U. of Maryland Students Launch Campaign to ‘Uncuff Imprisoned Journalists Around World’

Ammar Abdulrasool. Mahmoud Abou Zeid. Reeyot Alemu. Khadija Ismayilova. Bheki Makhubu. Ta Phong Tan. Jason Rezaian. Yusuf Ruzimuradov. Ilham Tohti.

You may not know all, most or any of these individuals. But they are among the most poignant, courageous representatives of the enduring struggle for free speech and free press worldwide.

They are journalists currently incarcerated for practicing their craft — being held on made up, trumped up, unknown or nefariously uncouth charges all aimed at scaring the news media into submission, sending a political message or stopping the pursuit of truth.

A team of student journalists at the University of Maryland has had enough. They are helping raise awareness of these journalists’ plights, and the many dangers facing newshounds globally, through a new campaign gaining traction in the social media universe and the press.

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Led by the woman/myth/Washington Post reporting legend Dana Priest — and in conjunction with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) — students in UMD’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism have launched Press Uncuffed.

The movement is built atop a course Priest led last semester, specifically an assignment calling for each student to profile a journalist being unfairly or unlawfully detained somewhere on Earth. The students’ individual investigations spurred a collective desire to do more. The main accessory in their current post-class campaign is a bracelet “made of clear LuciteLux®, a very strong acrylic material … used for WWII fighter planes as windshields, periscopes and gunner turrets.”

1As the Press Uncuffed team explains on its Indiegogo fundraising site:

“We’re journalism students at the University of Maryland working with our professor — Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Dana Priest –- to raise money to free imprisoned journalists around the world by selling bracelets bearing their names. … We’re asking for your support to manufacture and package the bracelets prior to making them available for sale on World Press Freedom Day — May 3, 2015. … We’re launching this campaign now because the last three years have been the worst on record for the safety of journalists covering news in many parts of the world. … If a journalist somewhere still wears a cuff, so will we.”

According to a CPJ information graphic featured prominently in the Press Uncuffed digital efforts, 220 journalists were incarcerated worldwide last year. China alone currently has 44 journalists imprisoned. Other countries known as the world’s worst journalism jailers: Iran, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Vietnam.

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