CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

December 2013 Archives


Mike O'Connor at a 2012 press conference in Culiacán. (Ron Bernal)

It is a sad end to 2013 for the global press freedom community.

With the sudden death of CPJ Mexico Representative Mike O'Connor, 67, on Sunday, Mexican journalists have lost one of their most formidable advocates. Mike will be remembered as someone who was on the forefront of the struggle for press freedom. His superb skills as an investigative journalist helped scores of reporters across the country during a period marred by violence and censorship.

Mourners carry the coffin of Yasser Faisal al-Jumaili, who was killed on assignment in Syria, at his funeral in Falluja, Iraq, on December 8. (Reuters/Thaier Al-Sudani)

This year, CPJ researchers confirmed that at least 29 journalists died while covering the Syrian conflict. How did we arrive at that number?

Families displaced by fighting wait to be registered for food rations at a makeshift camp inside a United Nations facility on the outskirts of Juba on Monday. (Reuters/James Akena)

"They even started shooting through my house--I had to lie on the floor with my wife and kids," Angelo Wello, a freelance journalist for faith-based news sites and a pastor, told me. Like many residents of the capital of Juba, South Sudan, Angelo has found it incredibly hard to get accurate information and report on one of the most tragic, restive periods in South Sudan's short history. And, like other South Sudanese journalists, he has to weigh his work against safeguarding his own and his family's safety.

This screen shot shows EUTV's home page. (CPJ)

With its low budget décor and grainy images, EUTV has the look and feel of small-town community television. But the Web-based TV station that went live on November 18 has much larger ambitions: It intends to be the primary source for Venezuelans who covet independent television news.

A man holds a flag outside a Turkish jail, where hundreds of people, including journalists, await a verdict in the Ergenekon trial. (AP)

For the second year in a row, our prison census shows, Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country. The number of journalists behind bars is 40; down from the 61 reporters in October 2012, and less than the 49 we recorded on December 1, 2012. Still, Turkey holds more journalists in custody than Iran, China, or Eritrea.

For the second time this year, the U.N. Security Council took up the issue of protection of journalists. In a discussion today sponsored by the French and Guatemalan delegations, and open to NGOs, speaker after speaker and country after country hammered home the same essential facts: The vast majority of journalists murdered around the world are local reporters working in their own country, covering human rights, corruption, conflict and politics. In nine out of ten of these murders, no one is ever prosecuted.

Everyone agreed at the panel discussion I took part in yesterday in Washington that the fate of about two dozen journalists working for The New York Times and Bloomberg News in China is unresolved. No one knows what will happen by the ostensible deadline of midnight, December 31, 2013, for their expulsion. I say ostensible, because maybe the deadline can be extended under some arcane rule known only to China's immigration officials. For now, those journalists are dangling in what has come to be called "visa purgatory," a term attributed to me but which really came from one of those journalists in purgatory, that is to say, waiting in Beijing for his visa to be renewed, with whom I spoke recently.

Police attempt to arrest a supporter of Erias Lukwago outside his home on December 2. (Monitor)

Getting rid of an influential opposition figure is a simple two-step process for Uganda's ruling party, the National Resistance Movement: Dismiss the opponent and ensure the press cannot cover it.

In an unprecedented step, more than a dozen international news organizations have signed a joint letter to the Syrian armed opposition about the "disturbing rise in the kidnapping of journalists" in Syria, which has led many outlets to reduce their coverage of the conflict out of safety concerns. The organizations urge the Syrian armed opposition leadership "to assist in identifying those groups currently holding journalists and take the steps necessary to bring about their release."

CPJ's report, Roots of Impunity, published earlier this year, provides a glimpse of the grim realities that journalists in Pakistan face when they cross red lines. Many journalists are threatened, harassed, and intimidated by a host of actors, including members of Pakistan's security and intelligence apparatus. Some of these cases get reported, but in many instances journalists stay quiet to avoid further trouble. Almost every Pakistani journalist visiting CPJ tells me that he or she routinely receives threats.

The Iraqi city of Mosul is once again one of the world's deadliest places for journalists. In the past two months, the capital of Nineveh province has witnessed a series of targeted assassinations that, according to local press freedom groups, have led to an exodus of journalists from the city fearing for their safety.

Blog | UK

A prime minister says a newspaper has damaged national security and calls for its editor to be brought before Parliament; his government tells the same paper there has been "enough" debate on an issue and sends its security officials into the paper's offices to smash discs containing journalistic material; lawmakers call for the editor's prosecution and accuse the paper of treason; the paper is forced to spirit its stories out of the country to ensure publication overseas.

To the group of developed democracies, such as Britain and the United States, each with increasingly restrictive attitudes toward press freedom, add Japan, which appears to be on the brink of passing a new state secrets protection law. If passed by the upper house of the Diet today, it would broaden the criteria the government uses to determine which information will be secret. Jake Adelstein, a Tokyo-based reporter who has blogged several times for CPJ, calls it "an ominous new bill" which would "give the government expanded powers to classify nearly anything as a secret and intimidate the press into silence."

A banner tied to the gates of Parliament protests a media bill under review. (CPJ/Tom Rhodes)

"Mr. President, you gagged us!" said a banner tied to the gates of Parliament today. Kenya's Editors Guild and the Kenya Correspondents' Association organized peaceful demonstrations across the country to protest a media bill currently under parliamentary review. Protests were held in every county in the country, according to William Janak, chairman of the correspondents' association, including roughly 80 to 100 protesters in the port-city of Mombasa, 100 in the central city of Kisumu, and 400 in the capital, Nairobi.

Security officials examine the scene of Monday's attack on Express Media Group in Karachi. (AFP)

The Committee to Protect Journalists has joined the Alliance for Access, a coalition of Pakistani media groups, academic and student organizations, and telecommunications companies working to promote open access, in condemning Monday's attack on the offices of Express Media Group in Karachi.

Shoppers flock to stores after the government orders business owners to lower prices. (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Amid skyrocketing inflation and shortages of basic goods, Venezuelan authorities claim that an "economic war" is being waged against the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro. The government is striking back by forcing stores to discount prices, by arresting business owners accused of hoarding--and by targeting journalists trying to cover the grim economic news.

For all the people who have been working on the problem of impunity for so long, the announcement on November 26 that the Third Committee of the United Nation's General Assembly had passed a resolution on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, setting November 2 as the "International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists," was welcome news. 

Blog | UK, USA

As Alan Rusbridger appears Tuesday before the Home Affairs committee of the U.K. Parliament to give evidence regarding the Guardian's coverage of surveillance activities by the U.S. and U.K. governments, British journalists and analysts say that newspaper's legal troubles are worrying in large part because they come against the backdrop of increased regulation and scrutiny of the wider industry.

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