Recognizing Journalists Living in Exile

    Around the world, journalists who have been forced to flee their countries have continued to report on their homelands, exposing ongoing human rights violations while living in exile.

    Today, May 3, is World Press Freedom Day. But independent media faces increasing threats from abusive governments and armed groups worldwide. In 2023, Reporters Without Borders reported a surge of requests for help from journalists being threatened because of their work. Last year, the organization provided financial assistance to 460 journalists who had to flee abroad; the top countries where it intervened were Afghanistan, Russia, Myanmar, and Palestine. 

    The lives of journalists in exile can be rocky. They have too few resources, are forced to work from a distance, and often undertake their reporting at personal risk. They may face uncertain immigration status, digital harassment from foreign intelligence agencies operating abroad, and threats to their relatives remaining in their home country. That’s in addition to the ordinary difficulties of adjusting to life in a new country and often learning a new language.

    But more organizations are supporting journalists in exile, helping them form networks and continue their essential work. The Network of Exiled Media Outlets, together with the US-based International Center for Journalists, has created a toolkit for journalists in exile to share knowledge and best practices. The Europe-based JX Fund says it has supported more than 1,600 journalists who fled crisis regions in returning to work. The Afghanistan Journalists Support Organization works to boost communication among Afghan journalists worldwide, among other goals.

    Today, Human Rights Watch and its partners announced the recipients of the 2024 Human Rights Press Awards for outstanding reporting on human rights issues across Asia. For the first time, this year’s awards included the category of “newsrooms in exile.”

    Two media organizations won in this new category. Frontier Myanmar received the award for its coverage of how Myanmar’s military, steeped in Buddhist nationalism, has targeted Bayingyi, a Roman Catholic minority. Zan Times, a women-led publication covering rights abuses in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, received the award for its reporting on the increase in female suicides in the country.

    This new category of awards should draw much-needed attention to journalists in exile, so that more groups will support their crucial investigative reporting.

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