Iran and Somalia are two of the countries with most exiles.
Fifty-five journalists from 21 countries fled their homes due to violence, imprisonment, and death threats in the past year,according to a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ.
The annual survey, marking World Refugee Day on June 20, spotlights the plight of journalists who have been forced into exile from some of the world’s most repressive nations and have received assistance from CPJ over the last 12 months.
The top countries driving out journalists were Iran and Somalia, followed by Ethiopia, Syria, and Eritrea, among others.
“Journalists all over the world are being forced from their homes to escape persecution, imprisonment and sometimes even death,” said María Salazar Ferro, CPJ Journalist Assistance Program coordinator.
“When journalists flee, their absence often weakens the besieged media community already struggling to provide insightful reporting about sensitive issues,”Ms. Ferro added.
Journalists assisted by CPJ consistently cited fear of violence as the top reason for fleeing.
The most deadly country for journalists in 2012 was Syria, where at least 28 were killed for their work, according to CPJ research. Violence was also acute in Mexico, where reporters are faced with intimidation and death threats if they do not self-censor, and in East Africa, where CPJ supported 18 exiles fleeing since May 31, 2012.
In Eritrea, Africa’s worst jailer of journalists, many who fled had been unlawfully imprisoned without charge or trial.
Journalists also face imprisonment in Iran, where authorities cracked down on freedom of speech ahead of elections.
Those who do manage to escape violence, intimidation, and jail in their home countries do not necessarily find an easier life in exile. Many are unable to secure entry visas, and it can take up to two years to register for asylum. As refugees they are often stigmatised, and can face the very same threats they fled from in the first place. Even when journalists are able to successfully build a new life in a new country, they pay a psychological toll.
CPJ added that only about one-fifth of exiled journalists are able to resume work in their field.
“Forced exile can wreck journalists’ lives, as well as the lives of their families,” Ms. Ferro said.
To help journalists reach safe destinations, regain stability, and earn a living, CPJ’s Journalist Assistance Program works with other organisations to optimize advocacy, logistical and financial support.