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Imminent danger drives journalists into exile

(CPJ/IFEX) - London, June 20, 2011 - Journalists facing imprisonment and other threats for their work are being forced into exile worldwide, with at least 649 fleeing their countries in the last decade, according to a new survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists that marks World Refugee Day.

Ethiopia, Iran, Somalia, Iraq, and Zimbabwe account for nearly half the total number of journalists driven out of their countries in the past decade, the report shows. In the last 12 months, nearly 70 journalists fled their homes, more than half of them from Cuba and Iran, two of the world's most repressive nations.

As Iran continues its relentless crackdown on free expression, 18 journalists fled the country in the past year. Iran is also a leading jailer of journalists worldwide, CPJ research shows. Meanwhile, 18 Cuban journalists released from prison were coerced into leaving their homeland.

"Journalists shouldn't have to run for their lives as a consequence of doing their work. For those fleeing their countries, the possibility of being tortured in prison, kidnapped, or killed is a real and imminent danger," said Elisabeth Witchel, a CPJ consultant and author of the report, which is being released in London today. "Journalists targeted for their reporting are truly vulnerable. Many cases warrant an expedited resettlement process and better responses by embassies."

While journalists escaping persecution may be eligible for asylum once they have entered a safe haven, that first step can prove challenging. As a result, journalists travel through dangerous border areas only to be caught in a lengthy and uncertain resettlement process. Iranian journalists, for example, wait in limbo in Turkey, while East African journalists on the run are stalled in Kenya, often for prolonged periods. Dozens of journalists seeking asylum without the legal right to work or access to services live in desperate, insecure, and impoverished conditions, CPJ research shows.

Distress also leads to internal displacement. CPJ's survey shows that in the past 12 months alone, 23 journalists resorted to relocation within their own countries. In Ivory Coast, for example, 12 journalists menaced by armed groups in Abidjan were forced to relocate elsewhere in country.

Through its Journalist Assistance program, CPJ provides journalists like these with emergency assistance that includes logistical, administrative, and financial support for relocation, medical attention, or essential expenses. CPJ's annual survey of journalists in exile aims to assess the conditions and potential solutions for those seeking safety.

Methodology: CPJ's survey counts only those journalists who fled due to work-related persecution, who remained in exile for at least three months, and whose current whereabouts and activities are known. It does not include the many journalists and media workers who left their countries for professional or financial opportunities, those who left due to general violence, or those who were targeted for activities other than journalism, such as political activism.

Click below to download CPJ's report:
CPJ.Exile.2011.pdf (224 KB)

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