A logo at the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation building Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

Has Interpol Become a Tool of Oppression?

Journalists are increasingly being targeted by Interpol arrest notices, as authoritarian regimes abuse a system meant to curb cross-border crime. Media advocacy groups warn that Interpol has a responsibility to guard against this type of misuse, or risk losing credibility as a legitimate crime-fighting agency.

LONDON – Arrests of journalists in Spain and Ukraine on the basis of Interpol notices have raised serious questions about the methods of the international police agency. For media professionals in particular, the trends are deeply worrying.

The cases in Spain and Ukraine are not isolated incidents. Countries opposed to a free press are increasingly using Interpol’s “wanted person” alerts to target and silence journalists who have fled. Since July, Fair Trials and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have responded to a number of cases in which reporters have been arrested and detained on the basis of Interpol information. Countries circulating these orders include Azerbaijan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.

The circulation of wanted person alerts, which include “notices” and “diffusions,” is one of Interpol’s key functions. These alerts, transmitted to police databases worldwide, identify the subject as a wanted criminal. These notifications have far-reaching consequences, and as we have learned, can easily be abused. For example, in recent months, journalists like Hamza Yalçin, Fikret Huseynli, Narzullo Akhunzhonov, and Can Dündar, targeted by their governments for simply doing their jobs, have all been flagged by Interpol.