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2012


Protesters gather outside the Cabot Awards on Thursday. (CPJ/Sara Rafsky)

The Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, administered by Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in recognition of journalistic contributions to Inter-American understanding, are the oldest international prizes in journalism. But Josh Friedman, director of the prizes, said this year marked the first time he remembered arriving at the awards ceremony to be greeted by protesters screaming from behind barricades. The tuxedo and gown-clad guests last night shot confused glances across the street from Columbia's Italian Academy building, where about 20 protesters brandishing Ecuadoran flags and pictures of President Rafael Correa yelled slogans like "Down the with corrupt press!" and "Long live President Correa!" One sign identified a long list of alleged "enemies of Latin American democracy" that managed to include the leading dailies of South America, the United States, Spain, the Ecuadoran press freedom group Fundamedios and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

As Venezuela's election nears, President Hugo Chávez has a clear advantage in media access because he has broken down the independent press with threats and regulations while building up a huge state media apparatus. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

Violence and legal harassment: the two greatest obstacles to press freedom in Latin America today. That's the message that CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon is delivering this morning in Washington, D.C., at a briefing hosted by Congressman Sam Farr. Farr, a California Democrat, hosts a monthly series looking at emerging trends in the Western Hemisphere. The panel today also includes Commissioner Dinah Shelton of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Delphine Halgand of Reporters Without Borders.

People gather at a candlelight vigil to commemorate the first anniversary of the arrest of imprisoned blogger Eskinder Nega. (George Newcomb)

Writer, journalist, blogger, and free speech activist Eskinder Nega, the 2012 recipient of PEN American Center's Freedom to Write Award, lived in Washington, D.C., before returning to his native Ethiopia to start one of the country's first-ever independent newspapers. On Friday, Eskinder was back in D.C.--not physically, but as the subject of a candlelight vigil at the African American Civil War Memorial that commemorated the first anniversary of the blogger's arrest and sent the message that those jailed for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of speech are never forgotten.

Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is in China this week to meet with top leaders, according to international news reports. CPJ's Advocacy and Communications Associate Magnus Ag and Senior Asia Program Researcher Madeline Earp co-wrote an op-ed calling on Thorning--as she is called in the Danish press--to raise the issue of press freedom. An edited version ran in the Danish newspaper Politiken today.

Speaking truthfully to China on its repression of human rights can be a tricky endeavor in diplomatic affairs, but Helle Thorning-Schmidt has a prime opportunity to raise press freedom on her trip to China. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not give the issue public priority during their visits earlier this month, but as Thorning meets with top Communist Party leaders and addresses a World Economic Forum meeting in Tianjin, the opportunity must not be wasted.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa holds the hands of Christine Assange, the mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, during a meeting in Quito, Ecuador, Aug. 1. (AP/Martin Jaramillo)

The Quito government's decision to grant Julian Assange political asylum comes at a time when freedom of expression is under siege in Ecuador. President Rafael Correa's press freedom record is among the very worst in the Americas, and providing asylum to the WikiLeaks founder won't change the repressive conditions facing Ecuadoran journalists who want to report critically about government policies and practices.

For more than five months, the Ramallah-based private television broadcaster Wattan TV has been without key equipment, including transmitters, computers, files, and archives. On February 29, Israeli soldiers and officials from the Ministry of Communications raided the station without a warrant, saying it was broadcasting illegally and interfering with aircraft transmissions.

Well, that didn't take long. Just days after The New York Times' soft launch of its Chinese-language edition and accompanying microblog accounts, Berkeley-based China Digital Times website reports that the @nytchinese Sina Weibo feed is no longer accessible in China, along with two accounts hosted by Netease and Sohu. We couldn't pull them up this morning from New York, either.

Zeta reporter Sergio Haro in the film 'Reportero.' (Courtesy Quiet Pictures)

A week before Sunday's crucial presidential elections in Mexico, CPJ participated on a panel with filmmaker Bernardo Ruíz and Mexican journalist Sergio Haro about the perilous conditions for journalists in that country, where CPJ research shows 48 journalists have been murdered or disappeared since outgoing President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is watching with concern the progress of H.R. 2899, the Chinese Media Reciprocity Act of 2011, which is under discussion Wednesday in front of the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. The bill seeks to reduce the number of visas available to journalists (and their families) working in the United States for 13 Chinese state-controlled publications. The aim is to pressure Beijing into allowing more Voice of America reporters into China; VOA staffers tell us that they are allowed only two China visas to cover a country of more than 1.3 billion people.

The success of a U.S. partnership with Ethiopia on food security depends in large part on a free press in the Horn of Africa nation, a senator argued yesterday. Above, Obama and Meles at the G8 summit in 2010. (White House)

On Wednesday, the same day the White House announced a strategic plan committing the United States to elevating its efforts in "challenging leaders whose actions threaten the credibility of democratic processes" in sub-Saharan Africa, a senior member of the U.S. Congress challenged the erosion of press freedom in a key U.S. strategic partner in the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia.

World leaders must hold Central Asian regimes responsible for denying global access to information by throwing critical reporters behind bars, CPJ Eurasia researcher Muzaffar Suleymanov told the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe  at a briefing Tuesday on political prisoners in Central Asia.

Freelance photographer Anton Hammerl was killed in Libya on April 5, 2011. Friends of Hammerl are holding an auction May 15 to raise funds for his three children. James Foley elaborates.

The battle over blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng's freedom and well-being is a battle over information. Both Chinese and U.S. officials are trying to spin the story their way. A few activists and media claim to speak for Chen, and in China's anti-press environment they are putting themselves at risk. Direct interviews with the man himself are hard to come by.

Director Stephen Maing, right, and Chinese blogger Zola answer questions at the Tribeca Film Festival. (CPJ/Gregory Fay)

"High Tech, Low Life," a new documentary about Chinese bloggers directed by Stephen Maing, debuted at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 19. It documents the lives of Zola (Zhou Shuguang) and Tiger Temple (Zhang Shihe), as they blur the lines of citizen journalism and activism though their reporting on evictions, pollution, and official cover-ups in China. Zola was in town for the premiere, and he and the director fielded questions from the audience after the film's showing.

Wednesday, the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) released its report, "Death of an Uruzgan Journalist: Command Errors and Collateral Damage," by Kate Clark on the July 2011 shooting death of journalist Omaid Khpalwak. Clark's details on how Khpalwak died corroborate and then go beyond the investigation already conducted by the U.S.-led NATO forces who were responsible. Her report was important to write, and is important to read.

Wattan TV bills itself as the voice of the voiceless. But since the Israeli army gutted its Ramallah headquarters in a predawn raid two months ago, that voice has been reduced to a whisper.

Blog | USA

In December 2002, the U.N. Tribunal charged with prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia ruled that Washington Post reporter Jonathan Randal could not be compelled to provide testimony in the case of a Bosnian Serb official accused of carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing."If war correspondents were to be perceived as potential witnesses for the Prosecution," the Tribunal noted, they "may shift from being observers of those committing human rights violations to being their targets." As a result of that ruling, war correspondents enjoy some immunity against compelled testimony at the international level. But this is not necessarily the case in the United States.

At Columbia University on Monday evening, CPJ board member Ahmed Rashid held forth to a full house in a conversation with Steve Coll about U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you're reading this blog, there's most likely no need to explain who Rashid is--or Coll, for that matter. The earliest reference I could find on cpj.org to Rashid dated back to 2000, about events in 1999, when he was the Islamabad bureau chief for the now-defunct Far Eastern Economic Review. His latest book, Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, is the most recent installment in a steady stream of trenchant, reliable, reality-based analysis of geopolitical affairs in Central and South Asia. If you need to be convinced, check out Foreign Policy's list of Top 100 Global Thinkers.

A video of the event, which was co-sponsored by CPJ, is now available here.

Demonstrators burn signs with images of Haitian President Michel Martelly during a protest in Port-au-Prince on February 7, 2012. (AP/Ramon Espinosa)

As a former entertainer better known as "Sweet Micky," it is perhaps unsurprising that Haitian President Michel Martelly has been theatrical at times in his dealings with the press. At one media event in October, the President answered a critical question posed by a journalist by telling him, "I curse your mother," according to press reports. On another occasion in late December, Martelly was so elated by a supporter's sign that instructed the press to "give the president a chance," that he told the citizen, "You deserve US$100,000." The man received a free motorcycle instead, Radio Kiskeya reported.

In her final hours, Marie Colvin gave this damning report to CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Bravery, generosity, and commitment: These are the three characteristics of Marie Colvin that have surfaced, again and again, in the many tributes spoken and published since the veteran Sunday Times reporter was killed Wednesday in the besieged city of Homs by Syrian forces.

This screenshot from YouTube dated Wednesday is said to show the shelling of Homs as recorded by Rami al-Sayed before his death.

The world lost one of the only direct windows into the carnage in Homs, Syria, when Rami al-Sayed's video live stream went dark Tuesday. A citizen journalist, al-Sayed was live streaming the Assad regime's bombardment of Baba Amr and the brutal after-effects when he was struck by shrapnel and bled to death soon after, according to news reports. When outlets including the BBC World, SkyNews, and Al Jazeera aired his live footage, they highlighted how important this medium has become to journalism. And when the Syrian army took his life they proved how vulnerable it is.

Last night at London's Frontline Club, CPJ launched its global survey of press freedom conditions, Attacks on the Press. The topic of discussion was the safety of journalists covering conflict and the panel consisted of journalist and documentarian Jenny Kleeman, ITN safety guru Colin Pereira, and journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari, who was imprisoned in Iran following the disputed 2009 presidential elections.

President Obama meets with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping Tuesday at the  White House. (AP/Susan Walsh)

President Obama has promised to raise issues of human rights when he and his administration meet with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in the next day. After that, Xi, billed as China's next leader, is expected to make some speeches, visit a few factories, stop at the Pentagon, sign some contracts that will strengthen economic ties between the two countries, and then head home.

Blog | USA
Several journalists have been arrested for not having proper accreditation at Occupy Oakland protests like this one. (Reuters/Stephen Lam)

The issue of press accreditation continues to reverberate. In November, when the Occupy movement came into conflict with law enforcement across the country and at least 20 journalists covering the events were arrested, CPJ reported that disputes over press accreditation were at the center of many of those arrests. Last week, credentials played a role in the arrests of journalists not only at tumultuous Occupy demonstrations in Oakland but also inside the more hushed chambers of Capitol Hill.

Rebecca MacKinnon, shown here in Tunisia last year, asserts in a new book that citizens and governments must decide the power of the Internet. (AFP/Fethi Belaid)

The Internet doesn't bring freedom. Not automatically, anyway.

That's one of the main messages of Rebecca MacKinnon's new book, Consent of the Networked, which had its New York launch at the offices of the New America Foundation last night. In a conversation with CNN managing editor Mark Whitaker, MacKinnon, a CPJ board member, said it's up to concerned citizens, governments, and corporations to make decisions about how the Internet is used. She contrasted the Twitter-powered revolt in Egypt last year with the "networked authoritarianism" of China, where corporations are collaborators in a system designed to preserve Communist Party rule.

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Killed in USA

5 journalists killed since 1992

4 journalists murdered

Attacks on the Press 2012

6 Prosecutions targeting officials who leaked information to the press.

Country data, analysis »

Critics Are Not Criminals: Campaign Against the Criminalization of Speech
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Americas

Senior Program Coordinator:
Carlos Lauría

Research Associate:
Sara Rafsky

clauria@cpj.org
srafsky@cpj.org

Tel: 212-465-1004
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Fax: 212-465-9568

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Blog: Carlos Lauría

Blog: Sara Rafsky

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