From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Global Call to Release Jailed Journalists and Political Prisoners amid Coronavirus Pandemic

The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a call for world leaders to release jailed journalists and media workers amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter published yesterday, they asked on behalf of more than 250 journalists currently behind bars that they be freed “immediately and unconditionally.” They have now launched a campaign entitled #FreeThePress to put  pressure on governments who detain media workers.

The organisation writes that journalists jailed in countries affected by the virus are at risk of death due to the pandemic and that journalism “must not carry a death sentence”. 

“For journalists jailed in countries affected by the virus, freedom is now a matter of life and death. Imprisoned journalists have no control over their surroundings, cannot choose to isolate, and are often denied necessary medical care,” the statement reads.

The CPJ also reminded governments that the World Health Organisation has stated that “People deprived of their liberty, and those living or working in enclosed environments in their close proximity, are likely to be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease than the general population.”

Many of those imprisoned are deemed “political prisoners.” The CPJ asked all world leaders to protect the free press and the free flow of information at this crucial time. 

Amnesty International and 29 other media and human rights organisations have asked Turkey to release imprisoned journalists, human rights defenders and others, as Coronavirus continues to grip the country. 

While the Turkish authorities are preparing a draft law to release up to 100,000 prisoners, Amnesty International remains concerned that journalists and other political prisoners may not be included in the measures.

In a statement they wrote:

“Overcrowding and unsanitary facilities already pose a serious health threat to Turkey’s prison population of nearly 300,000 prisoners and about tens of thousands of prison staff. That will only be exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. However, we remain concerned that journalists, human rights defenders and others imprisoned for simply exercising their rights, and others who should be released, will remain behind bars in the package of measures as currently conceived by the government.”

The human rights organisation has called on Turkish authorities to also consider releasing elderly prisoners and those with serious medical conditions. They said authorities should ensure all prisoners have prompt access to medical and health attention, in line with the standards available in the community. 

The organisations asked the Turkish government to use the opportunity to immediately release unjustly imprisoned people. They asked that urgent consideration be given to the release of those who have not been convicted of any offence and those who are at particular risk in prison from a rapidly spreading disease in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions where their health cannot be guaranteed.