At least 26 governments accused of harassing and threatening exiles in America and Europe, Freedom House report reveals

Crackdowns on dissent and media by authoritarian regimes have forced hundreds of journalists into exile from Afghanistan, Belarus, China, Hong Kong, Iran, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. However, even in exile, journalists find themselves at risk. A shocking report by the Freedom House advocacy group reveals that at least 26 governments have targeted journalists abroad with transnational repression, putting their safety and work in serious peril.

Notably, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and Russia are notorious for targeting exiled journalists and their families. However, lesser-known countries like Afghanistan, Belarus, Myanmar, and Pakistan are also named in the report for targeting critical exiled journalists.

Freedom House documented 112 incidents of transnational repression against journalists between 2014 and 2023.

“Transnational repression against journalists includes assault, detention, kidnapping, and unlawful deportation, as well as serious limitations on freedom of movement resulting from these threats. It also entails the intimidation of journalists’ family members, digital harassment, smear campaigns, doxing, and other attempts to prevent truthful reporting,” the report said.

“Exiled journalists need legal, financial, and operational support from host governments, civil society, and media organizations in order to continue to expose human rights violations around the world.”

The report reveals that exiled journalists’ sources also face threats, making it challenging for them to maintain crucial contacts that hinder their ability to continue independent reporting.

In interviews with Freedom House, over a dozen journalists in Europe and North America revealed how transnational repression affects their physical and psychological well-being when reporting about their home countries.

London’s Metropolitan Police were called to guard the offices of Iran International after staff received death threats for their coverage of protests in Iran. Over the summer, Russian journalist Galina Timchenko, who cofounded the Latvia-based online media outlet Meduza, received a notification from Apple that “state-sponsored attackers” were targeting her phone; reports later emerged that the phone was infected with Pegasus spyware. Timchenko takes precautions when traveling, conscious of the fact that other Russian journalists working in Europe have been poisoned.

The report includes interviews with 16 journalists in exile across Europe and North America, highlighting the impact of transnational repression on their journalism.

PEN Norway joins Freedom House in calling on European and American governments to support exiled journalists.

“Governments should speak publicly about the importance of exiled media in efforts to promote democracy and counter authoritarianism and work with like-minded states to develop multilateral measures for their protection,” Freedom House says.

“Host countries should consider appropriate mechanisms, including providing special visas, such as humanitarian visas or visas for human rights defenders, to help exiled journalists secure legal status. Countries should also review their asylum processes to ensure that exiled journalists are not being denied legal status as a result of illegitimate criminal charges leveled against them by the origin country governments.”

Complete report can be read here: