directory (Canada):
- PEN’s Writers in Exile Network (Canada):
- Maison des Journalistes (France):
- Exiled Journalists Network (UK):
- EHAHRD-Net (Africa):
- IFEX resource page on emergency funds:

Also visit these links:
- RAP 21 story on Maison des Journalistes:
- Video of exiled Colombian journalist Jenny Manrique: