What Are Political Prisoners And Why Should We Care About Them?

What do Indonesia, South America, Egypt, Spain, and some known political figures have in common?

We can talk about them when we talk about political prisoners.

This is what I do in my episode.

On my podcast, I like to talk about media freedom and freedom of speech, especially as one of the powerful lenses we can use to see how democratic countries we’d like to inspect are.

In a way, the concept of political prisoners points to the failures of countries to provide and secure these freedoms, together with other human rights, to their citizens. It becomes a good litmus paper to use to see where important cracks appear, and where our work – as learners, activists, and simply people who care – lies.

I cover a lot in my episode (hold on!):

  • how this concept came about and what famous human rights organisation stemmed from it,
  • why we can navigate the potential complexities of the very definition of a ‘political prisoner’ by using international law,
  • examples of political prisoners we’ve had in the past,
  • examples of countries that still have them,
  • two answers to “But why should we care about political prisoners?”
  • an invitation to take action – I also tell you why it matters.

I’m releasing this episode on April 5, which is the UN International Day of Conscience. Without shaming anyone by accident, I want to simply encourage us to reflect on how we see our own conscience: as individuals and as part of something bigger.

We’re also in the holy month of Ramadan, which is supposed to be a peaceful, beautiful, and lovely time for any family celebrating it. And yet,

“At a time when families should be gathering together [Ramadan], tens of thousands are separated from their loved ones in exile, wrongfully imprisoned or trapped under unlawful travel bans in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, unsure of when — or if — they will ever reunite with their loved ones.”

Andrea Prasow, Executive Director of The Freedom Initiative

If we can help a family to see their loved one, why wouldn’t we? If your sister, mother, brother, or partner was kept in prison by a hostile government, wouldn’t you like to know people from other regions care?

Let’s raise our voices — because they matter, and because we have seen them make a difference before.


Sources cited and resources to explore:

Article art by Natasha Garlukovich

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