Read all about it: the journalists spending World Press Freedom Day in the dock, a hospital bed, a cell or in the morgue

Stunt double, acrobat, soldier, miner, sky diver, poison taster, astronaut, journalist … there are some dangerous professions out there and no mistake, but being a hack is a surprisingly hazardous trade.

Tomorrow is World Press Freedom Day, but this year, there’s a depressing line-up of journalists who will be spending the day in a dock, a hospital bed, a prison cell or in the morgue…

It is often the case that when the powerful don’t like the message, they shoot the messenger. Consequently freedom of the press is a barometer for the wider rights situation in a country. Which does not bode well for Pakistan.

Pakistan: journalists under fire

In a Pakistan five journalists have already been killed so far this year. That number does not include the attempted assassinations, kidnappings, threats and endemic harassment. The picture painted in a new Amnesty report published this week is a bleak one: in Pakistan, journalists are being censored through assassination.

Less than a fortnight ago, a particularly high-profile attempted killing of a journalist brought the crisis into the spotlight. Hamid Mir is a very popular news anchor in the country, with an extremely high profile – Pakistan’s Paxman, after a fashion – who works for the largest private broadcaster in the country, GeoTV. On 19 April the political talk show host was shot three times by gunmen in Karachi, with the bullets striking his intestines, leg and pelvis.

Hamid Mi survived, and has gone on to accuse Pakistan’s feared military spy agency - the Inter-Services Intelligence - of carrying out the attack. The ISI has denied any involvement, but alarmingly the government has now made moves to close down GeoTV. The entire episode is a chilling reminder of the ever-present threat of violent censorship that hangs over media enterprises, as well as individual journalists.

Journalists worry the powerful. They have the eyes and ears of the population and have an irritating habit of throwing light on secrets. They also make for useful sacrificial lambs – a warning shot to anyone who dares to investigate, expose or criticise.

Burma: newspaper black outs

Pakistan is not alone in taking aim at journalists. There appears to be an intensified crackdown on press freedom in Burma, where six media workers have been arrested so far this year– Zaw Pe, a video journalist for the media organisation the Democratic Voice of Burma, was sentenced to a year in prison after investigating corruption in Magwe Region.

Meanwhile, four journalists and the head of the Unity newspaper, have been detained for an article on an alleged chemical weapons factory, also in Magwe. This seems to point to a worrying regression to the bad old ways of the military regime in Burma.

Egypt: journalism is not a crime

But when it comes to grabbing headlines on the persecution of journalists, we must hold the front page for Egypt.

Tomorrow, on World Press Freedom Day, in a cruel irony, Egypt will resume the trial of three Al Jazeera journalists - Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed. The three are accused of ‘broadcasting false news’ and giving a platform to the Muslim Brotherhood.

In total 20 journalists are on trial - nine are Al Jazeera staff. As well as the three in detention, six staff are being tried in their absence. They are British journalists Dominic Kane and Sue Turton, and four unnamed Egyptian staff based in Qatar. A Dutch journalist, who does not work for Al Jazeera, left the country after discovering she would face trial. 

This case comes amid a wider crackdown on the Al Jazeera network and other media seen as supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Mohamed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood was banned by a court order last September and designated a ‘terrorist organisation’ in December.

During the last few months, Al Jazeera has reported a number of incidents where Egyptian security forces have arrested its staff or raided its offices. The network’s Egyptian channel, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, was banned on 3 September, along with three other channels widely seen as supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Amnesty considers the three detained journalists to be prisoners of conscience, persecuted for simply doing their jobs. Please call on the Egyptian authorities to release them.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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