• In this on-the-record virtual briefing, research experts from Freedom House discuss findings in their recent report that details threats faced by exiled journalists. “A Light that Cannot be Extinguished: Exiled Journalists and Transnational Repression is based on interviews with journalists who have fled conflict and government attacks in their home countries and sought refuge in democracies across Europe and North America.  The report examines how their work, key to upholding democracy and defending human rights, is being impacted through continued efforts by authoritarian governments to intimidate, harass, and silence then even across borders.  It includes recommendations for government, civil society, and the private sector to enhance efforts to support journalism in exile. 


MODERATOR:  Good afternoon and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center’s virtual briefing on threats faced by exiled journalists.  My name is Doris Robinson and I’m the briefing moderator.   

Before we get started with the briefing, I will go over some ground rules.  First, views expressed by briefers not affiliated with the Department of State are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government.  Participation in Foreign Press Center programming does not imply endorsement, approval, or recommendation of their views.   

As a reminder, this briefing is on the record.  We will post a transcript of the briefing later on our website at  And finally, please keep your microphones muted until called on for the journalist, and please rename your profile with your name and media outlet.  

With that, I will introduce our briefers.   

First, Jessica White leads research for Freedom House’s new efforts on media and democracy, with a focus on Europe.  She formerly served as research analyst for Freedom on the Net, Freedom House’s annual survey of internet freedom in 70 countries around the world.  

Grady Vaughan is a research associate on Freedom House’s transnational repression portfolio.  At Freedom House, Vaughan previously served as a program associate for the Eurasia program.  

So with that, I will turn it over to Jessica for opening remarks.  

MS WHITE:  Thank you very much for the introduction, and it’s a pleasure to be here and to share some of our most recent research findings.  Just to say a tiny bit about Freedom House, as you may know, Freedom House is a nonpartisan organization.  We work to expand and defend freedom globally, and so we do this through research, informing the world about threats to freedom, but also mobilizing action to – from leaders to counter these threats, and also providing assistance to activists on the ground who are at the front lines of defending freedom. 

So Freedom House has been working on the issue specifically of transnational repression for the past five years, and we’ve now produced four reports on the issue, both tracking the global scale of the threat but also examining how democracies can respond to address it.   

So in this particular presentation we will – we’re excited to share our most recent research findings.  I’ve teamed up with Grady and we’ve looked at the transnational threats that are specifically targeting exiled journalists around the world and how it affects their work.  I will also share my screen, and just to say that we just published our findings last week in a report called A Light That Cannot Be Extinguished.  So you can find that online.   

Right.  So before diving into the latest findings, I just wanted to take a tiny bit of a step back and provide a bit of context.  To start, transnational repression – what we mean by it is a set of tactics that governments use to reach beyond their borders to silence dissent amongst their exiles and diasporas.  Of course, it’s not a new phenomenon.  For as long as there have been exiles, governments have sought to control, intimidate, and harm them, to suppress dissent.  But today not only are more people moving across borders to flee repression, but new technologies have also provided new channels for exiles to stay connected to their home countries and also to amplify their voices.  So in turn, we see how more governments that want to maintain a tight grip on power and control information flows are increasingly reaching beyond their borders to – and are using an array of tactics, which include both physical tactics, direct attacks such as assassinations – and the prominent case of Khashoggi back in 2018 is a stark reminder of the real danger that journalists can face – but assaults have happened since then, and deportations, kidnap – risks of kidnapping.   

So there are many different physical threats that exiles face, but there are also nonphysical and indirect threats that oftentimes don’t get reported and fly under the radar, such as digital harassment, surveillance, and also what we call coercion by proxy, which is reprisals against family members back home. 

So this graphic that you see here shows the various tactics of transnational repression used by governments around the world.  It gives you an idea of the scope and scale of the issue.  In total, we’ve tracked at least 38 governments that have perpetrated transnational repression around the world, and that includes the likes of Rwanda, China, Türkiye, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, but many more.   

And one important trend that has emerged from our tracking of these incidents since 2014 is the specific targeting of journalists working and living in exile.  Even though different groups may be targeted, those who specifically cover government affairs more critically or expose wrongdoings, cover human rights abuses – and that includes the work of journalists in uncovering abuses and wrongdoings – these people are especially vulnerable to threats.  And our global database has tracked at least 112 cases of physical transnational repression since 2014 targeting journalists and perpetrated by 26 governments.  This is just the tip of the iceberg of what gets reported, and this is a growing trend and precisely what we wanted to examine with this research.  

So this transnational targeting of journalists also intersects with another worrying trend, which is the shrinking space for free and independent media around the world, something that Freedom House has been tracking over the last couple of decades.  And as you can see on this map, our Freedom in the World report, which comes out every year, shows that at least 66 countries around the world have environments where media freedom is now absent or severely constrained, and in the past few years alone we’ve seen intensifying crackdowns on independent media in places from Hong Kong to Russia to Afghanistan, Nicaragua, the – and Belarus – the list goes on.  And this has forced more and more journalists to flee their countries.   

But simply leaving a country isn’t a guarantee always of freedom and safety, and so transnational attacks and threats can follow exiled journalists across borders, anywhere, even though they’re more likely to be targeted in other countries that are less protective of media freedoms and more – where governments are more likely to cooperate in pursuing critics.  These threats also follow exiled journalists in what are supposed to be their safe havens in strong democracies in North America, in Europe too.   

So to better understand the nature and impact of these transnational threats, our research – we interviewed a dozen – over a dozen exiled journalists from places like Cambodia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and Türkiye, where media freedom is constrained.  So exiled journalists who have settled across Europe and North America and who face a series of threats.  We also spoke to representatives of media organizations and civil society that support their work. 

Roughly half of the journalists that we interviewed for this report had a background in journalism already, and they already faced some form of harassment by authorities while working domestically.  One of the examples is Kiyya Baloch, who is a freelance journalist from Pakistan who relocated recently to Norway after he was threatened by security services and placed on an anti-terrorism watch list.   

But others became journalists in part because of the repression that they and their families faced at home.  We heard several times journalists saying that transnational repression made me a journalist.  In the case of Nur’iman Abdureshid, for example, she joined Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service in the hope that she could find more information about her family members who were targeted by Chinese authorities.  But in both cases, when working from their new countries, many have continued to face targeted threats, whether that’s ongoing legal persecution, death threats, harassment on social media, smear campaigns, and ongoing targeting of family members.   

In the Kiyya, for example, his asylum process in Norway was delayed, probably due to ongoing background checks.  He learned at the same time that he was being accused of being involved in anti-Pakistan activities in the West.  He was also advised to get a safety watch from the police in Norway due to the possible threats against him.  And at the same time, his family members back home were harassed multiple times.  In the case of Nur’iman, for example, she has not only been disconnected from news from her family, but she’s also been frequently harassed and accused of working for the U.S. Government.   

So transnational repression impacts the lives and work of journalists in many ways.  And we highlight a few of these in this graphic.  The first very obvious one is the risk – real risk of physical harm.  I mentioned the case of Khashoggi earlier on, but a number of cases since then are a stark reminder of the real danger at stake.  In 2021, for instance, we saw how a dissident blogger from Azerbaijan living in France was stabbed multiple times in what was a suspected assassination attempt ordered from abroad.  We also saw how Belarusian authorities brazenly diverted a commercial plane and forced it to land to arrest a journalist.  And more recently, we’ve seen reports of Russian journalists falling ill with symptoms of poisoning in Europe.  So the threats are very real. 

But even at a more practical level, we see how ongoing persecution can create everyday obstacles, really.  And many journalists that we interviewed faced ongoing legal probes, accusations of being terrorists, for example, and arrest warrants and even INTERPOL red notices against them.  And they explained how this impacted their work in that they were unable to travel to countries to do their reporting for fear of being monitored, detained, and deported back home.  So it can constrain their movements to certain countries, but even at an even more practical level, it can complicate their access to some basic services.  And for example, in one case, a Turkish journalist lost access to all of his U.S. bank accounts, likely because of unfounded terrorism accusations against them.   

So last point, I wanted to mention the cost burden of it too.  It increases the financial cost of doing journalism, having to defend the outlet against cyber attacks, against surveillance, and also having to take a number of security precautions whether it’s buying flights, train tickets, or hotel reservations at the very last minute to avoid being monitored and avoid the risk of being tracked and threatened.  And all of these threats, online abuse, harassment have a cumulative effect on journalists’ mental, emotional well-being, but also can have a chilling effect on their ability to do their reporting. 

And I just wanted to mention a couple of cases.  In the case of Amberin Zaman, who’s a permanent Turkish journalist, she has faced a number of what she calls cyber lynchings online, so online harassment and legal probes.  And she went so far as to say that these had made her radioactive with many of the sources who now shunned her, so it affected her reporting but also affects – eventually it can affect her sense of self-worth and can make her question her work and the impact that it can have.  And so it can have a huge psychological toll, and it can become a daily struggle.   

And in the case of Behrang Tajdin from BBC Persian, he explained that not only do you have to worry about yourself and the impact that it – that these threats can have on your work, but you have to worry about your family members back home and the potential reprisals that they may face for the work, and that’s especially the case with Iranian journalists but other journalists in other countries where family members risk losing their jobs, risk receiving threats, threatening phone calls, or risk getting visits from local authorities, or even risk of detention because of the work that the relatives are doing as journalists.   

And now I will pass on to my colleague Grady to continue.   

MR VAUGHAN:  Thank you, Jess.  Besides the number of direct threats that Jess just mentioned, transnational oppression exacerbates the already challenging conditions in which exiled media and journalists must operate.  First off, when trying to resettle in a safe third country, exiled journalists often face long and arduous immigration and asylum processes.  Those who receive temporary status designations in host countries are in a particularly precarious position, often unable to travel for work or take advantage of benefits that are granted to citizens and recognized refugees.  Furthermore, criminal accusations made by the exiled journalists’ origin countries against them further complicates this process by forcing the exiled journalists to prove that he or she is not a security threat to the host state. 

Exiled journalists are also farther away from events on the ground.  This means they often have to rethink how to safely verify information and remain relevant and connected to their audiences back home.  For Meduza, for example, being labeled an undesirable organization by the Putin regime has meant that Russians face legal repercussions for supporting or cooperating with them.  These types of criminal laws force journalists to often maintain difficult and secretive contacts with their sources. 

Finally, these journalists have comparatively fewer resources to invest in their difficult work, let alone to use to protect themselves from these attacks.  Outlets often have to develop entirely new business models to stay afloat from exile.  In Russia, Belarus, and Iran for example, domestic legal crackdowns have made advertising, sales, and crowdfunding among their supporters virtually impossible.  Also, social media compliance and sometimes overcompliance with international sanctions regimes has stalled efforts for these outlets to monetize their content online. 

Put simply, transnational repression makes an already difficult job even harder and more precarious for many of these outlets that are already struggling to contend with the challenges that Jess mentioned that come with reporting and operating in exile.  Next slide.  Thanks. 

So we found that journalists have adapted their strategies to mitigate some of the threats they face from transnational repression, and those whom we interviewed mentioned several sources of support that they have relied on to protect themselves.  For instance, many mentioned digital hygiene practices, such as using encrypted messaging apps and obviously updating passwords and other software that they use on a regular basis.  Other self-help strategies that they’ve taken include specifically taking certain precautions when traveling and not sharing personal details such as location, address, and other revealing details that may make it easier for someone to find them. 

However, the problem with these types of self-measures is that they place the burden on the targeted individual to protect himself or herself, which is inherently unfair when we consider the strength of the repressive apparatuses of their origin countries.   

In terms of support from the host countries themselves, law enforcement can offer some security.  For example, we’ve seen that the UK and Norway have given those facing direct physical harm these safety alarm watches or panic buttons, which Jess mentioned in the case of Kiyya Baloch. 

And journalists have also appealed to diplomats in the host countries to either highlight transnational repression in bilateral meetings with diplomats from the origin state or to advocate on behalf of the exiled journalist’s family members back home who may be targeted.  The problem, though, is that in many cases these appeals lack follow-up and public interventions remain rather rare.  This is a particular source of frustration among the Uyghur journalists seeking information about their – seeking information and support when it comes to their family members back home in China who have been either interned or live under significant pressure. 

Finally, journalists may also receive support from media organizations and their own organizations.  For example, BBC Persian in the past has warned its – has preemptively warned its staff of threats they may face and taken other measures to attempt to increase their safety.  These other support groups, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, do regular advocacy and post alerts on their websites with respect to cases of potential transnational repression, and these are all good as they do raise awareness of the threat. 

Altogether though, I would say that we find that this support for these vulnerable journalists is often ad hoc, and there are many gaps in terms of developing a coordinated approach to mitigating the threat of transnational repression. 

So finally, I’ll finish with a few words on recommendations.  Transnational repression is a complex policy problem that spans both domestic and foreign policy, as well as security and migration policy.  Our broader recommendations to address transnational repression go into much more detail, and they can be found on our website if you’re interested in learning more.  Today I’ll simply highlight a few key priorities that we believe democratic governments, tech companies, and civil society should pay attention to if they want to really support these journalists in exile that are targeted by transnational repression. 

First, it’s imperative that these actors recognize the threat of transnational repression and help raise awareness of it.  This all starts, in our opinion, with governments specifically speaking publicly about the issue and stressing the importance of exile media when it comes to fostering democratic values around the world and exposing truths about events and developments in countries that are often closed.   

We also think that these governments should come together, these likeminded governments should come together, to develop multilateral strategies to tackle the issue.  Other actors, like social media companies and tech companies, also have a role to play in terms of documenting digital transnational repression tactics like doxing, harassment, and spyware, and identifying the governments that perpetrate these abuses online, as long as this doesn’t put journalists at further risk of transnational repression. 

Second, protections for journalists must – that are in exile must be reviewed and bolstered.  This is particularly relevant for host governments when it comes to strengthening their resettlement programs to help journalists gain protection from transnational repression both inside and outside of the asylum process.   

Host governments should recognize that exile, for a lot of these journalists and others, is not a temporary phenomenon, but it’s rather an indefinite state of being.  So this means that integration attempts should recognize that many journalists may not – sorry for the outside noise – many journalists may not be in a country for a small period of time, but they may be in the host country for an indefinite period of time, as I mentioned. 

Thirdly, governments should raise the cost and deliver accountability for acts of transnational repression.  This includes international pressure and taking advantage of such tools as the Magnitsky Act and Khashoggi Ban to issue visa bans and asset freezes for the perpetrators of transnational repression.  We’d also like to see more screening of potential diplomats from prominent abusers and perpetrators of transnational repression.  Oftentimes, embassies and consulates are sources of this sort of deleterious activity on foreign soil. 

Finally, we should see more support, whether it be financial, legal, or psychological, to increase the resiliency of these exiled journalists and media outlets.  We think that a particularly fruitful approach would be to pursue programmatic initiatives that seek to build solidarity and connections between journalists from different parts – between exiled journalists from different parts of the world.  This would allow them to both share their own best practices that they’ve learned and impart wisdom when it comes to safety and crowdfunding and other challenges that we’ve kind of outlined in this presentation. 

So with that, I’ll stop and we thank you again for your time, and we invite any questions or comments you may have.  

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you both for those remarks.  We will go straight away to questions.  Let’s start with Ralph Gore, Free Eurasia Media. 

QUESTION:  Thank you so much for this opportunity.  Appreciate speakers.  Ralph Gore from Free Eurasia Media.  I have actually three different questions.  First of all, could you please elaborate on recommendation provided if not in this report but by Freedom House for U.S. Government, specifically USCIS, to enhance efforts in supporting foreign journalists in exile in United States?  Could you provide examples of specific asylum cases where exiled journalists are protected by U.S. Government, specifically USCIS, with support of Freedom House?  How can USCIS collaborate more effectively with you to address challenges of persecuted journalists?  

My second question.  Grady Vaughan, with your background in Eurasia programs, how do authoritarian governments in Central Asia contribute to challenges faced by exiled journalists, and what role does transnational repression play in this context? 

My third question is about your report and also the murdered journalists in Gaza.  I looked at your report.  Even – it said December 2023.  I haven’t – I don’t see any information about that.  According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 62 Gaza journalists and media workers have been killed over the course of the war.  As of December 8, AP counts 84 murdered journalists, media journalists in Gaza.  Can you please tell me what is a reason that information is ignored?  

MS WHITE:  Thank you very much, Ralph, for these questions.  And on your first question about the U.S. Government and what it has done, I think the U.S. Government has taken, under the Biden administration, a whole-of-government approach to transnational repression.  So there is a growing awareness of the threats within government, but we do have specific recommendations on how they can bolster protections and continue to raise awareness around these threats.  

One of them is – so the State Department includes sections on transnational repression in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.  One of those recommendations will be – would be to bolster those reports and continue to raise awareness about that, make sure that it continues in the longer term.  Another key aspect on the legislative front is to codify in law a definition of transnational repression and ensure that there are clear policies to address these threats.   

And we continue to – I mean, we mentioned the immigration processes and how hard it can be and how lengthy it can be to claim asylum, and that’s a particular challenge amongst Uyghur communities in the U.S. for example.  So we do call for democracies, including the U.S., to review resettlement programs, immigration programs, to ensure that especially journalists can get legal status, and there are clear pathways to get legal status, and that these processes are not adversely affected by transnational threats.  So for example, a government launching criminal accusations that there is awareness within the asylum process and that these are not taken into account when determining a specific case.  

I will let perhaps Grady answer the second question.  

MR VAUGHAN:  Yeah.  So thank you for the question.  It’s a good question.  The Central Asian  governments are prominent perpetrators of transnational repression.  As Jess highlighted, three of the top ten that we’ve identified are, in fact, in Central Asia.  I think what we see increasingly is a lot of these citizen bloggers.  It’s a popular term I guess being used in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.  Sorry for the outside noise.  They’re coming under – they’re under particular threat in places like Russia.  A lot of, for example, Pamiri journalists in 2022 were threatened and sometimes detained, and Russia sometimes deported back some Turkmen media, and citizen bloggers in Türkiye over the last several years have been targeted.   

And yeah, unfortunately, the one major challenge, in addition to protecting them, that I think is particularly relevant to the Central Asian case is that their family members are excessively harassed, especially in the Turkmen and Tajik cases.  That challenge is one that we struggle with, because it’s happening within the origin country itself.  But again, as Jess said – or and as I mentioned – advocating on behalf of these family members and raising their profiles and the challenges that they face is important.  And when possible, providing them with their own pathways to seek citizenship if they want in a host country is also a welcome approach in certain cases.   

So I do think you’re right in terms of these Central Asia governments are – they’re not only targeting journalists.  They’re targeting political activists and former insiders using trumped-up charges of terrorism and extremism and other often trumped-up charges, as I said.  So it’s a problem we are observing.  

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you.  Let’s take our next question — 

MS WHITE:  And just – sorry, just to pick up the last question that he asked about Gaza and the killing of journalists there – incredibly worrying and you’re right to raise this point.  The reason why it’s not included in this specific report is because we focus specifically on the threats that are wielded by governments across borders against their citizens.  So it’s a particular type of transnational repression that we’re reporting in this report with a clear definition.  So we are concerned, definitely, and I think the killing of journalists and their protection deserves a lot more attention in the media, but it wasn’t a focus of this particular report and didn’t come under what we consider to be transnational repression.   

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We’ll go to Pearl Matibe.  Pearl, please ask your question.  Feel free to turn on your camera.   

QUESTION:  Thank you so much for doing this today.  I’d like to ask if you could draw your attention to the continent of Africa.  Now, while I appreciate the information that you have shared and what has been published in your report, however, as you know, the media space in Africa is particularly vulnerable.  And so I just am not convinced that there is enough evidence to show where and how you may have obtained information to have a true representation of how African journal, foreign journalists are impacted when they’re working in exile.  So I’d like some understanding of your methodology and the pool that you reached out to, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.   

In terms of the – what policy-making space uses your report and considers your recommendations, I appreciate the suggestion regarding codifying some of these things.  However, women journalists are even more impacted, women African journalists are even more impacted while they’re working in exile.   

If you could also please comment, earlier mid-year you may recall this particular instance where in Zimbabwe on June 1 was passed this awful, or the deeply impacts could have – could have deep impacts on journalism, the criminal law code amendment bill, which is also known as the patriot bill, which basically criminalizes work and had this notion that a Zimbabwean could end up having their citizenship revoked, for example.  And then, of course, online, the cyber bullying on women journalists working in exile from Sub-Saharan Africa – and I am talking about indigenous African women journalists – social media platforms like X and Facebook and all of these, when you report these cyber bullying, I can tell you that yes, while Grady, you’ve talked about documenting what’s been happening in the cyber bullying space, I have tracked bullying for myself, for example, where X has not replied or responded for six, seven, eight, nine months after the incident.   

And so I think if you could address some of these issues, I’d be grateful.  I mean, non-profit organizations like CPJ are really overwhelmed to even tackle the African issue.  Yes, I understand that these are global problems, but somehow Africa seems to be sidelined, and I don’t see the balanced research on this work. 

MR VAUGHAN:  I guess I can briefly address the last point.  You’re exactly right.  I mean, in other reports we have talked about the need for these companies to both take a – do more to help journalists in terms of filtering and reporting harassing content and other dangerous actions that we think that the origin governments are using.  I think another issue that we’re facing, I – you mentioned indigenous women and gendered abuse.  We would also like to see these tech companies hire more people with language knowledge from countries that may not be as represented in the rooms when they’re looking at content, when regulating content and supporting users who are threatened.  The more languages that can be represented – this isn’t a panacea by any means, but it’ll allow for there to be greater awareness of the actual scope of the issue, I think.  So I think that’s – those are a couple of things that they can do in that regard. 

Maybe Jess wants to address the – who we spoke with and methodology. 

MS WHITE:  Yes, I just wanted to mention – I mean, earlier on in my presentation I mentioned that overall 26 governments, according – so we track a database of incidents mainly focused on physical cases of transnational repression, which includes unlawful deportations, kidnappings, assaults, assassinations, which are easier to verify.  But of course, it’s only the tip of the iceberg of transnational threats overall.  But amongst the 26 governments that we’ve tracked that have targeted journalists, those do include some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.  We chose a small sample of those 26 countries to focus on in our interviews; we couldn’t quite cover the 26 in this research report.  But we – I invite you to look at our database, too, and look at the – some of the country cases that we highlight more broadly in terms of transnational repression.  But you’re right to point that the continent itself deserves more attention, and we will continue to strive to highlight some of these cases to you.   

And oftentimes one of the challenges is that many cases don’t get reported in the media, so we depend a lot of times on open sources to identify cases and to be able to verify cases.  So this might be one of the challenges from the region itself, is that perhaps that there is less coverage and less reporting being done on some of the cases of transnational repression. 

MR VAUGHAN:  A quick point of clarification also, just to add to what Jess said.  When we’re numbering – when we mention a number of cases, these are only physical cases of transnational repression.  So this means, like, assaults, assassinations, renditions, detentions, deportations, stuff like that.  So you mentioned the issue of cyber bullying and these more, quote-unquote, “everyday threats,” as we call them.  We don’t necessarily record those in the database just because, (a) there are so many, and (b) it’s harder to verify, because they’re not necessarily as publicly reported on.  But they are on our radar, and we do notice these trends; they just don’t end up appearing in our database tied to an individual person. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Let’s go to Jahanzaib Ali, ARY News, Pakistan. 

QUESTION:  Thank you so much for doing this.  I have two quick questions.  Can you discuss the role of NGOs and education groups in safeguarding the rights and well-being of exiled journalists within the U.S. borders?  And secondly, what kind of support exiled journalists have here in America?  Like, how does the system navigate the complexities of asylum cases for exiled journalists, considering the unique challenges they may have in their home countries?  I’m asking this question because I personally know a few of my colleagues waiting for their asylum cases for the last seven or eight years.  So if you can say something about that.  Thank you. 

MS WHITE:  Sir, I’m not sure I caught your – the first question.  Would you mind repeating it?  Sorry. 

QUESTION:  Yeah, so can you discuss the role of NGOs, non-governmental organizations, and advocacy groups in safeguarding the rights and well-being of exiled journalists? 

MS WHITE:  Right.  Yes, absolutely, and I think me and Grady pointed to some of – in our presentation, to some of the key aspects that – of the both media organizations themselves, but also media support organizations, advocacy organizations can do to support exiled media in connecting them to the right types of resources, but also to security expertise and – for example, digital training is one of the key aspects that is highlighted as being helpful in terms of providing best practices in terms of maintaining security online.  And media advocacy organizations also play a huge role in covering some of these cases and advocating, especially, for example, for cases where journalists have their family members targeted at home.  So raising awareness of organizations like CPJ, Reporters without Borders, can really raise the alarm about these cases.  And then other interesting civil society initiatives include the likes of JX Fund, so that serve as a bit of a clearing house for allocating resources to recent exiles who often are in more precarious situations when they flee their countries and making sure that they receive grants and funding to support their work when they reach their new countries of support, especially those fleeing currently Russia and Afghanistan and different countries who face increasing crackdowns. 

Grady, I don’t know if I want to pass to you for the second round. 

MR VAUGHAN:  Yeah, I think your second question’s also – it identifies a very challenging issue that we’ve seen in our research, that is the migration system as a whole.  Journalists don’t necessarily face any – I mean, they don’t receive any additional support, per se, like in their asylum processes as opposed to other groups of people.  But I do think that one of the recommendations that we have identified as possibly extending humanitarian visas or other – or creating other pathways for journalists to cover certain sensitive topics to relocate to the U.S. to consider to be able to continue their work.  In terms of the asylum process, there’s no overnight fixes to the whole issue.  I – this affects a lot of different asylum seekers and I don’t think it’s particular to journalists in any way, unfortunately.  

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  I will take our last question that was submitted by a journalist, Mohammad Yaqubi with Afghanistan International.  Asked:  “How can NGOs support freedom of speech for a journalist in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule?” 

MS WHITE:  Thank you for that question.  Yes, that’s another really – deserves a lot of attention with so many journalists have been forced to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.  Often they face very precarious conditions going to Pakistan or other countries in the hope of relocating to other safe havens.  So I think that there needs to be more concerted efforts to raise the issue and make sure that they are supported within democracies and, again, that their visa processes and their immigration cases are considered in a more urgent way.  I mean, some of them have been waiting for an incredibly long time, and their visas face expiration dates, and they risk getting deported back to Afghanistan.  So the threat is very real there. 

MODERATOR:  We are just about out of time.  So I will throw it back to Jessica and Grady for closing remarks. 

MS WHITE:  Well, thank you very much everyone for your time and for all your insightful questions.  I think transnational repression is really one of the latest challenges for the increasing number of exiled journalists who are now forced to flee domestic crackdowns.  So unfortunately, this is a growing threat that we see around the world, but we do urge overall for democracies not to stand by while this is taking place.  There is a real urgency to address issues from immigration systems, to making sure that protections are bolstered, making sure that exiled outlets can continue to sustain themselves from abroad because they do continue to cover incredibly important stories from within.  Some of them are most authoritarian, sometimes the most closed societies in the world, and the risk is that as a result a lot of the world will be closed off to us if some of those stories don’t get told, and human rights abuses and other wrongdoings don’t get covered by other journalists who are able to do that on the ground. 

And thankfully, there are more tools to do this from abroad; technology can provide ways to stay connected and to do this work.  And even though it is difficult, there are ways to do this, but they need protection, and they need support and the technological tools to make sure that they continue to do their work.   

But thank you very much for your time today. 

MR VAUGHAN:  Thank you. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  I would like to thank our briefers today, Jessica White and Grady Vaughan with Freedom House.  And I would like to thank all of the journalists who participated today.  This concludes the briefing. 

U.S. Department of State

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