Journalist security is still a maturing field, but news organizations are devoting more attention to preparing their reporters and photographers for the dangers particular to the profession. That means understanding risks that are constantly evolving. The brutal attack on CBS correspondent Lara Logan at a Cairo demonstration has drawn worldwide attention to the issue of sexual assault against journalists--CPJ issued new guidelines on the threat today--but the case also points to an emerging, if lesser-known threat. In the past 18 months, more journalists have been killed covering violent demonstrations and other non-military events than at any time since CPJ began keeping detailed records two decades ago.
Lately, we have come to expect violence against journalists in certain regions, such as the Middle East. But here at CPJ, 2011 has also been troubling for the number of journalists killed in an entirely different part of the world, the Americas.
I joined the political civilist youth movement in 1991. Curiously, what I remember most from that period is how my apprehensions led me to disguise myself with a hat and glasses when traveling from my town of Artemisa to Havana to meet with other activists. These feelings of fear, defenselessness, and even blame, are common to those who live in Cuba, stifled by oppression and numbed by endless totalitarian propaganda.
Keiko Fujimori and Ollanta Humala, the two candidates for the June 5 presidential runoff in Peru, barely raised freedom of expression issues during the political campaign. So Friday's event organized by the regional press group Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) in Lima provided a great opportunity to measure their commitment on press freedom, especially important for candidates with questionable democratic credentials.
The State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights this week. In preparing this year's reports, Foggy Bottom had to comply for the first time with the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act. Signed into law in May 2010, the Pearl Act requires descriptions, identifications, and assessments of press freedom conditions, including whether "severe violations" have occurred and "whether government authorities" have been complicit in press freedom violations. As I note in a blog in TheHill.com, though, the State Department's first attempt falls short, providing too little context and assessment.
I went to prison for practicing independent journalism in Cuba. As soon as you get there, you must prepare yourself to narrate the horrors of the hellhole you've ended up in. And Cuban prisons are horrendous. But the horrors start not one step back in the penal tribunal, not two steps back with the police chief, but three steps back, with the Cuban penal code, which reflects the social decomposition of post-Soviet Cuba. The government's legal response to a wave of robberies (and to a similar wave of political unrest) is to make sentences more severe. Are they trying to punish the innocent? No, they want to "save the revolution," and since "the end justifies the means," toughness is expected from the police and from prosecutors, who are judged on their ability to quickly resolve cases; and from judges, who grow accustomed to handing down harsh sentences. In such a way, they get used to tough sentencing as they continue to lose their humanity.
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