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e-mail: [email protected]
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CPJ Update (online newsletter)  

CPJ Impact (advocacy report)

CPJ IN THE NEWS

Joel Campagna, St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 22, 2008A voice for moderation, perhaps. But oppressive and intolerant nonetheless

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, June 30, 2008. The drug war just across the border

Tom Rhodes, The Guardian, June 25, 2008. Mugabe's Media War

Bob Dietz, Huffington Post, June 11, 2008. Covering the Beijing Games? Expect to be Censored.

Reuters, June 5, 2008. Watchdog warns of risks to media, Chinese staff

Editorial, Houston Chronicle, May 8, 2008. Media Murder.

Bob Dietz interviewed on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show about press freedom in Burma after the cyclone. May 7, 2008. 



Joel Simon, Letters to the Editor, International Herald Tribune, May 5, 2008. Russia's Journalists.

Robert Mahoney, The Guardian’s Comment is Free, May 2, 2008. Getting away with murder

Bob Dietz interviewed on CNN about China and the Olympics, April 11, 2008
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2008/04/11/ic.china.torch.bk.a.cnn

Ciaran Giles, Associated Press, March 18, 2008. Press rights group calls for release of jailed Cuban journalists

Nina Ognianova , Huffington Post, February 14, 2008. Putin's Broken Promise

Hannah Allam,  McClatchy Newspapers, February 7, 2008. Report says 2007 deadly for journalists; Iraq sees most victims for 5th straight year

Joel Campagna, The Huffington Post, January 11, 2008. Arab Bloggers Under Pressure as Bush Visits the Middle East

Joel Simon, The Huffington Post, December 18, 2007. The Year of Reporting Dangerously - Death Toll for Journalists Rises in 2007

Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post, December 18, 2007. Killings of Journalists Hit a High In 2007

Tim Arango, The New York Times, December 17, 2007. Case Lays Bare the Media's Reliance on Iraqi Journalists

Saadia Qamar, The Nation (Pakistan), December 11, 2007. Journalists being jailed without charges worldwide

Editorial, The Washington Post, November 20, 2007. Reporting Against the Odds; Honoring journalists who risk death to write the truth

Video, CBS News, November 19, 2007. Notebook: Brave Journalist

Tom Brokaw interviewed, NBC News, October 23, 2007. Ex-'Nightly News' anchor campaigns for Committee to Protect Journalists

Laurie Goering, Chicago Tribune, October 2, 2007. In Myanmar, dissent is high-tech

Shawn Crispin interviewed on the Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC, New York, September 13, 2007 Underreported: Burmese Press Under Attack

Joe Piasecki, Pasedena Weekly, August 10, 2007. Killing the Messenger

Editorial, The New York Times, August 10, 2007. Harassing Germany's Media

Carlos Lauria, Miami Herald, August 3, 2007. Chávez's goal: Media hegemony

Joel Simon and Carlos Lauría, San Antonio Express-News, July 20, 2007. Mexico needs legislation to ensure press freedom

Kristin Jones, The Wall Street Journal Asia, July 9, 2007. The Toxic Toll of Press Repression

Terry Anderson, USA Today, June 25, 2007. The world can’t sit idle as journalists are murdered

Editorial, The New York Times, May 24, 2007. Killing the Russian Media

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, May 13, 2007. Held without charges; 2 cases of journalists in U.S. military custody raise questions

Robert Mahoney, The Guardian online, May 3, 2007. Dying to tell

Samar Fatany, Arab News, February 21, 2007. Time for journalists to defend press freedom

Michelle Nichols, Reuters News, February 5, 2007. Elected autocrats a danger to press- rights group

Bob Dietz, Wall Street Journal Asia, January 8, 2007. Pakistan's silenced press.

Bob Dietz, South China Morning Post, December 12, 2006. Empty promise of press freedom

Rukmini Callimachi, AP Newswire, December 8, 2006. Jailed Internet journalists on the rise?

Foreign Policy.com, November 2006. Seven questions: Journalists under fire

Joel Simon, Newark Star-Ledger, October 22, 2006. Who will be Russia's conscience?

Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, October 17, 2006. Sami's Shame and Ours

Robert Tanner, AP, October 17, 2006. Photographer detained

Chicago Tribune, October 13, 2006. Murder in Moscow

Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss, Reuters, September 20, 2006. Iraq most dangerous place for journalists: study

Ann Cooper, Neiman Reports, Summer 2006. A Difficult Journey from Repression to Democracy

Liz Halloran, U.S. News and World Report, June 14, 2006. For journalists, Iraq is continuing danger

Sebastian Usher, BBC News, June 9, 2006. Pressures build on Saudi media

Richard Pyle, AP, May 31, 2006. Iraq journalist deaths match number killed during Vietnam war

Robert Mahoney, The Guardian online, May 4, 2006. The world's most censored countries

Ann Cooper, Seattle Times, April 19, 2006. China's jailed e-journalists

Jonathan Katzenellenbogen, Business Day (South Africa), March 29, 2006. Perilous path for Ethiopian journalists

Gerardo Reyes, El Neuvo Herald, March 19, 2006. Periodistas bajo acoso en Colombia

James Pinkerton, Houston Chronicle, February 27, 2006. Attacks leave border journalists self-censored by ’culture of fear’

Paul McLeary, CJR Daily, February 24, 2006. Joel Simon on Journalists Killed and Jailed in the Line of Duty

Paul Steiger, St. Petersburg Times, Feb 20, 2006. 2005 brought more danger, less freedom to journalism

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, January 29, 2006. Freedom fighters in the Arab press



Business Day, South African daily
www.businessday.co.za
March 29, 2006

Perlilous Path for Ethiopian Journalists

By Jonathan Katzenellenbogen
International Affairs Editor

NEARLY a year ago Ethiopia was viewed by western donors as reform-minded, progressive, and on a path to growth and political liberalisation. Today it is state of repression and fear.

As a result of a massive crackdown on the opposition and the press, more than a dozen journalists are in prison on charges that could bring the death penalty, according to a recent report released by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

In recognition of the partial reform record and hope for Ethiopia, Prime Minister Meles Zanawi was given a seat on British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa.

Having Meles on the commission was important as Ethiopia with a population of 70-million is, after Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and a substantial regional power, whose example of reform could have acted as a beacon for other countries on the continent.

A few months after the commission drew a strong connection between political repression, poor governance and low levels of economic performance on the continent, Ethiopia held elections.

The opposition disputed the elections, although most observers said the vote which resulted in a third term for Meles was largely free and fair.

A wave of street demonstrations began. Full results of the elections were long delayed, and last November the security forces shot dead 46 demonstrators, with claims by Meles that the opposition was trying to overthrow the government.

Since the demonstration in November there has been a massive crackdown on the opposition and the privately owned press.

The government issued a “wanted” list of editors, writers, and dissidents, raided newspaper offices, and prevented some newspaper from publishing.

The effect, said the committee in its report, has been to force extensive self-censorship by journalists and halve to 10 the number of papers that can be found on the streets since elections last May.

“The press is a reflection of politics,” said Amare Aregawi, editor of The Reporter, in a report by the committee.

“There’s no tolerance. It’s you are either with us or against us and that is reflected in the media,” Amare is quoted as saying.

Earlier this month a committee delegation met government officials in Ethiopia, including the prime minister. Meles insisted at the meeting that the journalists would get their day in court, and that he could not interfere in the judicial process. But he said he would review the prosecution of journalists under other charges.

The delegation also met jailed journalists, all of whom pleaded their innocence. There are signs that international pressure may be working, but only for those journalists who are beyond the reach of Ethiopian law.

Last week the government dropped charges of treason and genocide against five journalists from the US government-funded Voice of America and another radio journalist being tried in absentia.

No reason was given for the dismissal of charges against the five, but sources have said that the US has brought pressure to bear on Meles. There are still charges against other journalists, who are outside the country.

 
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El Nuevo Herald
Posted on Sun, Mar. 19, 2006

Periodistas bajo acoso en Colombia

GERARDO REYES

Alos periodistas colombianos no les queda otra posibilidad que ejercer su oficio en puntillas.
Están condenados a cubrir la historia de su país con la delicadeza del cazador de minas que trata de no pisar los intereses de quienes podrían ejercer el derecho artillado de la réplica.

Al menos eso es lo que se desprende del más reciente informe del Comité para la Protección de Periodistas (CPJ), con sede en Nueva York.

Lo novedoso del informe dado a conocer esta semana es que además de las ya conocidas amenazas y atentados de los grupos guerrilleros y paramilitares, el gobierno colombiano aparece con una cuota de responsabilidad en la estigmatización de periodistas que publican informaciones adversas a la política de seguridad.

El CPJ actualizó al mundo con estas y otras mordazas que se imponen a los medios colombianos por parte de los actores del sangriento conflicto social que vive el país suramericano y de los intereses económicos y políticos.

En el argot del periodismo la práctica es más conocida como la autocensura, un silencio conveniente al que se ven forzados los reporteros para proteger su empleo o su vida de las amenazas de los grupos armados, cuando las advertencias salen de las oficinas de los dueños de los medios.

Al vicepresidente de Colombia, Francisco Santos, el informe no le gustó, recordó en Miami Joel Simon, subdirector de CPJ.

“Se leyó completo el estudio y dijo que era injusto, nocivo para la prensa colombiana’’, agregó Simon, quien el jueves pasado presentó el estudio a editores y periodistas de Miami invitados por la Fundación Knigth.

La molestia de Santos, periodista de profesión, se debe a que el gobierno no sale bien librado en el informe, pues allí se ventila una frustración que los reporteros de la calle y de la selva de Colombia suelen comentar entre ellos y con los corresponsales de otros países pero que no había trascendido internacionalmente.
Según el reporte Historias no contadas (disponible en cpj.org) en forma sutil o descarada el gobierno y, en particular, las fuerzas militares de Colombia crean un ambiente difícil y con frecuencia hostil a los reporteros que informan sobre hechos que ponen en desventaja al Estado en la lucha contra la guerrilla.

El propio Santos es citado en el reporte criticando a los periodistas que cuestionaron la política de seguridad a raíz de un feroz ataque de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).
Los medios, dijo Santos, “han creado una caja de resonancia a las acciones terroristas que, sin duda, fue más efectiva que el uso de los explosivos’’.

Posición de Uribe

En otro caso, el presidente Alvaro Uribe fue más lejos al afirmar que el reportero de televisión Hollman Morris había viajado en enero pasado al departamento de Putumayo, al sur del país, a sabiendas de que allí ocurriría un ataque de las FARC.

La afirmación resultó falsa. Morris, quien fue mencionado con nombre y apellido por el presidente, demostró que había llegado al lugar después del ataque. En un comunicado de prensa la presidencia se retractó de la declaración.

Una comisión de CPJ, presidida por Simon, visitó esta semana al presidente con la idea de lograr que condenara las prácticas de intimidación en las que participan funcionarios del gobierno o militares.
Uribe dijo que no lo haría porque él ya se había pronunciado sobre el tema. Pero en un breve discurso en favor de la libertad de prensa frente a la delegación de CPJ, soltó una frase que Simon consideró que respondió a sus expectativas.

Cualquier funcionario que impida el trabajo de los periodistas “está cometiendo un crimen contra la democracia”, advirtió Uribe.

Reacción de Santos

Santos reaccionó con indignación. En la instalación de un seminario de periodismo en Bogotá el 9 de noviembre, el vicepresidente rechazó los términos del reporte.

``Este informe es tremendamente injusto no sólo con el gobierno sino también con los medios planteando una realidad que no existe y que creo que genera la imagen un poco de Alfredo Molano [analista político], que me compara con Carlos Castaño [jefe paramilitar desaparecido] y dice que yo soy tan peligroso como él en mis declaraciones. Genera exactamente ese efecto’’.

Santos, sin embargo, aclaró que la política del gobierno es ’’cero control, cero autocensura’’. Y agregó: ``Preferimos unos medios desbordados a que no existan medios. Preferimos una libertad de prensa absoluta y total; y en ese sentido la postura del gobierno es totalmente clara: dar garantías para la libertad’’.

En los medios colombianos la controversia no produjo titulares.

De acuerdo con el informe, la autocensura no es sólo por miedo a las balas sino al poder.
Bajo el título de La mano que te alimenta, CPJ explica que el Grupo Empresarial Bavaria, uno de los más importantes en el país, fue acusado el año pasado de pagar $2 millones en sobornos a un ex funcionario del gobierno de Alejandro Toledo para obtener una autorización de compra de una compañía cervecera.
Los medios colombianos no hicieron ningún esfuerzo por investigar por su propia cuenta, afirmó el reporte. En su lugar, retomaron lo que decía la prensa peruana y le ofrecieron una plataforma a la firma para defender su inocencia.

’’Era un escándalo internacional y era el conglomerado más grande de Colombia, allí había carne’’, explicó Carlos Eduardo Huertas, reportero de Semana.

El grupo empresarial Bavaria es uno de los principales anunciantes de los medios de comunicación en Colombia.

Otra razón por la cual Santos podría estar incómodo es que el informe dedica parte de la sección de La Mano que te alimenta al dominio de su familia de los medios de comunicación y puestos claves en la política. La familia Santos es propietaria de El Tiempo, el diario de mayor circulación del país que ha respaldado editorialmente a Uribe. Enrique Santos, codirector del periódico y primo de Francisco, ha dicho que el respaldo de El Tiempo no tiene ningún impacto en la campaña de reelección de Uribe, según el informe.

Los Santos son además dueños de Portafolio, la publicación económica más importante, y del canal CityTv. Alejandro Santos, primo de Francisco, es director de Semana, la más influyente publicación de la nación, que ha sido, no obstante, crítica del proceso de paz entre el gobierno y las Autodefensas Campesinas de Colombia (AUC). El ex ministro de Hacienda, Juan Manuel Santos, primo de Francisco, fue fundamental en la victoria del uribismo en las elecciones congresionales de la semana pasada.
’’Si la gente que firma los cheques del sueldo piensa de una manera’’, afirmó para el reporte Daniel Coronell, columnista de Semana, ``definitivamente se reduce el espíritu del periodista de reportar un historia en forma contraria’’.

Coronell debió abandonar Colombia con su familia luego de recibir amenazas en mensajes electrónicos que salieron de la computadora del ex congresista Carlos Náder Simmonds, un cercano amigo de Uribe.

El caso Benítez

Uno de los casos que el reportero Chip Mitchell, autor del informe, destaca como ejemplo de la manera en que los periodistas se ven obligados a contar la historia a medias fue el asesinato en abril del año pasado del congresista Orlando Benítez en el departamento de Córdoba.

Benítez fue asesinado cuando se preparaba para postularse a la alcaldía de un municipio controlado por Diego Murillo Bejarano, un paramilitar más conocido como Don Berna y a quien los indicios apuntaban como el principal sospechoso.

’’En este caso, los medios temían por las represalias, no sólo de Murillo, quien insiste en que no tuvo nada que ver con el asesinato, sino del gobierno del presidente Alvaro Uribe que había suspendido las órdenes de captura de los cabecillas de la guerra como parte del proceso de desmovilización de los paramilitares’’, señaló el informe.

Nombrar a Murillo como el sospechoso, agregó el informe, habría concentrado la atención en la violación del cese al fuego que los paramilitares declararon para llevar a cabo las conversaciones.

’’Y alentaría las críticas internacionales a la legislación promovida por Uribe’’, concluyó, ``concediendo indulgencia judicial a los paramilitares que se desarmen’’.

[email protected]


2006 El Nuevo Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.miami.com

 
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Houston Chronicle

Feb. 27, 2006, 11:36PM


Attacks leave border journalists self-censored by ’culture of fear’


Nuevo Laredo reporters doubtful that Fox selection of a prosecutor will have an effect

By JAMES PINKERTON

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle


HARLINGEN - Three weeks after gunmen shot him five times, Jaime Orozco tells friends he’s itching to get out of his hospital bed and back to his true passion – newspapers.

"He has a lot of spirit," said Cecilia Zavala, one of Orozco’s co-workers at the El Mañana newspaper in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. "He talks about wanting to come back to work."

But Orozco’s recovery will take some time, his friends say. He was critically wounded on Feb. 6 when hooded gunmen armed with assault rifles sprayed the entrance to the newspaper with more than 60 bullets and hurled a grenade.

Because of such attacks, many reporters in Nuevo Laredo are afraid to write about crime and drug traffickers and do not trust the police, the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists said in a five-page report released Friday.

"Already, the culture of fear has had devastating effects on the media," said the report, entitled "Dread on the Border."

"Most journalists interviewed for this article were too afraid for their safety to give their names," the report said. ’’They acknowledged they censored themselves out of fear of retribution."

Mexican President Vicente Fox on Feb. 21 appointed a special federal prosecutor to investigate crimes against journalists, saying "whoever attacks freedom of expression, attacks society." The prosecutor, Mexico City law professor and human rights expert David Vega, will work under the attorney general’s organized crime unit.

Carlos Lauría, head of the CPJ’s Americas program, called the Fox appointment "a positive sign."
’’It gives this problem a national dimension," Lauría said Now federal authorities, not state police, who are often criticized as corrupt and inefficient, will investigate attacks on journalists, he said.

"It will send a message, we hope, to these reporters working in these dangerous areas, that the national government is taking their responsibilities more seriously," Lauría said.

Since Fox took office in 2000, nine journalists have been killed in Mexico; four of the slayings were believed to be in direct reprisal for their work, the committee said.

Journalists in Nuevo Laredo said they doubted the new prosecutor – or any other federal official – would stop the killings.

"In general, they say they are interested, but I see it as a delay tactic, so that time will go by and people will forget about it," said Marco Villarreal, director general of El Diaro newspaper.
Villarreal said federal authorities promise all the time to help stop the violence in Nuevo Laredo, but little happens.

"Hopefully, something will be done," Villarreal said. "But I am disenchanted. Because when they name a special prosecutor or a special commission, nothing happens. Hopefully, I am mistaken, and in this case they are able to make some progress."

Leaders of churches across Nuevo Laredo, meanwhile, have asked parishioners to pray for Orozco, who has spinal and internal injuries and faces a long, difficult recovery.

But many co-workers are upbeat.

Said Zavala: "He has a lot of strength, not just physical but moral, and that is why we think he will recover."

[email protected]

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From CJR Daily

Feb. 24, 2006 - 6:00 PM
The Water Cooler

Joel Simon on Journalists Killed and Jailed in the Line of Duty


Paul McLeary

Earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists released its "Attacks on the Press 2005" report, which documents the number of journalists killed in the line of duty last year along with violent attacks on the press and journalists who have been imprisoned because of their work. Joel Simon, Deputy Director of the organization, spoke to CJR Daily this afternoon about the report, and the risks journalists face not only in Iraq, but around the world.

Paul McLeary: In your "Attacks on the Press 2005" report, released about two weeks ago, the CPJ reports that at least 64 journalists and 23 media workers have been killed in Iraq since March 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for the media in recent history. This number was criticized by Eason Jordan in the International Herald Tribune recently -- who thinks that the real number is much higher -- can you clear up the disagreement?

Joel Simon: I think Eason’s point was that the military, when it counts causalities, includes soldiers who are killed in combat situations and those who are killed in accidents. But we’re an advocacy organization, and while we’re obviously paying tribute to journalists who have been killed, what we’re really trying to do is hold governments and individuals who commit press freedom violations to account, and for that reason, we don’t include accidents. Accidents are regrettable but they’re not press freedom violations. Eason felt that because of that, we weren’t giving the full scope of the number of journalists killed, but that’s not the purpose of our list.

PM: Your 2005 report also stated that 125 journalists are currently being jailed worldwide. The United Sates comes in tied for sixth place on the list, with an Iraqi CBS employee and two Iraqi Reuters employees having been imprisoned last year.

JS: Actually, the Reuters employees were subsequently released. The list is a census, and on the date we took the census on December 1, there were four journalists in custody in Iraq and one in custody in Guantanamo Bay. The CBS cameraman remains in custody, where he has been since April last year. There’s been no due process, no explanation of why he’s being held. The other journalists have been released without charge. It makes us very skeptical that there was any evidence against them [in the first place], if there was, it seems that it would have been released. At the very least he’s entitled -- and CBS is entitled -- to know what evidence is being used against him.

PM: The CBS cameraman was arrested in Mosul, right? And the American military said that he had some incriminating footage on his camera.

JS: He was working in Mosul, right. But a number of the journalists that have been detained in Iraq have had footage on their camera of insurgent activities -- but that’s their job. If that becomes the basis for suspicion, images of insurgents fighting on their cameras, then I think that the military is not taking in to account the role that journalists play there. So that concerns us; footage being used as potential piece of evidence against them.

PM: Just yesterday, the CPJ reported that "at least nine countries worldwide have now taken punitive actions against publications or their editors for reprinting one or more" of the depictions of Mohammad, and that "six newspapers in three countries have been forced to close and at least nine journalists in four countries have been arrested and face potential criminal prosecution." Have you ever seen a worldwide crackdown like this before?

JS: Oh, absolutely. You’ve got to keep in mind that many of the governments that have taken action are repressive governments, looking for the latest excuse. After September 11, we saw repressive governments justify their actions by citing the war on terror, and some journalists were labeled as terrorists, and some actions were justified in the name of fighting terrorism. Our concern is that governments, particularly in the Middle East, are essentially using this as a pretext to crack down on critical publications. Publications who are facing this kind of harassment are [those] that have been critical of their governments.

PM: Take China, for instance, a country which has the most journalists in prison, what publications were these journalists working for?

JS: The largest group, actually, are Internet journalists. Sixteen of the 32 journalists in jail in China are in prison primarily because of information they published on the Internet. I’d say this is broadly indicative of the trend in China, which is to crack down in Internet speech. China seems determined to prove the world wrong that the Internet will liberate speech and is impossible to control. I don’t think we can be complacent [about this]. I think that there’s a real struggle going on right now over whether or not the Internet can be controlled, and China is really making a stand.

PM: So, these people published these things on personal blogs?

JS: There’s a variety of things. There were Internet essays, there were personal blogs, one journalist distributed information from the propaganda ministry that was sent to Chinese journalists that consisted of directives about how to cover the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. That was the instance where Yahoo! provided the Chinese government with an email that was used to convict him. In our view it’s all journalistic in nature, but there are a variety of Internet mediums being used.

PM: Do you see evidence of a crackdown on people who publish on the Internet in places other than China?

JS: China, I think, has made the most concerted effort of any country to control Internet speech, because China has the resources to do it, and because of the explosive growth of the economy, and so many people are online, the Chinese government has acknowledged that the Internet is an essential tool of economic development. So once they made that decision they also had to make the decision to control it so it can’t be used for subversive political speech. Then you’ve got a country like Cuba that has essentially opted out of the Internet. Cuban citizens do not have access to the Internet. But we have a smattering of cases around the world, in places like Tunisia -- there have been some Internet cases in Yemen, Malaysia -- there’s a pretty long list. But China is the leading country when it comes to cracking down on Internet dissent.

PM: According to CPJ, seven journalists have been killed so far in 2006. Obviously, Iraq and China seem to be the most dangerous places for journalists right now, but looking ahead, do you see anywhere else as being as dangerous?

JS: When you point to China and Iraq, you highlight the two kinds of risks that journalists confront. One is a kind of chaotic, lawless and violent environment. Iraq is, far and away, the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist, and probably the most dangerous place in our 25-year history. But there are other places where this kind of lawless violence is a threat: the Philippines, four journalists were killed there last year; Columbia, where it’s been an ongoing problem; the U.S./Mexico border, where we had a very disturbing incident recently in Nuevo Laredo, and the government of Mexico appointed a special prosecutor for crimes against journalists, which we think is a positive step.

With China, there’s a second kind of threat -- where governments use repressive laws to curtail and control the press. China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, but [prison is] also a threat in Cuba, which has 24 journalists in jail; in Eritrea; and Ethiopia, which has embarked on an enormous crackdown which has shot it up near to the top of the list of jailers of journalists. Some of those journalists are facing charges of genocide and treason, so that’s a very alarming situation.

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St. Petersburg Times
February 20, 2006

2005 brought more danger, less freedom to journalism


By Paul Steiger

For 24 years, the Committee to Protect Journalists has remained steadfast in its mission to defend the press around the world. But in 2005, that mission meant paying unusual attention to what was happening at home.

From Iraq to China, from Uzbekistan to Zimbabwe, 2005 was another terrible year for journalists in much of the world. By CPJ’s count, more than 100 journalists were killed doing their jobs over the past two years, the deadliest such period in a decade. Twenty-four countries jailed 125 journalists in 2005, figures that reflect increases from the previous year.

The United States, long a bastion of press freedom, may have contributed to these disturbing trends. With a prominent U.S. reporter jailed for 85 days, new legal threats emerging every day, and the U.S. military stonewalling investigations into the deaths and detentions of journalists in Iraq, the press fared badly at the hands of U.S. authorities. The United States shot up CPJ’s list of countries imprisoning journalists, sharing sixth place with Burma.

I strongly suspect that there is a relationship between the rise in deaths and incarcerations abroad and the infringement of press freedom at home.

We journalists in the United States have long embraced an obligation to ourselves, to our colleagues, and, most of all, to the American public to defend press freedom whenever it is under threat in our country. The free flow of information is among the most basic safeguards of our democracy. Moreover, the importance of sustaining those safeguards extends beyond U.S. borders to journalists around the world. When the traditional protections for American reporters and editors are exploded, there is significant fallout in countless places where the basic right to work as a journalist is not protected by law or custom.

To put it simply, repressive governments are delighted when a democracy like the United States imprisons a journalist. It makes it easier for them to justify their own restrictive policies.

So this past year, CPJ met an unusual need to speak out on behalf of journalists put at risk in the United States or because of U.S. actions abroad, particularly in Iraq.

In 2005, CPJ called attention to the carnage at checkpoints in Iraq, reminding the U.S. Department of Defense that its own analysts had called for procedures to minimize accidental casualties among journalists and ordinary citizens. We also sought and received the help of Sen. John Warner, the Virginia Republican who chairs the Armed Services Committee, to intervene with the Pentagon on behalf of jailed Iraqi journalists. These journalists, employed by global news organizations such as CBS and Reuters, have been held incommunicado and without charge for months, apparently under suspicion of aiding insurgents in Iraq. As of this writing, we have yet to see a resolution of this situation, which exacts a toll on each individual and interferes with important coverage.

We also spoke out against the incarceration of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who was imprisoned for nearly three months in an effort to force her disclosure of the source who talked to her confidentially about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson. While recognizing that Miller’s journalism has generated some controversy among those who believe she was too trusting of her sources, CPJ called for her immediate release from jail. It seems clear to me that only extreme circumstances such as a clear and present danger to innocent people could justify using the threat of jail to gain the name of a confidential informant.

Amid all of these concerns for journalists worldwide, there were two signal successes for CPJ in 2005 that I found particularly inspiring. One was in Cuba, and the other was in the Philippines.

The power of CPJ’s work on behalf of beleaguered journalists came home to me with particular poignancy at November’s annual International Press Freedom Awards dinner in New York. In addition to the inspiring 2005 awardees, journalist Manuel Vázquez Portal accepted the honor he could not receive two years earlier because he was in a Cuban jail for expressing his views. He was freed in large part because of CPJ’s efforts to spotlight the injustice.

"Today, because of so many generous words, so much effort by so many, I was able to come here to meet you, thank you personally, and ask you to come with me once again to rescue from loneliness, obscurity, and imprisonment more than 20 journalists who are still locked up in Cuban jails," Vázquez Portal said that night. "It is on their behalf and for them that I accept this award. They need it. May it reach them and set them free."

Paul E. Steiger is managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, a vice president of Dow Jones & Company, and a member of the Dow Jones executive committee. He was elected chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2005. This is adapted from a preface from the committee’s book, Attacks on the Press in 2005.

 
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Chicago Tribune
January 29, 2006

Freedom fighters in the Arab press

Clarence Page

SAN`A, Yemen

A lot of people were alarmed to see that Palestinians gave the terrorist Hamas organization an upset victory last week over the reputedly corrupt Fatah in parliament elections. But, in this part of the world, any change of power through ballots instead of bullets is a good day.

The big news just happened to find me also in the Middle East, but at the other end of the Arabian Peninsula, trying to spread a little more democracy through freedom of the press, particularly to some courageous journalists in terrorism-tainted Yemen.

Americans need to be on their side. Consider it to be part of the war against terrorism.

To most Americans, Yemen is the faraway place where suicide bombers killed 17 American sailors aboard the USS Cole in 2000. Like Afghanistan, its vast rural areas are ruled by tribal warlords who obey the central government only when they feel like it.

It is also an oil-producer whose oil wealth fails to reach much of its woefully poor and illiterate populace. A lot of the people in places like Yemen view America as a faraway superpower whose money and arms prop up their country’s greedy elites. Unfortunately, that impression too often is correct.

Yet, despite its poverty and high illiteracy, Yemen has a freer press than the rest of the region and it has spawned an impressive array of outspoken and politically diverse newspapers. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who rose to the presidency 27 years ago--after a string of assassinated leaders--has kept his life and job largely by balancing interests as diverse as warlords, religious leaders and his country’s feisty press.

Unfortunately, in recent months journalists brave enough to report or criticize corruption in Saleh’s government have been assaulted, kidnapped, arrested, threatened, burglarized, vandalized and otherwise intimidated, sometimes with clues pointing to government involvement. Saleh’s government has closed five newspapers for printing even one story it did not like, proposed a new restrictive press law and dragged its heels on investigating criminal acts against journalists.

That’s what brought me to Yemen’s 1,000-plus-year-old capital on a mission for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists with Dave Marash, who has left "ABC News" to anchor the soon-to-be-launched satellite channel Al-Jazeera International, the new English language news channel, and Joel Campagna, the committee’s senior program coordinator. Marash and I are committee board members.

All three of us were impressed with the courage of journalists like Jamal Amer, editor of weekly Al-Wasat, who was beaten, abducted and terrorized with a gun by men in a car that witnesses say had government license plates

Or Haji al-Jehafi, editor of the weekly Al-Nahar, who was wounded by a letter bomb in his office.

Whether these assaults and others were instigated by the government, renegade thugs or angry sheiks, like one whom al-Jehafi’s paper criticized, the government needs to investigate the cases. High-ranking government ministers agreed--after arguing with us about "uneducated" journalists and Yemen’s "still young and growing" democracy. We’ve heard those tunes before. Even when you believe in free speech and free press as ideals, it’s hard to stomach when it is aimed at you.

Fortunately, while I find much to question about the wisdom of President Bush’s gunslinger diplomacy, Yemen is one place where it has had a measurably positive impact. Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many Yemenis feared and, in the case of certain anti-Saleh elements, hoped that Yemen would be next on Bush’s invasion list after Afghanistan.

Saleh abruptly reversed his earlier bellicosity toward Bush and joined the "war on terror." He also vowed to implement democratic, human rights and anti-corruption reforms that could starve the resentments that feed terrorist uprisings.

A big test for Saleh and the Bush administration came in November when a major U.S. aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corp., suspended aid to Yemen, citing corruption, abuses of press freedom and other problems. The grant would have meant more than $300 million in aid money over the next four years. The World Bank took similar actions.

That’s a welcome change of policy since the Cold War days, when foreign aid money too often was used to bribe some pretty horrendous dictators and kleptocrats, no questions asked, as long as they allied with us against the Soviets. In today’s war against terror, we have no excuse to aid any government whose policies undermine freedoms and grow the frustrations that allow terrorism to take hold.

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Copyright 2006 Chicago Tribune Company


 
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