By Alexandra Zakreski
2014 marks a bittersweet milestone for CJFE’s Journalists in Distress Fund.
In fifteen years we have disbursed $230,000, helped 175 journalists in crisis, and built relationships with intrepid journalists and press freedom advocates from around the world. But while CJFE is proud of the JID program, the continued need for its existence means that journalists remain persecuted for exercising their fundamental right to free expression. Now, more than ever, programs that assist journalists at risk are of the utmost importance.
By our count, at least 100 journalists were killed in 2013. The Committee to Protect Journalists also reports that 2013 was the second worst year on record for jailed journalists. Recent conflicts in the Middle East, in particular Syria and Egypt, have produced particular challenges and dangers for reporters. The Syrian civil war is being covered by intrepid freelancers and citizen journalists, and they’re more vulnerable to attacks and kidnappings than ever. Ali Mustafa, a Toronto-born freelance photographer, was killed in Syria just last month while documenting the carnage resulting from a crude bomb dropped out of a government helicopter. Journalist kidnappings have also become a hallmark of extremist rebel groups in Syria and the frequency of abductions rose a dramatic 129 per cent in 2013.
In Egypt, the current regime has become so intent on suppressing any hint of dissent that they have jailed three Al Jazeera English journalists — including Canadian citizen Mohammed Fahmy — and countless other local media workers, activists, and students. The climate between security services and media workers in the country has also grown increasingly hostile, with applicants to the CJFE Journalists in Distress Fund reporting injuries sustained from rubber bullets and similar anti-protest measures while covering demonstrations.
Unfortunately, CJFE is only able to help a fraction of the journalists who apply to us for assistance. Please make a donation and help us to provide funds to even more journalists in need of assistance.
CJFE has created an infographic summarizing essential facts about the Journalists in Distress Fund, which you will find below.
Alexandra Zakreski is CJFE’s International Programs Assistant.