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Nearly 400 journalists exiled since 2001, says CPJ

RSF's Guide for Exiled Journalists is illustrated with cartoons by exiled cartoonists, such as this one by Samy Daina
RSF's Guide for Exiled Journalists is illustrated with cartoons by exiled cartoonists, such as this one by Samy Daina

Samy Daina,

Sri Lankan journalist Upali Tennakoon paid a heavy price for producing critical coverage of the government offensive against Tamil rebels this year. In January, he was driving to his office when four men on motorcycles smashed his car windows and beat him and his wife with metal bars. Fearing for their safety, the couple has since fled to the U.S. Back at home, no progress has been made in his case. "Without information about who did this and why, I don't think it is safe to go back," he said in a recent interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

At least 11 Sri Lankan journalists have been forced into exile in the past year because of their work amid an intensive crackdown on the media, a new report by CPJ shows.

Launched on World Refugee Day (20 June), "Journalists in Exile" found that of the 39 journalists who fled their home countries in the past 12 months, more than a quarter of them came from Sri Lanka. Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan and Russia also rank high among the nations from which journalists fled in the past year. They are among the deadliest countries for journalists and among the worst in solving crimes against the media, says CPJ.

According to the report, at least three journalists a month flee their home countries to escape threats of violence, prison or harassment, and only one in seven ever returns home.

"Sri Lanka is losing its best journalists to unchecked violence and the resulting conditions of fear and intimidation that are driving writers and editors from their homes," said CPJ. "This is a sad reality in countries throughout the worlds where governments allow attacks on the press to go unpunished."

Tennakoon is just one of nearly 400 journalists who have been driven into exile since 2001, according to CPJ. Only about one in three have been able to continue journalism careers in exile.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) marked World Refugee Day by publishing a guide for exiled journalists - providing them with information about the main procedures and potential obstacles in seeking asylum. The guide covers the steps to be taken with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and also asylum procedures within the European Union, the United States and Canada: three of the top destinations for exiled journalists.

It also provides practical advice and details of specialist organisations, such as one of IFEX's newest members, the London-based Exiled Journalists Network. EJN, the only media group run by and for exiled journalists, is planning to create a safehouse in London that would give exiled journalists an opportunity to continue their work. It is being modelled after the Paris refuge Maison des Journalistes, which has been operating since 2002.

RSF emphasises that the guide is a work in progress. If you are a journalist in exile and would like to share your story, contact: assistance (@)

special section of RSF's website dedicated to exiled journalists

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