One Free Press Coalition Spotlights Journalists Under Attack – January 2021

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CPJ’s Impunity Index has shown that, in eight out of 10 cases, the killers of journalists go free. On August 13, José Abelardo Liz was shot and killed during a two-day military campaign to remove members of the Nasa indigenous group from land near the western Colombian town of Corinto. Liz, 34, was a member of the Nasa indigenous group and hosted a daily news and culture program, El Sabor de la Tarde. A spokesperson for the Nasa community said that soldiers “fired indiscriminately” at Nasa civilians and shot Liz in the chest. To date, there has been no progress in the investigation.

6. Maria Elena Ferral (Mexico)
A dangerous year in Mexico

At least five journalists died in Mexico in 2020. On March 30, two unidentified men on a motorcycle shot Maria Elena Ferral at least three times while she was leaving the office of a local notary in the city of Papantla, in Veracruz state. She was rushed to a hospital and died during surgery. Ferral was a correspondent for El Diario de Xalapa newspaper and also cofounded El Quinto Poder, a local news website. Veracruz state authorities have issued arrest warrants for at least 11 people allegedly involved in the murder and arrested six of the suspects in the weeks following. Ferral’s daughter said her mother’s life had been in danger because of her writing about the murders of several candidates for mayor of Gutiérrez Zamora.

7. Luis Alonzo Almendares (Honduras)
Local journalists bear the brunt of threats

About 96 percent of journalists killed in 2020 were local reporters. Freelancer Luis Alonzo Almendares was shot three times by two unidentified individuals on a motorcycle in September in Comayagua. While the shooters fled the scene, bystanders brought the journalist to a local hospital, and he died the next morning. Almendares had posted his local news reporting to his Facebook page, where he identified himself as “the voice of the Comayaguans.” He had more than 40,000 followers and frequently reported on alleged corruption and mismanagement by local officials. In mid-October, a police spokesperson said that evidence was being analyzed, a hypothesis for the case was still being worked on, and there had been no arrests. There has been no progress in the investigation. 

8. Malalai Maiwand (Afghanistan)
Local journalists bear the brunt of threats

Malalai Maiwand, a reporter at Enikass Radio and TV in Nangarhar and a women’s rights and civil society activist, and her driver were killed in December when unidentified attackers shot at her vehicle. She was on her way to work in Jalalabad, the provincial capital. Earlier in the year, Maiwand had mentioned she was receiving threats, and she had previously spoken about the challenges of being a female journalist in Afghanistan. Her killing came after representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban militant group recently agreed to a framework to move forward with peace talks in Qatar.

9. Raif Badawi (Saudi Arabia)
Threats for online reporters

Raif Badawi is a prominent blogger known for advocating secularism and a homegrown liberal system of governance in Saudi Arabia. In 2006, he founded an online discussion forum called Saudi Liberals that by 2008 had grown to more than 1,000 registered members who regularly discussed religion and politics. For his support of free discussion on liberal values, he was sentenced in 2012 to 10 years’ imprisonment, 1,000 lashes, a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (approximately $267,000), and a 10-year ban on travel and media activity to begin after his release. In January 2015, 50 of the 1,000 lashes were carried out in one public session. He has faced medical issues behind bars. He briefly went on hunger strike in August 2020, citing a lack of protection in prison, after another inmate attacked him.

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