GENEVA (26 June 2024) — Many journalists in exile are in grave danger because of the alarming rise of transnational repression from their home governments and inadequate protection and support in their host countries, Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said today.

Presenting her new report to the Human Rights Council today, the Special Rapporteur said that the upward trend of journalists in exile and attacks on them track the rise in authoritarianism and suppression of media freedom in various parts of the world.

Khan said that too often exile fails to provide safety.  “Hundreds of journalists who have fled their countries face physical, digital and legal threats from their home governments, including assassination, assault, abduction, as well as prosecution in absentia on trumped up charges and retaliation against family members back home,” she said.

“Safety and security are doubly in peril when the authorities in the host country become an enabler of transnational repression, for instance, by colluding in abductions instigated by the home State.”

She said online violence, threats, hacking and targeted digital surveillance of exiled journalists have surged over the past decade. 

Women journalists in exile are at particular risk of sexual and gender-based violence online and offline, especially when they lack legal status in their country of asylum.

“Targeting journalists on foreign soil violates international law and must be condemned strongly and unequivocally by the United Nations,” said the Special Rapporteur.

“Too often, States are either unwilling for political reasons or unable for lack of capacity or resources to protect and support journalists in exile. Journalists should not be treated as political pawns but as human beings in distress who, at great cost to themselves, are contributing to the realisation of our human right to information.”

The Special Rapporteur urged States to take a rights-based, human-centred approach to the plight of journalists in exile and called on them to uphold their human rights obligations.

“Journalists in exile need more effective protection against physical and digital attacks, they need emergency visas and residence, and work permits from receiving governments, they need coordinated, long-term support from funders and civil society to thrive as public interest media.

The Special Rapporteur also called on digital companies to do more to protect journalists in exile and ensure that the technologies essential to practise journalism are not disrupted or weaponised against them.


Ms. Irene Khan was appointed Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression on 17 July 2020. Ms. Khan is the first woman to hold this position since the establishment of the mandate in 1993. She teaches at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and was previously Secretary General of Amnesty International from 2001 to 2009 and Director General of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) from 2012 to 2019.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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