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Groups Launch Campaigns in Support of Jailed, Slain Journalists

FILE - Ilham Tohti, a champion of China's Uighur minority who was jailed last year and whose plight is being highlighted by the "Press Uncuffed: Free the Press" campaign, gestures during an interview in his Beijing home, Feb. 4, 2013.

Two international organizations launched campaigns Thursday to raise public awareness about journalists around the world who are jailed because of their work or are killed in the line of duty.

The Committee to Protect Journalists launched the "Press Uncuffed: Free the Press" campaign at the Newseum in Washington.

A joint partnership with students at the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, the CPJ campaign highlights nine cases of imprisoned journalists and calls for their release.

"These journalists were imprisoned for doing their jobs by governments fearful of a free press," CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch said in a news release. "By recognizing these nine intrepid journalists ... we hope to increase public pressure for their release and draw attention to the hundreds of others who have been silenced by their governments."

The journalists are from China (Ilham Tohti, jailed in 2014), Swaziland (Bheki Makhubu, 2014), Ethiopia (Reeyot Alemu, 2011), Azerbaijan (Khadija Ismayilova, 2014), Iran (Jason Rezaian, 2014), Uzbekistan (Yusuf Ruzimuradov, 1999), Egypt (Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known professionally as Shawkan, 2013), Vietnam (Ta Phong Tan, 2011) and Bahrain (Ammar Abdulrasool, 2014).

According to the CPJ, the nine journalists face anti-state or retaliatory charges in connection with their coverage of news in the public interest. Two are being held without charges.

The University of Maryland journalism students, under the leadership of their professor, Dana Priest, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist, came up with the idea of designing, producing and selling bracelets with names of the jailed journalists. They have launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to produce the bracelets. The campaign funds will be donated to the CPJ.

OSCE conference

Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is holding a two-day conference on protecting the safety and integrity of journalists in the OSCE region.

The OSCE chairperson, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić, said at the opening of the talks Thursday that “violence against journalists is unacceptable and must be treated like violence against society as a whole.”

“The OSCE and Serbia's OSCE chairmanship continually put journalists’ safety high on the agenda,” a press release quoted Dačić as saying. The OSCE cannot ignore “the problems and dangers journalists face on a daily basis,” he said, adding that member states “must discuss ways to improve the current legislative framework concerning the protection of journalists.”

"Journalists’ safety is a more relevant topic today than ever before,” said Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media. She said the increasing number of attacks on journalists across the OSCE region was "deeply worrying,” and she called on all 57 participating states to do their utmost "to ensure that journalists can do their work in a free and safe manner.”

At the conference, 200 representatives of governments, media, legislators, academia and NGOs from the OSCE participating states are discussing the safety of journalists in the region and will make recommendations to governments on how to improve it.

According to CPJ, 19 journalists have been killed worldwide this year, including the eight killed in the January attack on the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. As of December 2014, when the CPJ conducted its last prison census, 221 journalists were in jail worldwide.

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