Photo credit, Barbara Nitke (CPJ)
Journalists honored at CPJ's annual award ceremony
Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef was among four journalists who received CPJ's 2013 International Press Freedom Award on November 26. Youssef has used humor to report on and criticize government failures to improve the economy and public services, and its efforts to suppress opinion. In November, Youssef's show was suspended.
"Freedom of expression is not a privilege; it is a universal right," Youssef told the crowd gathered at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel. "Now, you don't have to be a journalist or a reporter. You can just be an ordinary citizen with a camera and a YouTube channel. This is how we started. I don't know how this will end. ... But at least this is how we started."
CPJ also awarded Janet Hinostroza, a leading TV reporter in Ecuador, who has continued to work despite threats to her and her family; Nedim Şener, who faces up to 15 years in jail on terrorism charges because of his reporting; and Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai, who was not present at the ceremony because he is serving a 12-year prison sentence for "conducting propaganda" against the state.
Thanks to Dan Doctoroff, chief executive officer and president of Bloomberg, who chaired the ceremony, the dinner raised a record $1.65 million for CPJ's worldwide press freedom advocacy. Many of the distinguished guests at the event also pledged support during a special appeal at the end of the night. Those funds were matched by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, contributing another $200,000.
Norman Pearlstine, executive vice president and chief content officer of Time Inc., presented Paul Steiger, founding editor-in-chief of ProPublica and former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, with the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for his lifetime commitment to press freedom.
CPJ launches US report
Following CPJ's release of its report on the state of press freedom in the United States, the organization is pursuing high-level meetings with the White House. CPJ had drafted six recommendations that were shared with President Obama, including calling for a guarantee that journalists would not be at legal risk or prosecuted for receiving confidential and/or classified information.
CPJ continues to work toward securing a meeting with the Obama administration in order to discuss the report's findings.
"Given our 32-year history fighting for press freedom around the world, we believe CPJ can make an important contribution to the press freedom concerns and debate in the United States," CPJ Chairman Sandy Rowe wrote in a blog published the day after the report.
Upon receiving the news, Hinostroza told CPJ: "It will be an honor for me to receive this recognition, which will drive me to continue working for freedom of expression in my country and support the different processes that are being developed around the world to defend this right."
A sad landmark for CPJ: 1,000 journalists killed
When Mick Deane was killed in Egypt on August 14, he became the 1,000th journalist documented by CPJ as having died in direct relation to his work. Some died in the crossfire of combat or civil unrest, but most were targeted for murder. In 1992, CPJ began keeping detailed accounts of journalist killings, which are preserved in our website database.
The Huffington Post marked the grim milestone by publishing a substantial piece profiling CPJ's work. CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon is cited as saying, "We're able to use that data to draw some conclusions about how the threats to journalists are changing, and ultimately how violence is impeding the flow of information about the world at a time when it's become increasingly crucial."
Speaking at the UN Security Council's first special session on the protection of journalists, AP Executive Editor and CPJ Vice Chair Kathleen Carroll began by remembering the AP journalists who were killed in the line of duty. But most journalists killed around the world are murdered. "In the overwhelming number of cases, 90 percent, the killers go unpunished," she said, citing CPJ research.
Mustafa Haji Abdinur, a Somali journalist working for Agence France-Presse, also spoke at the discussion. Mustafa, who received CPJ's International Press Freedom Award in 2009, said that reporting on local issues in Somalia has earned him the title of "dead man walking."
CPJ releases report on journalists in exile
Fifty-five journalists fled their homes fearing threats of violence and imprisonment in the past year, according to CPJ's annual survey, which is based on cases the organization has supported, from which it derives global trends. The report, "Journalists in Exile," was released on June 19, ahead of World Refugee Day.
The report found that Iran and Somalia were the top two countries driving out journalists, with nine and eight journalists fleeing, respectively, in the past 12 months. Ethiopia, Syria, Eritrea, Mexico, and Sri Lanka are also high on the list of countries from which journalists were forced to flee.
Journalists who CPJ assisted cited fear of violence as the top reason for deciding to leave their countries. Others pointed to threats of imprisonment when asked why they fled into exile. In nearly all of the cases, the journalists moved as a last resort, leaving behind their careers, livelihoods, and families to escape intimidation.
Gunman sentenced in murder of Philippine journalist
CPJ has extensively covered the case of radio journalist Gerardo Ortega, who was killed in January 2011 in the Philippines, and has provided non-financial support for the Ortega family. Through our Global Campaign Against Impunity and the new digital component Speak Justice: Voices Against Impunity, CPJ has also pressured the Philippine government to break the country's silencing circle of impunity.
On May 7, a man who said he was paid the equivalent of US$250 to kill Ortega was sentenced to life imprisonment. But CPJ's work does not stop with this conviction. Too often we have seen low-level hit men tried and sentenced, while powerful political figures remain outside the grasp of the law.
A legislative milestone in Mexico
In what CPJ called "a step forward in the fight against impunity," Mexico approved legislation that would implement a constitutional amendment giving federal authorities broader jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against freedom of expression.
The legislation, passed on April 25, will implement a constitutional amendment approved by the Mexican federal congress in 2012. The measure will establish accountability at senior levels of the national government, evading the more corrupt and less effective state law enforcement officials. CPJ had advocated widely for the passage of this legislation. In 2008 and 2010, a CPJ delegation met with former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, who promised he would implement the bill.
Remembering Tony Lewis
CPJ mourns the death this month of Anthony Lewis, one of the organization's founding board members and a recipient of its 2009 Burton Benjamin Award for lifetime achievement. Lewis passed away on March 25.
"Back in 1981, when CPJ was being formed and its board of directors assembled, Tony Lewis ... was one of the first people we approached," Michael Massing, CPJ's co-founder and board member, wrote in the CPJ Blog. "At the time, CPJ was an idea without money, office, or staff, but Tony at once saw the value of such an organization and signed on. His presence on CPJ's board and masthead helped give the organization immediate credibility; his devoted participation was invaluable as we expanded in size and mission over the next 30 years."