Press freedom in the wake of COVID-19

Concerns grow for unjustly detained journalists in prisons worldwide.

Image: Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein

The Rory Peck Trust is supporting Al Jazeera’s campaign on press freedom in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to overcrowded and unhygienic prison conditions that could lead to the spread of COVID-19 amongst prisoners, the Rory Peck Trust, along with the international media community, are increasingly concerned for the safety and wellbeing of unjustly detained journalists and others around the world.

In the wake of COVID-19, some governments have decided to release prisoners temporarily to ensure their health and safety. Iran has already freed thousands of prisoners, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a London-based project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Italy and the US are among the other countries that have released prisoners to stem the spread of the disease in prisons. Turkey, which has been called the ‘world’s largest prison for journalists’ by Amnesty International, has also been pushed to reduce the number of inmates in the country and the government is reportedly preparing to do so. However, despite calls from the media industry, Egyptian authorities have not taken action to ensure the wellbeing of journalists being held, such as Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein.

Hussein, an Egyptian national, has been imprisoned for over three years after being arrested while on a personal visit. While in solitary confinement, Hussein suffered a broken arm and has been refused proper medical treatment. Reporters Without Borders ranked Egypt 163rd out of 180 in its 2019 Press Freedom Index.

There is more concern than ever for Hussein’s health – and calls have been made repeatedly by Al Jazeera for his urgent release. At this unprecedented moment, Al Jazeera calls on all journalists, human rights advocates and people of conscience to stand with Mahmoud and other imprisoned journalists, to express their solidarity through all available means and demand their immediate freedom, allowing them to reunite with their families and loved ones.

To read more about Hussein’s case and Al Jazeera’s campaign to #FreeMahmoudHussein, see their latest press release here.