The Committee to Protect Journalists joined 25 human rights and civil society groups today in signing an open letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is due to address the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday about steps toward an open and effective relationship with the United Nations Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.
Now that the initial wave of revulsion at the beheading of two young journalists has passed, the international media is wringing its hands and asking how it can spare others the heartbreak of the families of U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Today, CPJ joined 78 human rights and press freedom organizations in calling on the Syrian government to immediately and unconditionally release three imprisoned members of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. The center's director, Mazen Darwish, has been imprisoned since 2012 along with his colleagues Hussein Ghrer and Hani al-Zitani.
The apparent back-to-back murders of two American freelance journalists by the same group are unprecedented in CPJ's history. The beheadings on camera in a two-week period of first James Foley and then Steven Sotloff appear to be an acceleration of a pattern--dating at least to Daniel Pearl's killing in 2002--of criminal and insurgent groups displaying the murders of journalists to send a broad message of terror.
Today, CPJ joined 10 local and international organizations in sending an open letter calling on King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the Bahraini government to release photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan and dismiss all charges against him. The letter calls on the government to fulfill Bahrain's obligations under international law and its commitments under the 2012 Universal Periodic Review by the U.N. Human Rights Council.
After 50 bloody days of conflict, it looks like a ceasefire may finally take hold in Israel and Gaza. Recently Gaza has been one of the deadliest places in the world for the press. According to CPJ research, at least seven journalists and media workers were killed on the job in four separate incidents.
Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy has been languishing in an Egyptian prison since December. He is waiting for an appeal hearing on his seven-year sentence for "conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood," but it is the murder of American freelancer James Foley, rather than his own unjust sentence, that has made the Cairo bureau chief furious. Fahmy sees the solidarity in response to Foley's killing as an opportunity to gain global support for distressed journalists in Egypt.
I met Jason Rezaian in 2003, at Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. We were among the handful of Iranian-American journalists then freelancing in the country, and we were both motivated by the desire to help improve the understanding between Iran and the U.S. Over the years, I have followed Rezaian's reports. His work in The Washington Post has been informative, insightful, and balanced.
It has now been more than a month since Rezaian and his Iranian wife, journalist Yeganeh Salehi, were arrested in Tehran. Based on what has been reported, and on my own detention in an Iranian prison in 2009, I have an understanding of what they might be experiencing.
Amid the tributes and war stories that followed the brutal beheading of James Foley this week, one memory from a fellow hostage shone a light on a side of his character that his audience might not have seen: his empathy not only for the people he covered but also for the journalists he encountered.
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