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Defending refugee journalists

“ Any person persecuted because of their activity on behalf of freedom has right of asylum within the territories of the republic ” (paragraph 4 of the preamble of the 1946 French constitution)

Hundreds of journalists are the victims of direct persecution in their own country for trying to exercise the right to report the news freely. Reporters Without Borders supports these men and women in their efforts to be resettled in a safe place.

In 2007, Reporters Without Borders helped a total of 109 journalists in 37 countries who were forced to leave their country because of direct persecution.

Coming mainly from Africa and the Middle East, these journalists are evidence of the deterioration in press freedom in the world. The growing threats have resulted in a "haemorrhaging" of journalists in five countries ( Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka ). Almost half of the journalists supported by Reporters Without Borders in 2007 worked in these countries.

Geographic OriginNumber of refugee journalists supported in 2007Geographical share in %
Sri Lanka98
Middle East3331

Journalists in flight, above all from government repression

Reporters Without Borders has found that refugee journalists were for the most part the victims of reprisals by the authorities in their country of origin. Most of them had been arrested and some had been prosecuted. They decide to flee to avoid being arrested again or being subjected to trial without due process.


Journalists are also often threatened by non-state (political, religious or criminal) groups in countries or regions where the authorities are unable to guarantee their safety.

23 per cent of refugee journalists were the victims of physical violence, including armed attacks, beatings and (5 per cent) torture. Only a minority (25 per cent) were able to flee their country before threats were carried out. Refugee journalists were often subjected to violence or arrest before finally being able to leave their country.


Most of the journalists who are forced to flee as a result of repression are married and have children but very few of them are able to leave with their loved ones. Different initiatives have to be tried in the search to find effective protection.


A long wait at the UNHCR

In the course of 2007, 29 journalists requested the help of Reporters Without Borders in obtaining the protection of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), mainly in Sudan, Kenya, Turkey and Syria.

The procedure takes an extremely long time, often more than a year, and does not necessarily put an end to the journalists’ ordeal as they are not always safe in their country of refuge. Reporters Without Borders has found, for example, that Iranians in Turkey or Eritreans in Sudan are exposed to intimidation or to the possibility of being sent back to their country of origin against their will.

Most of the time, journalists find themselves submerged in a flood of refugees and they experience great distress. Reporters Without Borders made several grants of assistance to help them pay for food, lodging or medical expenses.

Once the UNHCR’s protection has been obtained, refugee have no rights in the country where they are located and have only the - often illusory - guarantee that they will not be expelled. For this reason, the Assistance and Refugees Bureau asks the UNHCR and the ambassadors of safe countries to resettle journalists. This can take one or two years. Five people were definitively resettled in a third country in 2007 (two in Canada, two in France and one in the United States).

Reporters Without Borders’ defence of journalists seeking asylum in Europe

The House of journalists

Most of the refugees supported by Reporters Without Borders in 2007 submitted a request for asylum in France, other European countries (Britain, Germany, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland), Canada or the United States. On the basis of the enquiries carried out by its local correspondents, Reporters Without Borders provides the specialised national authorities with evidence that the asylum seeker is indeed in danger in their country of origin and attestation of the support the organisation is providing.

In France, the Reporters Without Borders Assistance and Refugees desk supported the applications made by 44 people to the French Office for Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) and by 14 people to the National Court for Right of Asylum (CNDA). Political refugee status was granted in three quarters of these cases.

A total of 30 refugee journalists in France were lodged for periods of six months at the House of journalists, which assists them with their asylum applications, helps them to learn about and understand their host country and assists them with their search to resume working as journalists.


Helping journalists and media in difficulty
- Development projects
- Assistance grants

Defending refugee journalists

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