Iranian journalist arrested for criticising Teheran's handling of Covid-19 tops One Free Press Coalition's monthly list

Iranian journalist Mohammad Mosaed, who was arrested by the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Feb 22, after he criticised Teheran’s lack of preparedness in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, tops One Free Press Coalition’s April list of 10 most urgent cases.

The freelance economic reporter had accused the government of failing to prepare for the outbreak and questioned why the number of candidates in Iran’s general elections were restricted to hardliners, said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The One Free Press (OFP) Coalition is a group that comprises pre-eminent editors and publishers who safeguard journalists persecuted for pursuing the truth.

Since Mr Mosaed’s arrest in February, Iran’s death rate has risen from five to nearly 4,000, according to health ministry data, with the number of confirmed cases rising from 28 to more than 62,000.

Already stressed by American economic sanctions, many of Iran’s 80 million citizens have lashed out at the state’s delayed strategy for fighting the pandemic. After Mr Mosaed was released, on the same day as his arrest, he spoke to BBC Persian saying that he was ordered not to conduct any interviews with media outlets and to delete his Telegram channel.

To counter the rising threat to media freedom, the OFP Coalition was established during a meeting of the International Media Council at the World Economic Forum in March last year.

The Straits Times joined the alliance in May.

Here are some of the other cases mentioned in this month’s list:

Maria Ressa, the Philippines

Maria Ressa, chief executive officer and executive editor of the news site Rappler, could face six years in prison. PHOTO: DIA DIPASUPIL, GETTY IMAGES FOR CPJ 

Rappler editor Maria Ressa is scheduled for trial on April 24 after Filipino-Chinese businessman Wilfredo Keng sued Rappler in 2017 for cyber-libel and claimed defamation over a 2012 report published on the website.

After the report was published, Mr Keng filed a case with the National Bureau of Investigation cybercrime division, claiming that the report did not observe “the ethical standards of journalism”.

Alaa Abdelfattah, Egypt

While blogger Alaa Abdelfattah is held in Cairo’s Tora Prison, three of his family members face 
charges of unlawful protest, illegal assembly and obstructing traffic in their call to protect 
prisoners from the spread of coronavirus. PHOTO: NARIMAN EL-MOFTY 

Blogger Alaa Abdelfattah has reported on human rights violations and is now held in Cairo’s Tora Prison. But, alongside, three of his family members face charges of unlawful protest, illegal assembly and obstructing traffic in their call to protect prisoners from the spread of coronavirus.

Chen Qiushi , China

Freelance video journalist Chen Qiushi has not been seen since Feb 6, when he told his family he planned to report on a temporary hospital. On Jan 24, he travelled from Beijing to the city of Wuhan, in Hubei province, and began filming and reporting on the coronavirus health crisis, according to his posts on YouTube. He noted that local hospitals were short of resources and struggling to handle the number of patients who needed treatment.

This is the 14th list released by the OFP Coalition. The coalition’s other members include the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, The Boston Globe, Buzzfeed, Huff Post (formerly The Huffington Post), Insider Inc, Quartz, Time, Voice of America, The Washington Post, Wired and Yahoo News.

European members include Agencia EFE, CNN Money Switzerland, Corriere Della Sera, De Standaard, Deutsche Welle, Euractiv, Le Temps, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Republik, Reuters and Suddeutsche Zeitung.

From Asia, The Financial Times, India Today, Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Asia have joined the network together with The Straits Times, while those from the rest of the Americas are AmericaEconomia, Estadao, Office of Cuba Broadcasting and TV Azteca.

Members of the public can join the conversation using the hashtag #OneFreePress and follow developments on Twitter @OneFreePress. To see the “10 Most Urgent” list every month, readers can visit this website or @OneFreePress on Twitter.

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