Radio Free Asia Uyghur Journalist Wins Magnitsky Human Rights Award

Women in the world event RFA Uyghur journalist Gulchehra Hoja is interviewed at the 10th annual Women in the World conference in April, 2019.
Photo: RFA

WASHINGTON – Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) Uyghur Service journalist Gulchehra Hoja last night received a Magnitsky Human Rights Award at a ceremony in London for her reporting on the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

“Gulchehra and RFA’s Uyghur Service have worked tirelessly to bring to light the human rights abuses happening in China’s Uyghur region,” said Libby Liu, President of RFA. “We must also remember the extraordinary pressure facing her and her fellow journalists in RFA Uyghur, as Chinese authorities have targeted their family members in China in retaliation.

“Heroically, Gulchehra and her colleagues have not let this unacceptable emotional intimidation stop them from keeping RFA audiences and the world informed about an unfolding humanitarian crisis affecting millions.”

Hoja said, “It is an honor to be recognized with this award for my reporting about the dire situation in China’s Far West for the Uyghurs. My colleagues and I know that no matter the obstacles or the adversity we face, it is crucial that we continue to reveal the truth.”

Along with her colleagues in RFA’s Uyghur Service, Hoja has been at the forefront of coverage of the internment of, by many estimates, more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the XUAR. RFA, the only outlet outside China that has a Uyghur-language service, has received wide recognition for first reporting on the mass internments and related developments in the XUAR. The Economist recently published an editorial noting RFA’s ability “to penetrate China’s wall of secrecy in Xinjiang by pumping local sources for information, using their own language.”

Hoja began her career in journalism in the XUAR with Chinese state media. But when she first heard RFA’s reports during a trip to Germany in the summer of 2001, she was inspired to leave China and join RFA. Hoja shortly thereafter settled in the United States and became a full-time journalist with RFA in October of that same year, and later a U.S. citizen. Among many other stories, Hoja has reported on the construction of crematoria near the internment camps in the XUAR, the sterilization and sexual abuse of female detainees, and the situation facing “orphaned” children, whose parents have been detained. Hoja is among at least six members of RFA’s Uyghur Service who have family members in China who are missing, detained, or jailed in retaliation for these RFA journalists’ work.

The Magnitsky Human Rights Awards were established in 2015 to recognize brave journalists, politicians, and activists for human rights-related work. This year’s honorees included Maria Ressa, co-founder and CEO of the media outlet Rappler, and the late Jamal Kashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist and critic of the Saudi government, who was slain in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Past winners of the Magnitsky Award have included journalists from Radio Free Europe, Bellingcat, and MBK Media. This instance marks the first time a journalist from RFA has been recognized.

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