These 10 journalists have been wrongly punished for covering the coronavirus crisis and other important topics

April 1, 2020, 12:45 PM UTC

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads worldwide, journalists are dedicated to covering the outbreak and and providing the public with important information.

However, some members of the press have been censored and condemned for their coronavirus reporting.

Freelance economic reporter Mohammad Mosaed of Iran, for example, warned about the pandemic and criticized the Iranian government for being unprepared to handle the coronavirus. Mosaed, who has since been arrested and is awaiting trial, can’t practice journalism, and all of his social media accounts have been suspended.

This also goes for Chinese video journalist Chen Qiushi, who disappeared more than six weeks ago and is still missing after reporting on the current global health crisis. In a Twitter update, Chen’s friends said they believe he is being held in residential surveillance.

Many other journalists around the globe have been punished for their reporting on topics and disciplines beyond the coronavirus outbreak. Cuban journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones was covering a trial for CubaNet and apparently showed “resistance” to police in doing so. He has since spent more than six months behind bars—and even time in solitary confinement.

Award-winning reporter Azimjon Askarov has been held even longer. Askarov has served nine-plus years of a life sentence for reporting on human rights violations in Kyrgyzstan. He is preparing for a final appeal.

In conjunction with 36 other media organizations, Fortune is committed to helping journalists achieve justice and freedom by publishing a monthly list of the 10 Most Urgent press freedom cases (see below).

Compiled by the One Free Press Coalition (OFPC) in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), the lists have brought awareness to the dangers journalists face. (You can read last month’s list here.)

1. Mohammad Mosaed (Iran)

Journalist who warned about pandemic, banned from work and social media.
Freelance economic reporter Mohammad Mosaed awaits a court date, after intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) arrested and interrogated him in February regarding social media accounts critical of the government. The criticism included Iran’s lack of preparedness in tackling the coronavirus outbreak. Until trial, authorities bar him from practicing journalism and suspended his social media accounts. Last year he endured 16 days in Evin prison for his tweets and was released on bail.

2. Maria Ressa (Philippines)

Editor facing potential detention, arrested again March 28.
Rappler editor Maria Ressa is scheduled for trial April 24, expecting a verdict on a cyber-libel charge brought by local businessman Wilfredo Keng regarding a May 2012 story. The relevant law took effect four months after the story in question was published. Depending on how judges interpret the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Act, Ressa could face six years in prison. 

3. Alaa Abdel Fattah (Egypt)

Family of jailed journalist protests prisons’ inaction in preventing COVID-19 threat.
While blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah is held in Cairo’s Tora prison, three of his family members face charges of unlawful protest, illegal assembly, and obstructing traffic in their call to protect prisoners from the spread of the coronavirus. They were released on bail exceeding $300 apiece. After reporting about politics and human rights violations, Abdel Fattah has endured threats and been told he will never go free if he speaks of guards’ abuse.

4. Chen Qiushi (China)

Journalist covering coronavirus disappeared more than six weeks ago.
Freelance video journalist Chen Qiushi has not been seen since Feb. 6, when he informed family of plans to report on a temporary hospital. In late January, he had traveled from Beijing to the city of Wuhan in Hubei province and began filming and reporting on the coronavirus health crisis, according to his posts on YouTube. Friends running his Twitter account believe he is likely held in residential surveillance.

5. Claudia Julieta Duque (Colombia)

Journalist fears for her life, amid government-orchestrated threats.
After 19 years of persecution and legal censorship, award-winning journalist Claudia Julieta Duque told IWMF that she learned on Feb. 29 about an ongoing criminal threat against her life. According to Duque, former agents of the state institution in charge of protecting human rights defenders and at-risk journalists, called the National Protection Unit (UNP), were reportedly ordered to carry out intelligence activities from February 2018 to July 2019 to infiltrate Duque’s security scheme and threaten her welfare.

6. Martin Inoua Doulguet (Chad)

Imprisoned publisher undertook hunger strike while awaiting appeal.
No date has been set, following postponement of a March 12 appeal in the case of Martin Inoua Doulguet, publisher of Salam Info. He was found guilty on criminal charges of defamation and conspiracy in September, and sentenced to three years in prison. The privately owned quarterly newspaper reports on crime and politics in Chad, and Doulguet’s penalty includes a $1,675 fine and paying part of the $33,514 in plaintiff damages.

7. Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan)

Journalist serving life sentence prepares for final appeal.
On April 6, a Kyrgyz court is scheduled to hear the final appeal in the case of award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov. The ethnic Uzbek, who reported on human rights, has spent more than nine years imprisoned on trumped-up charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer. The decade-long case has drawn persistent international condemnation, and Kyrgyzstan’s only imprisoned journalist’s health deteriorates.

8. Roberto Jesús Quiñones (Cuba)

Journalist subject to inhumane prison conditions.
Cuban journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones has spent more than six months behind bars, experiencing worsening treatment. Staff listen to all of his phone calls, have served him food containing worms, and upon learning of his secretly publishing from prison, suspended family visits and put him in solitary confinement. A municipal court in Guantánamo sentenced him to serve one year as a result of “resistance” and “disobedience” when police beat and detained him for covering a trial as a CubaNet contributor last April and his refusal to pay a fine imposed on him following this incident.

9. Ignace Sossou (Benin

Reporter experiences repeated retaliation for his work. 
On two different occasions last year, Benin courts delivered prison sentences to Ignace Sossou, a reporter for privately owned site Web TV. The first was a one-month imprisonment and fine of $850 for publishing “false information” about local business dealings. Then came an 18-month sentence and fine of $337 for defamation and disinformation in his reporting on public statements made by public prosecutor Mario Mètonou.

10. Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia)

Turkish and U.S. leaders continue pressuring for justice in wake of journalist’s murder.
On March 25 Turkish officials indicted 20 Saudi nationals in the ongoing pursuit for answers surrounding Jamal Khashoggi’s brazen killing in Istanbul in 2018 and the Saudi crown prince’s role. That follows a March 3 news conference with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Tom Malinowski, and the Washington Post columnist’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, announcing that they are invoking procedures within the Senate intelligence committee to provide a congressional release of information from intelligence agencies.

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