French Nonprofit Provides Refuge for Journalists in Danger

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May 3, 2014; France24

NPQ has written repeatedly about the dangers posed to journalists (and therefore democracy) around the world, but we did not know about this resource. The Maison des Journalistes, located in a former brush factory provided to them by the City of Paris, offers shelter and support to journalists who have been forced to flee their own countries under threat of violence. MDJ is twelve years old and has already provided shelter to more than 250 journalists from 54 countries.

MDJ described its work in part as follows:

“The first role of the organization is to recognize these individuals and the sacrifices they have made in the name of press freedom and human rights. We work to ensure that they are not forgotten or left to their own devices upon arrival in a foreign country, whose language many of our residents do not speak. This diverse group of men and women come to the Maison des journalistes during a particularly difficult time in their lives and many are dealing with serious physical and psychological scars.”

One journalist from the Central African Republic fled his home country after his brother was killed. “They confiscated my bag and computer,” he said. “They wanted to take them. Finally, they gave me my computer back and when I went to put it into my bag, a grenade rolled out. They put a grenade in my backpack.”

The center not only provides room and board, but it also helps them obtain political asylum and benefits like medical coverage and unemployment compensation, offers classes in French, and provides counseling to help residents with psychological trauma. They also help them access journalism classes to hone their skills and have them speak to students about freedom of the press.

Here is a video from MDJ’s website.—Ruth McCambridge