INDEX ON CENSORSHIP | VOL.50 | NO.2
PEOPLE WATCH JESSICA NÍ MHAINÍN highlights the stories of journalists imprisoned in Bangladesh and Algeria, a missing Rwandan poet, and a Brazilian academic facing a defamation lawsuit
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER AND JOURNALIST – BANGLADESH
The award-winning Bangladeshi investigative journalist and human rights defender is currently being detained for allegedly collecting and photographing sensitive government documents. If charged and convicted, she faces up to 14 years in prison or the death penalty. Islam like others has been targeted by the Bangladeshi authorities for criticising their handling of the pandemic.
Conrado Hübner Mendes
ACADEMIC – BRAZIL
The São Paolo law professor and newspaper columnist has been a critic of president Jair Bolsonaro but Brazil’s attorney-general is now attempting to silence Mendes. On 19 May, Augusto Aras filed a criminal defamation lawsuit against him. He has also filed a petition to the ethics committee of Mendes’s university. More than 80 professors from around the world have signed a statement in his defence.
JOURNALIST AND HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER – ALGERIA
The journalist and member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights is one of 15 Hirak (an Algerian pro-democracy movement) activists currently facing up to 20 years in prison or the death penalty for alleged “participation in a terrorist movement” and “conspiracy against the state”. Algeria’s Penal Code was amended on 8 June to expand the definition of terrorism.
POET – RWANDA
The poet, known for his writings about repression, human rights abuses and poverty in Rwanda, remains missing several months after his disappearance on 7 February. He failed to return after going to a hotel to meet someone. His phones remains switched off. Human rights organisations have expressed concern that Bahati is a victim of enforced disappearances, which are startlingly common in the country.
Investigative journalism under attack
DREW SULLIVAN, publisher and co-founder of the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), says investigative journalism is giving corrupt governments something to fear
Two investigative journalists in the OCCRP network were recently targeted for their reporting. Stevan Dojčinović, from our Serbian member centre KRIK, was the victim of a government-supported media smear campaign that cast him as an ally of a brutal drug gang.
And Roman Anin, of our Russian member centre, IStories, had his apartment and office raided and was interrogated by the FSB over a years-old investigation he carried out into a yacht owned by a powerful associate of Vladimir Putin for which his newspaper was successfully sued by Rosneft head Igor Sechin.
It’s not a coincidence that Stevan and Roman are among the best investigative reporters in their countries who have been exposing wrongdoing by the powerful for years.
The increasingly harsh media crackdowns spreading around the world like a disease are a response, in part, to the growing impact of investigative journalism. Reporters have become very effective at exposing autocrats’ criminal and corrupt activities. OCCRP (occrp.org) works with journalists at many independent media outlets around the world on cross-border investigations. We also provide critical resources such as digital and physical security and pro bono legal assistance. We’ll keep working and supporting journalists in our global network such as Stevan and Roman so they can keep doing their work and informing the public.
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