Post Shining A Brighter Light On Jailed Journalists

Mar 2, 2018

Being a journalist isn’t glamorous. For some, it’s incredibly dangerous.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian understands this well, and it’s why he’s the voice behind a new project at the newspaper.

“In 2014, I was accused of spying for the US Government. I spent 544 days imprisoned in Iran, a country where I had worked for years with legal permission,” Rezaian said in the online video and multimedia piece on imprisoned journalists.

He and the Post are using a mobile-phone friendly platform called AMP to share the fact that in 2017, 18 journalists were killed for doing their jobs, and 262 were imprisoned. Graphics, maps and vignettes about a handful of journalists help highlight the countries with the most jailed reporters: China, Turkey, Syria, Iran and Vietnam.

“Increasingly reporters are being accused by governments around the world of murky and unspecified crimes against national security in the countries where they’re based,” Rezaian said in one of the short videos. "In most cases, it turns out most journalists are arrested for simply doing their jobs.”

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies said it’s interesting that the Post is using the new content platform from Google, because it’s designed to be shared by users on social media and has a storytelling rhythm similar to what you would see on Twitter.

“Every time there is a reason to update this story, the Post will add the new information and then recirculate this content. That’s why this platform is such a good foundation for telling this story,” she said. “The Post is making a good case that the trend is clear: governments who don’t like what’s being reported are going to continue to jail journalists as a way of silencing their critics.”

She said countries from the Middle East and Africa to some of Asia and Eastern Europe, including democracies, do not have basic protections for journalists doing their job. And the United States is not immune, she said. A reporter was arrested recently in St. Louis while covering a protest.

“Yes, but there’s a difference in the United States. We are highly sensitive when reporters are arrested and we make a big deal of it,” McBride said. “And on top of that, they get due process.”