Recognizing journalists living in exile

Around the world, journalists who have been forced to flee their countries have continued to report from their home countries, exposing ongoing human rights violations while living in exile.

Today, May 3, is World Press Freedom Day. But independent media face increasing threats from abusive governments and armed groups around the world. In 2023, Reporters Without Borders reported an increase in requests for help from journalists threatened for their work. Last year, the organization provided financial assistance to 460 journalists who had to flee abroad; The main countries where it intervened were Afghanistan, Russia, Myanmar and Palestine.

Life for journalists in exile can be difficult. They have very few resources, are forced to work remotely, and often report at personal risk. They may face uncertain immigration status, digital harassment from foreign intelligence agencies operating abroad, and threats to family members who remain in their home country. This is on top of the usual difficulties of adjusting to life in a new country and often learning a new language.

But more and more organizations are supporting journalists in exile, helping them form networks and continue their essential work. The Exile Media Network, together with the US-based International Center for Journalists, has created a toolkit for journalists in exile to share knowledge and best practices. The Europe-based JX Fund says it has supported more than 1,600 journalists who fled crisis regions to return to work. The Afghanistan Journalists Support Organization works to boost communication among Afghan journalists around the world, among other goals.

Today, Human Rights Watch and its partners announced the winners of the 2024 Human Rights Press Awards for outstanding reporting on human rights issues across Asia. For the first time, this year’s awards included the category of “editions in exile.”

Two media outlets won in this new category. Frontier Myanmar received the award for its coverage of how Myanmar’s military, steeped in Buddhist nationalism, has attacked Bayingyi, a Roman Catholic minority. Zan Times, a women-led publication covering rights abuses in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, received the award for its reporting on the rise in female suicides in the country.

This new awards category should bring much-needed attention to journalists in exile, so that more groups support their crucial investigative reporting.