CPJ Update

CPJ Update
March 16, 2005
News from the Committee to Protect Journalists

CPJ launches Attacks on the Press, meets with foreign officials
After launching Attacks on the Press in 2004 at a press conference that drew dozens of international reporters to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Monday, we met with foreign ambassadors and envoys to further our message.

Clarence Page, CPJ board member and Chicago Tribune columnist, and Julia Crawford, our Africa program coordinator, met Gambian Ambassador Dodou Bammy Jagne in one of our key sessions. They expressed our grave concern about the murder of veteran journalist and press freedom activist Deyda Hydara in a drive-by shooting in December. Hydara was killed just days after the country adopted repressive media legislation that he had outspokenly opposed. The Gambia’s National Assembly had adopted repressive amendments to the country’s Criminal Code and Newspaper Act, including mandatory prison sentences of up to three years for journalists convicted of publishing defamatory or “seditious” material.

Page, Crawford, and Deputy Director Joel Simon will travel to the Gambia next month to investigate media conditions. Jagne promised to help the CPJ delegation get appointments with government officials and said he would contact the Foreign Ministry on our behalf.

For our latest protest on the disturbing developments in the Gambia, visit: http://www.cpj.org/protests/05ltrs/Gambia16mar05pl.html

At the Ukrainian Embassy, CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper, Washington, D.C., Representative Frank Smyth, and Europe Program Coordinator Alex Lupis met with Minister-Counselor Sergiy Korsunsky. We told Korsunsky we were pleased to hear that investigators are finally reporting progress in the September 2000 abduction and murder of Internet journalist Georgy Gongadze. Former high-level officials, including former President Leonid Kuchma, have been questioned. President Viktor Yushchenko has pledged that his government will make the investigation a priority. We also explored the possibility of meeting with senior government officials to discuss Ukraine’s media policies.

For the latest on the Gongadze case visit: http://www.cpj.org/news/2005/Ukraine04mar05na.html and: http://www.cpj.org/news/2005/Ukraine01mar05na.html

Attacks on the Press is available online here: http://www.cpj.org/attacks04/pages/attacks04index.html

CPJ to Rumsfeld: ‘Vigorous’ inquiry needed in shooting
We’ve called on U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to ensure a “vigorous and open investigation” into the March 4 shooting in Baghdad that killed Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari and wounded Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for the Rome-based daily Il Manifesto. At least nine journalists and two media support staff have been killed by U.S. forces’ fire in Iraq since March 2003.

“The circumstances surrounding some of these incidents suggest that U.S. troops may have used reckless or indiscriminate force that endangered the lives of all civilians, including members of the press,” Cooper pointed out in our March 8 letter to Rumsfeld. “In some cases, the circumstances also suggest a failure by commanders to communicate critical information to their troops on the ground.”

Sgrena had just been released by kidnappers after a month in captivity when the car taking her to the Baghdad airport came under fire from U.S. forces at a temporary checkpoint. Conflicting accounts of the shooting have emerged, with Sgrena disputing the U.S. military’s description of the car’s speed and the soldiers’ warnings. In our letter, we urged Rumsfeld to ensure that all witnesses are interviewed and all evidence examined.

To read our letter, click here: http://www.cpj.org/protests/05ltrs/Iraq08mar05pl.html

A New Cuba Campaign Launched
More than 100 prominent writers throughout Latin America joined CPJ today in calling on Cuban President Fidel Castro to release 23 journalists who have been imprisoned unjustly. Our demand, made in a letter to Castro and signed by 108 writers from 18 countries, comes two years after Cuban authorities detained dozens of independent journalists and dissidents in a massive effort to silence political criticism.

Signers of today’s letter include Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes, Argentine author Tomás Eloy Martínez, Brazilian journalist Geraldinho Vieira, and Venezuelan editor Teodoro Petkof.

To read more, click here: http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2005/cuba_crackdown_05/cuba_crackdown_main.html

CPJ spreads word in Panama
Carlos Lauria
, CPJ’s America’s program coordinator, traveled to Panama City on March 11 to participate in the mid-annual meeting of the Inter American Press Association. While there, he met with Ana Matilde Gómez, Panama’s new attorney general, as well as journalists and press freedom advocates from across the region. A change in the Attorney General’s Office could signal an opportunity for CPJ and other press advocates to pursue a rollback in criminal defamation.

Steiger elected CPJ chairman
Paul Steiger
, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and a vice president of Dow Jones & Co, was elected CPJ’s new chairman when the board of directors met March 10. Steiger succeeds David Laventhol, who steps down July 12.

Laventhol–who was president of Times Mirror Co., publisher and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Times, and publisher of Columbia Journalism Review during a career spanning four decades–has served as CPJ chairman since 2002. Under his leadership, the organization increased in size and influence while setting new records for fund-raising. We are all very grateful to Laventhol for astute leadership that greatly enhanced our advocacy and financial security.

We’re proud to welcome Steiger, one of the country’s top editors, to the leadership post. Under his guidance, The Wall Street Journal‘s reporters and editors have won 13 Pulitzer Prizes. He joined CPJ’s board in 2003 and was elected vice chairman the next year.

Pearlstine in magazine Hall of Fame
CPJ board member Norman Pearlstine, editor-in-chief of Time Inc., has been inducted into the Magazine Editors Hall of Fame by the American Society of Magazine Editors. The recognition comes with an honorarium of $10,000, which Pearlstine has generously donated to CPJ. Pearlstine is chairman of CPJ’s 25th anniversary committee.