A Lifeline for Journalists at Risk

 

Roberson Alphonse, an investigative reporter from Haiti, survived an assassination attempt in October 2022, fleeing to Miami before finding refuge as a 2024 Knight-Wallace Fellow in Ann Arbor, where he could continue his work.

Stand with Us on World Press Freedom Day

For five decades, Wallace House Center for Journalists at the University of Michigan has been a steadfast advocate for press freedom, providing vital support for journalists at risk. Today, as we commemorate World Press Freedom Day, we urge you to join us in standing resolute in support of journalists under siege across the globe.

 

Through the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists, we provide an academic year of support, serving as a life-saving bridge for journalists confronting crises in their home countries. From Kashmir to Mexico, Haiti to Russia, and Afghanistan to Iran, our Fellows’ stories underscore the sacrifices journalists make and the critical need for organizations like Wallace House to safeguard their pursuit of truth.

Roberson Alphonse, an investigative reporter from Haiti, is just one of many journalists targeted for his reporting in recent years and one of many helped by Wallace House. Since 2022, at least six journalists in Haiti have been murdered in retaliation for their work, making it one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists. Alphonse narrowly survived an assassination attempt in October 2022, fleeing to Miami before finding refuge as a 2024 Knight-Wallace Fellow in Ann Arbor. With the financial, structural and emotional support offered through the fellowship, Alphonse has been able to continue his vital work, writing and hosting a radio show while researching methods to safeguard journalists working in hostile environments. 

Watch Alphonse discuss his journey in the video above.

Yet, the challenges facing journalists persist. With conflicts raging in Gaza and Ukraine and autocracies tightening their grip around the world, the statistics are sobering: The Committee to Protect Journalists documented 320 journalists imprisoned around the world near the end of 2023, with nearly 20% of them serving sentences of 10 years or more in retaliation for their coverage. Ongoing wars indicate an alarming rate of death, injury and imprisonment of journalists in 2024. 

Your support can make a tangible difference in the lives of journalists like Alphonse and countless others who risk everything to inform and empower their communities. Your generosity helps us provide emergency assistance, advocate for press freedom and enable journalists to tell the truth without fear.

Join us in supporting journalists on World Press Freedom Day and beyond. Together, we can make a difference and ensure that voices of truth are not silenced. Donate now.

Thank you for standing with us.


To learn more about how to make a major gift in support of these efforts, please contact Jayson Rose, senior development officer, at rosejay@umich.edu

Wallace House Center for Journalists and Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia stand in solidarity with Elena Milashina and Alexander Nemov

Wallace House Center for Journalists and the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia at the University of Michigan vehemently condemn the brutal attack on Russian journalist Elena Milashina and lawyer Alexander Nemov on July 4th when she was reporting in Chechnya. Elena spent this last year with us in Ann Arbor and decided to forgo her second year of fellowship and return to Russia because, as she expressed, “there is work to do” there. 

As today marks the 100th day of Evan Gershkovich’s wrongful detainment in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, we stand in solidarity with Elena, Evan, and all journalists and scholars whose freedom of speech is curtailed and whose life is threatened for bringing to light vital social and political issues. We hold dear and defend civil liberties and the rule of law, core principles of democratic societies. We wish Elena a full recovery and the ability to continue her work without harm or retribution. We will continue to uphold the vital work of journalists and scholars in uncovering, analyzing, and disseminating facts and truth. And we will continue to support those who spread knowledge about human rights abuses around the world.

Lynette Clemetson, Director, Wallace House Center for Journalists
Geneviève Zubrzycki, Director, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia and Professor of Sociology

Introducing Our Expanded Name

Wallace House Center for Journalists

Wallace House, home of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships, the Livingston Awards and the Wallace House Presents event series, is now Wallace House Center for Journalists, a new name to reflect our expanding vision.

For nearly 50 years, Wallace House programs have been committed to fostering excellence in journalism. Starting with a grant in 1972 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to give accomplished journalists access to learning and research at the University of Michigan, we’ve grown into an internationally recognized organization that supports and develops the careers of journalists, advocates for press freedom issues, and promotes informed civic engagement. 

It’s now time to adapt our name to reflect our ever-growing work and core mission to support journalism by supporting journalists.

As press freedom is under attack and democracy is threatened around the world and at home, Wallace House Center for Journalists will continue to expand our reach and ambitions. We’re providing emergency support for reporters under siege, adapting our fellowship to address challenges facing the journalism industry and supporting journalists with resources to develop journalism ventures. 

You can still find us on these pages and follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram under the username @UMWallaceHouse. We look forward to sharing our growing vision with you.

About Wallace House Center for Journalists

Wallace House Center for Journalists at the University of Michigan is committed to fostering excellence in journalism. We are home to programs that recognize, sustain and elevate the careers of journalists to address the challenges of journalism today, foster civic engagement and uphold the role of a free press in a democratic society. We believe in the fundamental mission of journalism to document, interpret, analyze and investigate the forces shaping society.

 

Elena Milashina of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta Joins the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies

Elena Milashina returns to Wallace House after leaving Russia amid death threats and Putin’s shutdown of “Novaya Gazeta,”
Russia’s last remaining independent news outlet.

Supporting Journalists at Risk

After facing death threats for her reporting on human rights abuses in Chechnya and Russia, Elena Milashina, an award-winning Russian journalist and 2010 Knight-Wallace Fellow returned to the University of Michigan. Milashina is an investigative journalist for Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s last remaining independent newspaper before it ceased publication in March in response to threats from the Putin regime following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sponsored by Wallace House, Milashina joins the International Institute’s Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies as the inaugural WCED Freedoms Under Fire Residency Fellow. The new fellowship brings prominent and courageous activists, journalists, and scholars from across the globe to WCED as a way both of evading persecution in their home countries and sharing their unique personal insights with the U-M community and broader public on how dictatorships and eroding democracies repress vital individual freedoms.

“Wallace House is committed to advancing the freedom and safety of journalists around the world. When we can provide for the safety of one journalist, we are safeguarding their journalism, their voice and the public’s right to the truth,” said Lynette Clemetson, director of Wallace House.

In February of this year, Milashina went into hiding after numerous threats from Kremlin-backed Chechen leaders and continued to report on human rights abuses from an undisclosed location. Since 2000, Novaya Gazeta, whose editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, has seen six of its journalists and contributors killed.

“I am very grateful to Wallace House and the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies for this opportunity,” said Milashina. “The University of Michigan for me is not just a safe place to continue my work. Without exaggeration, this is one of the best places to exchange experiences and learn things, which very often a journalist simply does not have time for.”

Milashina’s reporting has uncovered enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, torture, and persecution of relatives of alleged insurgents in Chechnya and beyond. She came to the university in September 2009 as a Knight-Wallace Fellow, where she studied ethnic and religious conflicts in the North Caucasus. Following her fellowship, she exposed Chechnya’s crackdown on gay men, which caused Muslim clerics in Chechnya to deliver a sermon calling for “retribution” against her and other journalists. She is the recipient of Human Rights Watch’s Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism and the International Women of Courage Award. 

“Journalists are in the crosshairs of democratic backsliding all around the world, not least in Putin’s Russia,” said Dan Slater, director of WCED.  “Our new Freedoms Under Fire fellowship is designed to invite some of the world’s most courageous and principled opponents of authoritarian practices to Michigan’s campus. Elena Milashina is an ideal first recipient of this fellowship, and we are privileged to host her. Elena’s remarkable story should remind us all that Putin’s victims reside in Russia as well as Ukraine, and that the global struggle for full democratic freedoms must never be limited or defined by national boundaries.”

Last March, Milashina spoke with us on camera from an undisclosed location and discussed the demise of a free press under Putin’s regime and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Then as now, she remains determined to continue championing the truth. As a WCED Freedoms Under Fire Residency Fellow, Milashina will give guest lectures, engage with students and faculty, and continue her writing to report the truth about what is happening in Ukraine, Russia, and the region.


Wallace House Center for Journalists at the University of Michigan is committed to fostering excellence in journalism. We are home to programs that recognize, sustain and elevate the careers of journalists to address the challenges of journalism today, foster civic engagement and uphold the role of a free press in a democratic society. We believe in the fundamental mission of journalism to document, interpret, analyze and investigate the forces shaping society.

The Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies at the University of Michigan’s International Institute promotes scholarship to better understand the conditions and policies fostering transformations from authoritarian rule to democracy. WCED’s mission will evolve as the world changes, but its core commitment to understanding the conditions for democracy and freedom will remain the guiding principle.

Support Journalists at Risk on World Press Freedom Day

 

Elena Milashina, a 2010 Knight-Wallace Fellow, faces death threats for her fierce reporting on human rights abuses in Chechnya and Russia. Wallace House is working to bring Milashina to safety. Watch Milashina discuss the demise of a free press under Putin’s regime.

Taking Action to Support Journalists and Uphold Democracy

For more than three decades, Wallace House Center for Journalists at the University of Michigan has provided support for journalists at risk. This World Press Freedom Day, we remain steadfast in our mission and ask for your support to help journalists under siege around the world.

Every year, through the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists, we provide an academic year of support, serving as a life-saving bridge for journalists who face crises in their home countries. Wallace House has created a safe haven for journalists from a wide range of countries, including Rwanda, Mexico, India, Russia and Afghanistan.

 

With autocracies on the rise around the world, more journalists are in need of emergency support.

Some appeals come from here in the U.S., as in the case of Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto who came to Ann Arbor from an ICE detention facility in El Paso, Texas.  He joined the 2018-2019 Knight-Wallace Fellowship class as a Senior Press Freedom Fellow.  Gutiérrez is seeking asylum in the United States following death threats in his home country related to his reporting. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 150  journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000. 

Emilio Gutiérrez-Soto, with his son, Oscar
Emilio Gutiérrez-Soto, with his son, Oscar, after being released from an ICE detention center. Gutiérrez-Soto joined the 2018-2019 Knight-Wallace Fellowship class as a Senior Press Freedom Fellow.
Jawad Sukhanyar
Jawad Sukhanyar, an Afghan journalist and 2019 Knight-Wallace Fellow, returned to Wallace House and the University of Michigan on October 4, 2021, after fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan with his family in August.

The need for urgent assistance also comes from international reporters like Jawad Sukhanyar, a 2019 Knight-Wallace Fellow targeted by the Taliban for his work with The New York Times.  Escaping chaos and gunfire at the Kabul airport and hiding in the city for several days, Sukhanyar and his family were evacuated out of Afghanistan in August 2021 through an extraordinary effort led by The New York Times. He returned to the university as a journalist-in-residence with the Donia Human Rights Center and the International Institute, a position sponsored by Wallace House. Next fall, Sukhanyar will join the university’s Department of Communications as the Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism. He will teach courses on global threats to press freedom and the media’s role in the rise and fall of democracies.

Elena Milashina is a 2010 Knight-Wallace Fellow and investigative reporter for “Novaya Gazeta,” Russia’s last remaining independent news outlet before it ceased publication in response to threats of imprisonment from the Putin regime. Facing death threats for her fierce reporting on human rights abuses in Chechnya and Russia, Milashina discusses the demise of a free press under Putin’s government in the video above. Now a journalist without an outlet to publish her reporting, she’s currently working on three projects and remains determined to continue championing the truth. Wallace House is committed to helping Milashina work from a place of safety.

Beyond individual support to journalists under siege, our Knight-Wallace Fellowships provide journalists access to resources and world renown authorities to develop expertise or create new ventures addressing press safety.

During his time as a Knight-Wallace Fellow, Laurent Richard created Forbidden Stories, a nonprofit newsroom to continue and publish the work of other journalists facing threats, prison or murder.  Now an award-winning news collaboration, his organization secretly brought together 60 reporters from 18 countries to complete the reporting of slain journalist Regina Martinez and expose a global network of Mexican drug cartels and their political connections worldwide.

Elodie Vialle spent her Knight-Wallace Fellowship designing a training curriculum and consulting with experts to develop solutions to counter online harassment against journalists. Now recognized as an international expert on this subject, she has trained more than 400 journalists worldwide on how they can protect themselves online and is a consultant for PEN America’s Online Abuse Defense Program. 

Play a role in protecting the lives of journalists.

Today, your support will help us defend the role of a free and independent press by extending a lifeline to journalists around the world. Donate now.

To learn more about how to make a major gift in support of these efforts, please contact Jayson Rose, senior development officer, at rosejay@umich.edu

Wallace House Applauds 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov

Wallace House applauds today’s announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia, courageous reporters who have risked their lives to expose abuses of power and the oppressive government regimes in control in their countries.

With authoritarianism on the rise around the world, the prize underscores the importance of protecting a free and independent press. The recognition bestowed on Ressa and Muratov is an inspiration to journalists everywhere to continue to dig, question and expose the truth.

“Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov remind all of us who believe in a free and independent press to keep fighting against the forces that work to silence and marginalize journalists,” said Wallace House director, Lynette Clemetson.

Wallace House is grateful for the opportunities in past years for our Knight-Wallace Fellows to meet with these two journalists and learn from their fearless example.


Wallace House Welcomes Afghan Journalist and His Family Back to Ann Arbor

Jawad Sukhanyar, an Afghan journalist and Knight-Wallace alum, returned to Ann Arbor.

Jawad Sukhanyar, an Afghan journalist and 2019 Knight-Wallace Fellow, returned to Wallace House and the University of Michigan on October 4, 2021, after fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan with his family in August.

Sukhanyar will join the university as a journalist-in-residence with the Donia Human Rights Center and the International Institute. The research fellowship, sponsored by Wallace House, will commence once Sukhanyar receives full clearance from U.S. resettlement and immigration officials.

“Among the tens of thousands of Afghans now beginning the difficult process of resettling in communities across the U.S., many are journalists and support workers who faced persecution and death in their home country for being employed by American news organizations,” said Lynette Clemetson, Director of Wallace House. “It is imperative that we come together to support these journalists, and it is a privilege to be able to provide a safe and welcoming community for this family at such a critical moment.”

Sukhanyar was a reporter for The New York Times in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2019. At the time, he was the longest-serving reporter in the organization’s Kabul bureau. He came to the university in September 2018 as a Knight-Wallace Fellow, where he studied issues related to women’s rights in Afghanistan. A target of the Taliban for his reporting and his affiliation with a U.S. media outlet, Sukhanyar, and his family faced grave danger from the extremist group.

“Being in Ann Arbor brings a sigh of relief for all of us. We have so many good memories of living here. But this time it is a bittersweet experience. None of us wanted to leave Afghanistan. We built our home there. We were forced to leave, and there is no hope that we can return,” said Sukhanyar. “When we were in Ann Arbor before, I was here learning so I could take it all back to my country. Now we are here to survive.”

In July, Wallace House invited Sukhanyar to return to the university as a journalist-in-residence. Unable to secure a visa to leave Afghanistan before the collapse of its capital to the Taliban, Sukhanyar and his family escaped chaos and gunfire at the Kabul airport and hid in the city for several days before being successfully evacuated out of their home country to safety.

The evacuation, led by The New York Times, was part of an extraordinary effort to save the lives of the Afghan staff who aided their journalism over the past 20 years. In an arduous journey reported by The Times, the group of more than 100 Afghans transited through Qatar and Mexico before entering the U.S. in Houston at the end of August.

“I feel safe now. I was five years old when I lost my father in the early days of the Afghan civil war,” remembers Sukhanyar. “What I went through as a child, what I have seen in my country, I don’t want my children to experience that.”

Once immigration officials approve him to begin his fellowship at the university, Sukhanyar will study the implications of the U.S. departure from Afghanistan and new rule under the Taliban. Through his affiliation with the Donia Human Rights Center, he will engage with faculty, students, and community members interested in learning about his role as a journalist covering U.S. and Taliban influence in his home country.

“The Donia Center is honored and delighted to welcome Jawad as a journalist-in-residence. His expertise on human rights in Afghanistan, gained from years of on-the-ground reporting, will prove an extraordinary asset to students and faculty interested in human rights work,” said Steven Ratner, U-M Profesor of Law and Director of the Donia Human Rights Center.  “We look forward to connecting Jawad with people throughout the university who will be eager to hear from him.”  

After several agonizing months, the return to Ann Arbor is a homecoming of sorts for the Sukhanyar, his wife, and their four children. Now they look forward to starting school and settling into a stable routine with new friends. 


In Support of Maria Ressa and Rey Santos Jr.

Wallace House stands with journalism organizations around the world in condemning the conviction of journalist Maria Ressa, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, an independent news organization in the Philippines.  Ressa, an award-winning international journalist and U.S. citizen, was found guilty today of “cyber libel” under the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act. Ressa and a former Rappler reporter, Reynoldo Santos Jr., could face up to six years in prison.

“This conviction represents a threat to global press freedom and ultimately to democracy,” said Wallace House director Lynette Clemetson. “This injustice in the Philippines, once one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies, is part of a dangerous pattern worldwide to intimidate and silence the press. Organizations that support journalists must make our voices heard in condemning this outcome.”

The case against Ressa stems from a 2012 Rappler story alleging a businessman’s ties to illegal drugs and human trafficking. A former CNN journalist and Time Person of the Year, Ressa has been repeatedly targeted by the Philippine government for Rappler’s critical coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and other punitive policies. Under Duterte’s rule, the Philippines has become increasingly dangerous for journalists. The Philippines ranks 136th out of 180 countries on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index. The United States, which has dropped dramatically in recent years, ranks 45.