#FreeOkkeOrnstein

Now working from the Netherlands, the Dutch journalist Okke Ornstein was previously based in Panama, where he’s facing legal harassment for writing about fraud and corruption. His situation made international news.

Full disclosure: I’m this journalist’s partner, so I naturally had a very personal stake in this “project.” I ran this web-based campaign as part of our family’s efforts to free him from the claws of Panama’s “justice” system.

Currently based in his home country of the Netherlands, Okke Ornstein previously worked from Panama, where in November 2016 he was imprisoned for blogging about fraud and corruption. He was released five weeks later, on a presidential pardon—and after much pressure was applied by diplomatic, legal, transparency, and free press channels. Okke is planning to take Panama to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, for repeatedly violating his due process and human rights.

I initiated and managed a web-based campaign to complement the legal and diplomatic efforts to free him. We started off with #FreeOkke before the hashtag was improved by NVJ, the Dutch journalists’ association. I built the first #FreeOkkeOrnstein website with NationBuilder, which made it easy to launch quickly and effectively. Okke’s situation made international news, so the site served as an info hub for journalists and others seeking updates. It also served as a key fundraising tool, generating around $4,000 in individual donations—cash needed to help pay off huge legal bills. Because Okke’s case is ongoing, I update the site as developments arise. Outside the digital world, I strategized and collaborated with local activists who advocated for Okke’s freedom—and for transparency and democratic press laws in Panama.

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