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Hang Chakra (Cambodia)

Hang Chakra was first a filmmaker, and since the early 1990s a journalist, contributing articles to Khmer Citizen, National Soul, and Interval.  In 1999 he launched his own newspaper, The Voice of Khmer National Patriots, and in 2005 a second newspaper, Khmer Machas Srok (Khmer Owners of the Nation).  In 2009, Chakra was sentenced to one year in prison on criminal disinformation charges for articles published in Khmer Machas Srok criticizing corruption by officials closely linked to a deputy prime minister.  He was repeatedly ordered to reveal his sources for his articles, which he refused to do.  In 2010, his newspaper was forced to close due to lack of funds caused by his imprisonment as well as intimidation of the newspaper’s patrons and advertisers.

Venerable Luon Sovath (Cambodia)

Luon Sovath was inspired to become a Buddhist monk after witnessing horrific violence and injustice during Cambodia’s civil war. Venerable Sovath is now a leading land rights activist, using poetry, essays and videography to give a voice to the victims of forced evictions and illegal confiscations of land by the government for commercial development and mining concessions. In 2009, he compiled footage of police shooting in his village and was pressured to hand it over to the police.  He has been repeatedly threatened by police officers and government-allied Buddhist officials, who alleged he incited villagers to protest and threatened him with defrocking.

Cui Zi’en (China)

Zi’en is an openly gay Chinese writer and filmmaker, who has won several awards at film festivals, and “The Most Challenging Queer Image” award at Gay Pride in Shanghai for his work as a director.  His novel “Peach-Colored Lips” about the reality of homosexuals’ lives in China was censored in mainland China, and none of his films can be publicly screened in China.

Du Daobin (China)

Du Daobin was a civil servant based in the Hubei province of China before being imprisoned as a result of his online essays and open letters calling for government accountability and reform.  An active participant in the 1989 Democracy Movement in the city of Wuhan, Du went on to write numerous essays widely disseminated on the internet, reaching a new generation of online activists.  In 2002, after China began implementing a national internet monitoring strategy, Du began an online petition in protest and initiated proceedings in the Supreme People’s Court charging the authorities with infringement of the constitutional right of free expression.  He was first detained in 2003, but continued to publish essays and online petitions.  In 2004 he was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” based on 26 essays published online.  His three-year prison sentence was at first suspended, but the suspension was later rescinded, and he was imprisoned from July 21, 2008 until December 8, 2010.   He is still prohibited for two years from voting, being interviewed, making speeches, or publishing any written expression.  After his release, Du continues to be under state surveillance and his freedom of movement and speech remain restricted.

Fan Yanqiong (China)

Fan Yanqiong is a writer from Fujian province in China.  She began publishing articles in 1978, and was admitted to the Nanping Literature and Art Association in 1980.  After her mother’s home was forcibly demolished in 1985, she began 25 years of advocacy on behalf of petitioners’ legal rights.  Her attempt to found a Fujian Province Victims Alliance led to her detention on suspicion of “gathering to disturb the social order.”  She also wrote several documentary novels.  Fan’s articles publicizing the case of Yan Xiaoling, who was raped by men believed to be connected with the local police, led to other activists posting a web video accusing the police of grossly mishandling the investigation of Yan’s death and a cover-up.  After Fan wrote an article criticizing the subsequent threats by local officials against Yan’s mother, Fan was detained, eventually convicted of “defamation,” and sentenced to two years in prison.  Seriously ill with kidney and heart diseases, arthritis and other illnesses, exacerbated by harsh prison conditions, after nine pleas for medical parole Fan was finally released on medical parole in August 2010 following 14 months’ imprisonment.

Gao Yu (China)

Gao Yu’s journalism career began in 1979 at China News Service and later as a well-known columnist in Hong Kong. In October 1988, she became deputy chief editor of the Economics Weekly in Beijing.  After the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, an article she had written In December 1988 in the Economics Weekly and Hong Kong’s Mirror Monthly was labeled by Chinese authorities as a “political program for turmoil and rebellion,” and the Economics Weekly was closed down.  For this article as well as her participation in and reports on the protests, she was arrested by the Beijing National Security Bureau on June 3, 1989 and then detained for 15 months.  On October 3, 1993, she was arrested again and after trial was sentenced to six years in prison and one year deprivation of political rights for “illegally providing state secrets to institutions outside [China's] borders” for her reportage published in Hong Kong.  In February 1999, she was released on medical parole.  Since her release, Gao Yu has continued to work as a freelance journalist. She has published over 1000 essays in her career, despite nearly seven years of imprisonment, and has been awarded the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Courage in Journalism award and the World Association of Newspapers’  Golden Pen of Freedom Award.

Guo Quan (China)

Guo Quan is a former professor at Nanjing Normal University.  He played a key role in organizing the China New Democracy Party, drafting its constitution and agenda.  Between 2007 and 2008, Guo wrote a series of articles known as the “Herald of Democracy” series, including open letters to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Congress standing committee chair Wu Bangguo, addressing social problems including laid-off workers, demobilized soldiers, and peasants who had lost their land.  He was fired from his professorship in 2007, detained in 2008, and on October 16, 2009 convicted of “subversion of state power” and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and three years’ deprivation of political rights. 

Hada (China)

Hada began writing Mongol-language articles while a student at the Inner Mongolia National Teachers’ College, advocating for preservation of Mongol ethnic identity in China’s Inner Mongolia.  He and his wife opened a Mongol studies bookstore in Hohhot in 1990, and in 1992 he helped form what would later become the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance (SMDA), drafting its operating principles and constitution. He wrote the book The Way Out for Inner Mongolia, and also wrote articles for The Voice of Southern Mongolia, an SMDA publication advocating self-determination, freedom, and democracy in Inner Mongolia.  On December 10, 1995, police ransacked Hada’s house and confiscated SMDA materials.  On November 11, 1996, he was convicted of “separatism” and of “espionage” and eventually ordered to serve 15 years in prison and four years of deprivation of political rights. While serving his sentence in a secret prison, reports indicate that Hada was often subjected to torture and ill-treatment, and given inadequate treatment for serious health conditions.  The government issued photographs of Hada, purportedly taken following his release. But he remains incommunicado, his whereabouts unknown, and he is believed to have been forcibly disappeared by government officials.  Hada's wife, Xinna, and his son, Uiles, were reported to have been detained in December 2010 on charges of "illegal business practices" and "drug possession." They too are incommunicado, their whereabouts unknown.

Liu Xianbin (China)

Liu Xianbin, 42, is a Sichuan-based writer and well-known democracy activist.  Hestarted writing pro-democracy articles in 1988, including the series entitled “Spirit with China”callingfor government accountability and democratic reform while a student atBeijing’s Renmin University. As a result of his writings and advocacy in connection with the 1989 Democracy Movement, Liu Xianbin was convicted on charges of “counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement” and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and one year of deprivation of political rights.  Immediately after his release from prison in October 1993, he began hosting a series of cultural and intellectual salons, and published articles forCitizens’ Forum.  In 1994, he undertook an in-depth investigation into rural living conditions, focusing on the central regions of his native Sichuan province, and published “The Peasants Need Democracy – An Investigation of Rural Problems in Sichuan Province,”as well as “The General Experience in the Modern Democratic Movement” and “The Political Situation in the Post-Deng Era.” 

In 1998 Liu published “An Open Letter to the Ninth National People’s Congress,” demanding that the government work to improve China’s human rights situation and commit to obligations under international human rights treaties,drafted the “Charter of the Sichuan Preparatory Committee of the China Democracy Party,” and wrote, edited, and distributed the Journal of China Human Rights Watch after its original founders were detained.  In 1999, the Suining Intermediate People’s Court convicted Liu of “subversion of state power” and sentenced him to 13 years in prison and three years of deprivation of political rights citing his writing and activities from his release in October 1993 through 1999.  Nine years and four months later, on November 6, 2008, Liu was released, and he again immediately engaged in activism, despite still being deprived of political rights, joining the Charter 08 movement and publishing numerous articles, including “100 Days Out of Jail.”  He was arrested again for “inciting subversion of state power” on July 5, 2010, and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment on March 25, 2011 and two years and four months of political rights’ deprivation.

Tan Zuoren (China)

Tan Zuoren is a literary editor, writer and environmental activist based in Sichuan province. He was the editor-in-chief of Wenhua Ren magazine, and was recognized by Sichuan media as one of “Chengdu’s Enlightened Citizens.”  He is especially known for his investigative reporting concerning the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake, in which some 90,000 people died.  Tan interviewed families who lost their children in collapsed schools, and published online an “Independent Investigative Report by Citizens” criticizing the government.

Tan has also published work related to the Chinese government’s handling of the 1989 Democracy Movement and laterorganized a blood donation drive in Chengdu’s Tianfu Square to commemorate the 1989 Democracy Movement.  On February 9, 2010, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and three years’ deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power” based on his articles concerning the Democracy Movement, although many believe this was a pretext, and that mention of his earthquake-related advocacy was deliberately omitted in order to avoid public outcry over his imprisonment.  Tan is currently imprisoned at Ya’an Prison in Sichuan province, where he is not scheduled for release until March 27, 2014.

Tumenulzii Buyanmend (China)

Tumenulzii Buyanmend is an ethnic Mongolian Chinese citizen from China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the author of four collections of essays assessing the dissipation of Mongolian culture, lifestyles and environment under Chinese rule. In 2005, after his fourth book was banned, Tumenulzii voluntarily left Inner Mongolia for a one-year appointment as a visiting scholar in the country of Mongolia. Once he had left, police raided his home in Inner Mongolia. At the end of the year, Tumenulzii reportedly chose not to return to China, instead applying for asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Mongolia.  In June 2011 Tumenulzii was resettled in the US.  His wife remains in Inner Mongolia.

Zhu Yufu (China)

Zhu Yufu is a journalist in Zhejiang province.   In 1978-79, he became one of the founders of the independent magazine April Fifth, and with others created the Hangzhou Democracy Wall.  In July 1989 he was detained for 47 days for “participation in turmoil” and dismissed from his job. In 1998, he co-founded the Zhejiang Provincial Preparatory Committee for the China Democratic Party and its magazine, and was detained under “residential surveillance.”  In 1999, he was arrested and charged with “subversion of state power,” and served seven years in prison, where he was tortured.   After his release in 2006, he resumed his writing and started a book entitled "Practicing the Person - My Road to Democracy."  He was imprisoned again for two years in 2007-2009 for “beating police and hindering public duty, and is persecuted by house arrest on symbolically sensitive days. Due to such political and economic persecution, his writing has been interrupted after drafting only part of his manuscript.  He remains under deprivation of political rights and is not allowed to publish his writings.  On March 5, 2011, he was detained on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power; his home was also searched and his possessions confiscated. Zhu was formally arrested on April 11, 2011, and is being held at the Shengcheng District Detention Center in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. As of July 12, 2011, he was awaiting prosecution on charges for “inciting subversion of state power.”

Upi Asmaradhana (Indonesia)

Upi Asmaradhana is a journalist from Makassar, South Sulawesi.  In 2008, a South Sulawesi police chief gave two speeches urging government officials to ignore Indonesia’s Press Law and immediately file criminal defamation complaints against journalists who “mocked” them or “tarnished the good image of the region.” In response, Asmaradhana lodged complaints with the National Police Commission and Komnas Ham (Indonesia’s human rights commission), arguing that the police chief threatened media freedom and encouraged disrespect for the law. As a result, he lost his job with Metro TV and the police chief filed criminal defamation charges. During the trial, Asmaradhana had to sell his car to pay for his legal fees and lost income as a freelancer. He was acquitted and vindicated at trial, the panel of judges concluding that the police chief’s speech was a threat to press freedom. Since his acquittal, Asmaradhana continues to advocate for press freedom, and joined with other journalists to create a Freedom of the Press and Expression Committee.

Semuel Waileruny (Indonesia)

Semuel Waileruny is a scholar, lawyer, and political activist from Ambon, the Moluccas Islands. From 1999-2001, when a communal conflict between Muslims and Christians in the Moluccas Islands killed more than 20,000 people, church leaders in Ambon appointed Waileruny to head a team of 32 lawyers to represent church members arrested by the police. Police arrested him for participating in peaceful separatist flag-raising ceremonies and sentenced him to 10 years’ imprisonment for treason, of which he spent five in jail (2001-2005).  Waileruny also helped establish Tamasu, a human rights organization to help political prisoners in the Moluccas Islands. It has provided legal representation to several peaceful Moluccan activists charged with treason. He recently published a book, Membongkar Konspirasi di Balik Konflik Maluku (Uncovering the Conspiracy in the Moluccan Conflict) which argues that Indonesian military intelligence officers played a role in fanning sectarian conflict.

Zunar (Malaysia)

Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhague, known as Zunar, has been drawing cartoons for some 20 years, and is one of the most popular political cartoonists in Malaysia.  Zunar’s work covers Malaysian political issues including racism and corruption, but his primary focus is on human rights issues such as abuse of power by the police force and judiciary.  In addition to his books and magazines, his cartoons have appeared regularly in the web-based daily Malaysiakini, but the Home Ministry has routinely denied permission to publish a print edition, and in June 2009 banned the cartoon magazine Gedung Kartun (Cartoon Store) after 408 copies were seized from Zunar’s office.  Three more of Zunar’s publications were banned in June 2010 as “not suitable and detrimental to public order” under the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984.

On September 24, 2010, police officers raided Zunar’s office as well as his printing factory and the Malaysiakini office, seized all of the cartoon books that they could find, and detained Zunar for two days under the Sedition Act.  Zunar appealed the government’s decision to ban his books, but on July 14, 2011, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur upheld the ban.  The same Court is scheduled to hear his suit against the government for his September 2010 arrest and detention and seizure of his books on September 13, 2011.  Zunar is an Artist-in-Residence at the “Art and Censorship” program in Bilbao, Spain this fall, and will take part and design the poster for the VI Festival Against Censorship in Spain in November.

Alan Shadrake (Singapore)

Alan Shadrake is an author, journalist and former foreign correspondent whose work has often included a human rights component. Originally a journalist with the Daily Express, he became a freelance journalist in 1962 when he moved to West Berlin shortly after the Berlin Wall was built. His reports and features have been published in The Daily & Sunday Express, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Daily & Sunday Mirror, London Evening News, Manchester Evening News, and Liverpool Echo. Many of his articles concerned drug trafficking in Southeast Asia and specifically the many Australian citizens now on death row in Bali or serving very long prison sentences there.

Shadrake’s book Once a Jolly Hangman:  Singapore Justice in the Dock criticizes the government of Singapore’s use of the death penalty to suppress opposition, based on interviews with human rights activists, lawyers, former police officers, and the former chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison.  On July 18, 2010, the day after the book’s Singapore launch, Shadrake was arrested and detained for two days of intense interrogation without counsel.  On November 3, he was found guilty of contempt of court for his “selective and dissembling account of half-truths which could cause the unwary reader to doubt Singapore’s rule,” and sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment, a fine of over US$15,000, and court costs of over US$42,000.  After losing his appeal, he went to prison on June 1, 2011, was released for good behavior on July 8, and deported to the United Kingdom.  Shadrake plans a return to the Southeast Asia region, which he has long called home, as soon as he has recovered sufficiently from his imprisonment.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn (Thailand)

Chiranuch Premchaipornis executive director of the Bangkok-based Foundation for Community Educational Media (FCEM).  Commonly known as Prachatai, FCEM was set up in 2004 as a web-based response to censorship, harassment and curtailment of mainstream media.  It has been a major source of news on social, political, and human rights issues in Thailand, publishing interviews and articles by academics, human rights activists, community activists, trade unionists, student activists, and hosting a series of online TV and radio programs that discuss those issues. Since the 2006 coup, Thai authorities have used the draconian Computer Crimes Act to harass Prachatai, finally prompting Prachatai to close down its web-board.

Premchaiporn was arrested and faces charges for violating article 15 of the Computer Crimes Act. Her trial started in February 2011, but was delayed until September 2011 when both prosecution and defense witnesses will testify.  A verdict is likely before the end of the year, and in the meantime, she is currently out on bail.

Phan Thanh Hai (Vietnam)

Phan Thanh Hai is a dissident writer who blogsunder the pen name ‘Anhbasg.’ A founding member of the Club for Free Journalists, Hai’s writings aim to promote government transparency, freedom of expression and freedom of association. After participating in a protest in Ho Chi Minh City against the Beijing Olympics in December 2007, police put Hai under intrusive surveillance, and detained and interrogated him many times. Although Hai finished his law study and has fulfilled all requirements, his application to become a practicing lawyer was turned down by the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association because of his involvement in the protest and his Internet blogging activities. He has also not been able to secure any regular employment due to police harassment. On October 18, 2010, police arrested Hai in Ho Chi Minh City for allegedly conducting propaganda against the state under article 88 of the penal code. He remains in detention.

Vi Duc Hoi (Vietnam)

Vi Duc Hoiis a writer and blogger from the remote province of Lang Son in northern Vietnam, near the China border. He is an ethnic Tay, the largest minority group in Vietnam. Hoi quietly started supporting calls for respect of human rights and greater democracy in 2006, while still holding important positions in the Communist Party of Vietnam and government apparatus in Lang Son. He was the head of the Committee for Propaganda and a member of the Party’s Standing Committee of Huu Lung district. After his views became known, he was expelled from the party, subject to orchestrated public denunciation sessions, and detained and interrogated. His essays on democracy, pluralism, and human rights and his memoir, Facing Reality, My Path to Joining the Democratic Movement (Doi Mat: Duong di den voi phong trao dan chu), have been widely circulated on the Internet. Hoi was arrested in October 2010 and charged with conducting propaganda against the state under article 88 of the penal code. He was convicted to eight years of imprisonment in January, reduced on appeal in April to five years and then three years on probation.

Ho Thi Bich Khuong (Vietnam)

Ho Thi Bich Khuong is among an emerging and rapidly expanding group of farmers who use the Internet to defend the rights of landless poor people and to promote freedom of expression and freedom of association. In addition to detailed accounts of various forms of repression and harassment that she and her family have been subjected to, Khuong also writes about the sufferings of other poor peasants and of her fellow human rights activists. In April 2007 she was arrested in an Internet café in Nghe An province and sentenced to two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 258 of the penal code. Her memoir of her time in prison was published in serialized form in July and August 2009 by Nguoi Viet Online, one of the most influential Vietnamese-American newspapers in Orange County, California. On January 15, 2011, Ho Thi Bich Khuong was arrested again in Nghe An and has since been held in detention.

Le Tran Luat (Vietnam)

Le Tran Luat is a former lawyer who has defended numerous politically sensitive cases in Vietnam. He is also a prolific blogger who writes about legal reform and human rights issues. Authorities forced his law practice, the Legal Right Firm, to close in 2009. Le Tran Luat suffers daily harassment from the police since 2008 for agreeing to take on sensitive cases such as defending democracy activists Truong Minh Duc, Pham Ba Hai and Pham Van Troi. Since the closure of his law firm, Le Tran Luat has not been able to secure employment because police have pressured potential employers not to hire him. Le Tran Luat’s writing analyzes the weaknesses of the legal system in Vietnam and strongly defends democracy activists. His blog was hacked and destroyed by unknown cyber assailants in November 2010.

Nguyen Xuan Nghia (Vietnam)

Nguyen Xuan Nghia is a journalist, novelist, poet, and editorial board member of the underground democracy bulletin, To Quoc (Fatherland).  As a journalist, he wrote for main government papers until 2003, when the government banned him because of his pro-democracy activities.  A leader of the banned pro-democracy group Bloc 8406, he was arrested in September 2008 and charged with conducting anti-government propaganda under penal code article 88.On October 8, 2009, after more than a year in pre-trial detention, he was sentenced to six years in prison and then four years under house arrest by the People’s Court of Hai Phong.

Ta Phong Tan (Vietnam)

Ta Phong Tanis a former police officer and a former communist party member. She began her writing career as a freelance journalist in 2004. Her articles appeared in many mainstream newspapers including Tuoi Tre (Youth), Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer), Vietnam Net, Phap Luat TP Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Law), Thanh Tra (inspectorate), Can Tho and Binh Duong. Since March 2006, dozens of her articles have been published on the website of BBC’s Vietnamese service. This eventually prompted the Communist Party of Vietnam to revoke her membership.Since launching her blog “Justice & Truth” (Cong ly & Su that) in November 2006, she has become one of the most prolific bloggers in Vietnam. She has authored more than 700 articles about social issues, including the mistreatment of children, official corruption, unfair taxation of poor people, and peasant grievances connected to illegal land confiscations by local officials. In addition, using her former knowledge and experience of police work, she provides insightful observations about widespread abuse of power by the police in Vietnam. As a result of her writing, police have continually harassed Ta Phong Tan. Since 2008, she has been detained and interrogated on numerous occasions about her activities, her associates, and the contents of her blog. Ta Phong Tan was arrested on September 5, and her whereabouts are unknown.

Nguyen Bac Truyen (Vietnam)

Nguyen Bac Truyen is a former political prisoner. His contributions to overseas news websites describing repression, injustice and human rights violations committed by the government led to his arrest in November 2006 under article 88 of the penal code for propaganda against the state. The authorities sentenced him to three years and six months in prison.  Since being released from prison in May 2010, he has been under probation/house arrest and faced constant harassment.  Nguyen Bac Truyen’s writings since his imprisonment are focused on his fellow political prisoner and the difficulties and discrimination that former political prisoners face in their daily lives.  He has been an outspoken member of the Vietnamese Political and Religious Prisoners Fellowship Association, which provides support to prisoners and their families.

Cu Huy Ha Vu (Vietnam)

Cu Huy Ha Vu is an artist with a doctorate in law from the Sorbonne. He comes from an elite family that includes senior members of the Vietnamese Communist Party and former revolutionaries. Dr. Vu is most famous for his two lawsuits against Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung  the first targeting him for signing Decision 167 in November 2007, which allowed controversial bauxite mining operations in Vietnam's Central Highlands. Dr. Vu’s second lawsuit also targeted the prime minister for signing Decree 136 in 2006, which prohibits class-action petitions. In addition, Dr. Vu is known for his public criticism of high-ranking government officials including Lt. Gen. Vu Hai Trieu of the Public Security Ministry for allegedly authorizing cyber-attacks against politically sensitive websites disapproved of by the government and the communist party general secretary of Ho Chi Minh City, Le Thanh Hai, for allegedly confiscating land from relatives of martyred soldiers. Dr. Vu was arrested on November 2010. He was tried on April 4 for violating article 88 of the penal code, which prohibits conducting propaganda against the state, and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Europe and Central Asia

Nikolai Khalezin (Belarus)

Nikolai Khalezin was first a journalist, and later a playwright. He led edited the newspapers Name and News in the 1990s, both of which were closed by the government. He then organized mass pro-democracy protests in Belarus, including the “Freedom March” in 2005. Khalezin was arrested in 1998, 1999 and 2002. He began writing plays in 2004, now 12 in all. In 2005 he founded the Belarus Free Theatre (BFT) which had positioned itself as an underground group that used artistic means to protest the increasingly repressive rule of President Alexander Lukashenka.  

BFT members have been fired from their state-controlled jobs, expelled from universities, beaten, and arbitrarily arrested. In August 2007, the entire BFT company, as well as the audience watching the show, was arbitrarily detained. In May 2009, unidentified assailants beat Khalezin and his father-in-law in the courtyard of their apartment building, a crime that was not investigated by the police.  The apartment of his father was raided multiple times by KGB officers who were looking for Khalezin and his wife .Staging of his plays is not allowed in Belarus.

Ramazan Yesergeopov (Kazakhstan)

Starting in 1996, Ramazan Yesergeopov was one founders and the editor of the newspaper Let’s Begin with Monday, which published articles on key social and political issues.   He was forced to sell the newspaper at a minimal price after it had gained popularity, earned the ire of the authorities, and was hit with multiple lawsuits. In 2004, Yesergepov founded and became editor-in-chief of another newspaper called Alma-Ata-Info, which published many articles critical of the government.  He often put articles under his own name when the reporters who wrote them were not comfortable disclosing their authorship. 

In November and December 2008 Alma-Ata-Info was investigated and its offices searched after it published leaked memos and an article regarding corruption in the Kazakh National Security Committee, the state security agency

In connection with that article, Yesergeopov was arrested in January 2009 by 20 armed men while being treated at a local hospital.  In January 2009, and again in July 2009, he went on hunger strike while in detention to raise awareness to human rights violations in Kazakhstan.  In August 2009 he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison and two years suspension from journalism on charges of disclosing state secrets, Yesergepov's trial was closed, and he did not have access to legal counsel of his own choosing.  Alma-Ata-Info was also shut down after his conviction.  In August 2011 he was for the fourth time denied release on parole and remains in prison at this time.

Middle East and North Africa

Ali Abduleman (Bahrain)

Ali Abdulemam is a leading Bahraini proponent of freedom of expression, best known as a blogger for Global Voices regarding human rights issues and current events.  In 1999, he founded Bahrain Online, a forum for political and social debate.  Although the forum has been blocked numerous times by the government, the website is still one of the most visited websites in Bahrain.  On September 4, 2010, Abdulemam was arrested on charges of spreading lies and false news, and a few days later he was dismissed from his job at Gulf Air.  While in jail, he was subjected to torture, beatings, insults, and verbal abuse.  He was released and was again active online at the outset of the recent protests in Bahrain, but he fears being re-arrested and mistreated. The minister of media and culture, Maie Al Khalifa also blocked Abduleman’s Bahrain Online website again.

Bahman Amhadi-Amouee (Iran)

Iranian journalist Bahman Amhadi-Amouee has worked as a journalist since 1996 at several different newspapers, including the economics weekly Mihan, Hamshahri Daily, and several now banned reformist dailies including: Jame’e, Tous, Sobhe Emrooz, Khordad, Norooz, Shargh, Vaghaye Etefaghieh and Sarmayeh (where he served as the editor of the economics section until late 2008). He has also published two books: The Political Economy of the Islamic Republic of Iran and How the Men of the Islamic Republic of Iran became Technocrats.

Ahmadi-Amouee was arrested on June 20, 2009 following the disputed presidential elections in Iran.  Upon conviction he was originally sentenced to seven years and four months in prison and 34 lashes, which was reduced on appeal to a five-year sentence, which he is currently serving in Tehran’s Evin prison.  The main charges against him, which included "propaganda against the state," "insulting the president," and "acting against the national security," were in relation to articles he had written critical of the Ahmadinejad government, in official papers as well as his website. Besides these articles he was charged with publishing an epic poem From Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh in Khordaad Nou.  This poem was cited by the judge as evidence of spreading propaganda against the state and inciting the public to disrupt order.  Authorities have severely restricted Ahmadi-Amouee's visitation rights and phone privileges for nearly a year now.

Kaveh Kermanshahi  (Iran)

Iranian journalist and human rights activist Kaveh Kermanshahi became a member of the central council of Zhiar Non-Governmental Organization in 2005, worked on the “One Million Signature Campaign to Change the Discriminatory Laws” in 2006, and became a member of the Central Council of the “Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan” in 2007.  In 2005 he started a blog titled “Zhiar” to publish his writings. This blog was blocked several times by the Iranian government.  In recent years he has published reports, news items and articles with his Kurdistan human rights news agency, “Radio Zamaneh,” “Roozonline,” “Change for Equality,” and other Kurdish and Farsi websites.

As the Iranian government’s crackdown on peaceful activism following the presidential election of 2009 intensified, Kermanshahi was detained on February 3, 2010 in his family’s house in Kermanshah by the Iranian security and intelligence services, held in solitary confinement for four months, and subjected to harsh conditions including torture, with no access to his family, legal counsel, or medical facilities. After going on hunger strike for a week to protest the harsh conditions of his detention and without being formally charged, he was released temporarily, then tried in October-November 2010 for membership in the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, propaganda against the state through distribution of news, reports, articles, interviews with foreign media, and for contacting the families of political prisoners and those executed or killed for political reasons. After he was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison, Kermanshahi fled to Iraqi Kurdistan, where he is seeking refugee status.

Amir Rashidi (Iran)

Amir Rashidi is a young blogger and activist in the student movement and women’s rights movements in Iran.  He is a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign in defense of gender equality, and has served as a member of the Campaign’s Art Committee, Education Committee, and Editor of the Campaign’s blog.  He was editor of the website of ADVAR, the most important student alumnae organization.  His blog is one of the most up-to-date sources of information on human rights developments in Iran.  Rashidi was forced to flee the country in the aftermath of the June 2009 disputed election.  He is currently living in Italy as a refugee.


Rafael Marques de Morais (Angola)

Rafael Marques de Morais, is an Angolan journalist and writer with a special interest in Angola's political economy and human rights. Marques began his career in 1992 at the government-owned Jornal de Angola, which he left in October 1998 for the independent paper Folha 8. Besides his work as a freelance journalist, he is also a stage actor and a poet.  His first collection of Portuguese poems was published in 1998.

Marques has been a leading figure in the country exposing human rights abuses and corruption through his work, especially involving resource industries such as oil in the Cabinda region and  diamonds in Eastern Angola, publishing and co-authoring several reports.  In 2009, he launched an anti-corruption project with the website, the first project of this kind in Angola, where he has since published research articles and reports on high level corruption in Angola.  In September 2011, he published a book on human rights violations and corruption in Angola's diamond sector, based on two years of field work: Blood Diamonds. Corruption and Torture in Angola.

Marques was arrested and convicted for defamation of the president in 1999/2000, and temporarily arrested again in October 2010 in Muteba, Lunda Norte province. The police agents told him they had “orders” to prevent him from travelling to the Cuango area, the main focus of Marques’ research on human rights violations in Angola’s diamond areas.  Permanent state security surveillance and pressure has discouraged local institutions and media outlets from using Marques’s work.   In June 2010, the leading weekly newspaper, Semánario Angolense, terminated Marques’ regular publication of investigative work on corruption in the paper.  A company with close ties to the government bought the newspaper to silence its critical stance.

Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo (known as Lapiro de Mbanga) (Cameroon)

Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo, known as Lapiro de Mbango, is a Cameroonian singer-songwriter, who has continually used his work to challenge politicians and address social and economic inequalities in Cameroon.  His success as a musician began with his album No Make Erreur in 1986.  Co-editor of Smashed Hits – the Book of Banned Music, he has lectured around the world on music censorship, cultural policies, and cultural diversity. 

Lapiro wrote the song “Constitution Constipee” (Constipated Constitution), referring to constitutional amendments that allowed Cameroonian President Paul Biya unlimited terms in office and granted him immunity for official acts while in office.  The song served as an anthem during protests in Cameroon in 2008, and Lapiro was accused of complicity in riots.  For this he was sentenced to three years in prison.  He served prison time in New Bell Prison, which is infamous for harsh and inhumane treatment, until his release in April 2011.  In November 2009, Lapiro received the “Freedom to Create” Imprisoned Artist award, and in April 2010 he won a Lifetime Achievement Award by Cameroon music awards, Canal D’Or.

Deo Namujimbo (DRC)

Deo Namujimbo began his career as a writer and radio journalist in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1991.  As the Goma-based correspondent for Syfia Grads Lacs, InfoSud Switzerland, and Reporters Without Borders, he published numerous articles about the conflict in eastern DRC, denouncing the “reign of terror” conducted by combatants under the control of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda. After escaping soldiers sent to capture or kill him, he went into hiding in 2004. Following a separate attack on his younger brother Didace Namujimbo, also a journalist, who was killed in November 2008, he fled to France where he remains in exile.  He has since published two books on Congo, Merde en Congo (The Mess in the Congo) and On tue tout le monde …et on Recommence (They are killing everybody … and are starting all over again).  His wife and children live in exile in Burundi.

Abebe Gellaw (Ethiopia)

Abebe Gellaw began a journalism career in 1993 as a freelance writer focusing on human rights and political issues. He was one of the organizers of the student protests against serious infringements of academic freedom at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.  Gellaw launched a newspaper, Addis Raey, following which he was arrested and his paper was forced to shut down.  In 1995 he started another newspaper, Addis Express, which was also forced to close in 1996.  From 1996 to 1998 he was a senior reporter and columnist for the Ethiopian Herald, before going into exile in the United Kingdom in 1998. ln 2006, he launched the online journal  He was a visiting scholar Stanford University and a Knight Journalism Fellow. In 2010, he was honored by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. He writes and contributes to several online media outlets. He is now the Advocacy and Development Director of Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), an independent television station broadcasting direct to Ethiopia.  

Zerihun Tesfayae Wondimagegon (Ethiopia)

Zerihun Tesfayae Wondimagegon is a journalist who frequently contributed to several Ethiopian newspapers, including Nation Weekly (shut down by the government in 2005), Negadras Weekly Amharic Newspaper, Addis Neger Weekly Newspaper, the quarterly magazine Internews, and Addis Neger Online, where he continues to contribute as a blogger.  He focused on social, economic and health issues, including HIV/AIDS.  He was beaten and threatened after publication of his article exposing corruption in a government-affiliated fundraising program to rehabilitate beggars, and received further threats after his article on the firing of Ethiopia’s Auditor General due to release of an audit report showed unaccounted funds.  Tesfayae was further intimidated and his editor harassed after his article on food security showed that farmers were suffering after being forced to stop growing corn and grow bio-fuel crops instead.  From May to November 2009 a government-owned newspaper called for action against Tesfayae’s newspaper, and in December 2009 he fled Ethiopia and his newspaper closed down after he learned that the government intended to prosecute him under an anti-terror law.  After he and other editors fled, government security officers beat the remaining general manager of the paper, and broke into his office and took away office property.  Tesfayae is now in exile in Kenya.

Robert Wanyonyi (Kenya)

Robert Wanyonyi is a Kenyan journalist who writes for The Standard newspaper, and does radio and TV stories and documentaries for Kenya Television Network and Radio Maisha.  His work often documents and condemns torture and other human rights abuses committed by the government of Kenya and its state agencies, in particular during the Mt. Elgon conflict of 2006-2008. He was detained several times by the police without charges.  After his stories about the cold-blooded killing of a Red Cross volunteer by police in Bungoma in January 2010 and a cover-up of the murder by the police, Kenyan police harassed his family looking for him.  He was forced to flee to Uganda for four months.  In March 2010, Wanyonyi was recognized by The Standard media group for being an outstanding writer in a very challenging work environment. 

Elias Adam Hassan (Somalia)

Elias Adam Hassan has been active in journalism since high school in Mogadishu.  Since 2005, he has actively reported on the conflict between the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the armed Islamist group al-Shabaab, for Radio Darban and for the Wave, an international current affairs media outlet, and for other online media sources.  In 2009, while covering a series of clashes between Islamist factions, he was jailed by al-Shabaab, and released only because the government regained control of the area where the prison was located.  Adam fled Somalia in 2009, after his reporting activities started putting his life and safety in danger. He first went to Ethiopia, where he spent a few months, and then travelled to Vinnytsia, Ukraine, through Russia, where in January 2010 he applied for asylum.

After filing his asylum application, Elias was subjected to harassment from the Ukrainian police, including arbitrary arrests, break-ins and searches of the apartment which he shared with his friends, confiscation of property, and verbal and physical abuse and intimidation. To bring public attention to the plight of Somali refugees in Ukraine, Elias took part in a press conference in Vinnytsiaand spoke about the police harassment and extortion that he and his friends experienced as well as alleged corruption of some of local migration officials.  Alter this, the police harassment increased and Elias received multiple threats. He fled to Switzerland where he was granted asylum.

Hisham Adam (Sudan)

Hisham Adam is a Sudanese writer and novelist who lived in Saudi Arabia for most of his life. His Arabic-language novels include Artikata, Assayeda Al’Oula (The First Lady), Petro-Phobia, and Ardh Al Ma’aeet (Land of the Dead).  His stories are also in various anthologies, and he received the Tayeb Saleh Award in 2009 for his novel Qounqoulaize.  Adam is an outspoken atheist and is critical of Islam, for which the Saudi Arabian government ordered him deported in 2010. 


Luis H. Najera (Mexico)

Luis H. Najera is a Mexican journalist who wrote for Grupo Reforma for 18 years, covering organized crime, illegal immigration, arms trafficking, and police corruption.  He reported from the border city of Ciudad Juarez, one of the most dangerous areas of a country where confrontations between rival drug cartels and security forces have claimed tens of thousands of lives, and where the government has done little to provide adequate protection for journalists at risk. Seventy-four journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, according to the government’s National Human Rights Commission.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists: In February 2006, Najera fled Juarez after receiving death threats following his stories on the murder of a prominent local lawyer. From there he moved to Nuevo Laredo, where he was harassed after reporting on the Gulf drug cartel, and then to Sonora, where he was held by police at gunpoint after covering a shootout between law enforcement and armed assailants.  In May 2008 he wrote about the murder of a local police chief, and was then followed by four unidentified individuals; months later, he received multiple threats for his reporting on a massacre at a rehabilitation center for drug users.  When Najera heard that his name was on an organized crime hit list, he fled to Canada, where he was granted asylum and remains in exile.  Najera was presented with the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression International Press Freedom Award in 2010.

Carlos Correa (Venezuela)

Carlos Correa is director of the Venezuelan nongovernmental organization Public Space (Espacio Público), which advocates for freedom of expression in Venezuela.  He is responsible for several publications on human rights in Venezuela (with specific focus on freedom of expression) that have described accurately and shed light on ongoing, serious abuses and challenges in the country. Correa has drafted sections of annual reports published by different nongovernmental organizations in Venezuela. He also regularly publishes articles in magazines, and opinion pieces in Venezuelan papers, including for example “Journalists and Freedom of Expression,” Tal Cual (2010), “Cooperation Law,” El Universal (2010), and “Pending Justice,” El Universal (2010).

Correa was recently subject to a campaign of harassment by the government of Venezuela. During several weeks in 2010, Venezuela’s public television station repeatedly aired spots criticizing Correa for having received funds from the United States. The spots continue to be aired after specific events, such as the release of Espacio Público’s annual report in May 2011, but less frequently.  Meanwhile, government prosecutors have allegedly opened a criminal investigation into Espacio Público for having received international cooperation funds. The investigation and the media campaign against Correa appear to be intended to intimidate him, and to hamper Espacio Público’s work on behalf of freedom of expression and human rights.  On December 16, 2010, he was attacked, injured and threatened to death while he was participating in a demonstration outside the National Assembly in Caracas questioning legislative proposals presented by the executive that would undermine freedom of expression and the work of human rights defenders in Venezuela. 

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