Special Report: Journalists in Exile 2009
At least 11 Sri Lankan journalists were driven into exile in the past 12 months amid an intensive government crackdown on critical reporters and editors, the Committee to Protect Journalists says in a new survey. The surge from Sri Lanka accounted for more than a quarter of the journalists worldwide who fled their native countries in the past year after being attacked, harassed, or threatened with violence or imprisonment.
Worldwide, 39 journalists fled their home countries in the past 12 months.
A veteran journalist Mr. Tennakoon fled after being beaten and threatened. He fled Sri Lanka due to fear for his life and does not think its safe to go back. He is currently residing in California, USA and living without fear.
Upali Tennakoon, editor of Sinhala-language weekly Rivira was driving to his office when four men on motorcycles smashed his car windows, beating him and his wife with metal bars. Though his paper was pro-government, Tennakoon had criticized a high-ranking army official.
Following his release from the hospital, Tennakoon’s wife fielded a menacing phone call urging her husband to quit journalism “or else.” Fearing for their safety, the couple left for California, where they had family to receive them.
No progress was made in his case and no culprits were broght to justice for the murder of at least nine journalists murdered this decade.
Tennakoon has followed the investigation of his attack from afar, but no progress has been made. “Without information about who did this and why, I don’t think it is safe to go back,” he told CPJ in a recent interview.
At least nine Sri Lankan journalists have been murdered this decade without a single conviction being won against an assailant, CPJ research shows.
Its difficult for the journalists fleeing to adjust to the new life style and only one in three are able to continue journalism careers in exile since 2001.
Throughout the world, exiled journalists face lengthy bureaucratic procedures as they establish their new legal status, along with significant language and cultural adjustments as they rebuild their lives. Many have difficulty finding work in their profession: Since 2001, CPJ research shows, only about one in three have been able to continue journalism careers in exile.
Young journalist Naqeebulla Sherzad, 27, left both his career and family in Afghanistan and currently lives in Sweden. Mr. Sherzad was helping foreign media outlets. He was risked his safety for appealing the release of his friend and colleague Ajmal Naqshbandi, who was abducted and brutally murdered.
Freedom from fear has been the sole comfort for journalist Naqeebulla Sherzad, who was granted asylum in Sweden in November 2008 after leaving both his career and his family in Afghanistan. A fixer for foreign media outlets including The Nation and The New York Times.
Sherzad risked his safety again by appealing to contacts for the release of his friend and colleague Ajmal Naqshbandi, who was abducted in 2007.
After Naqshbandi’s was brutally murdered, circumstances became increasingly dire for Sherzad as well: His name appeared on a Taliban death list.
At considerable expense, Sherzad traveled to Pakistan and then flew via Dubai to Europe, eventually making it to Sweden by car. At 27, he has left a promising career behind. “I dreamed a lot as a fixer of becoming a journalist to work in the country and improve our profession,” said Sherzad, who once planned to start a news agency with Naqshbandi in Afghanistan.
Number of journalist fleeing Iraq is dropping after record high number in 2007-2008.
After a record high number of journalists fleeing Iraq in 2007-08, CPJ research shows the number dropping. Part of the decline is related to improving security conditions. Part is due to journalists awaiting approval from the U.S. resettlement program.