CPJ Update

CPJ Update
December 2007
News from the Committee to Protect Journalists

CPJ hosts 2007 International Press Freedom Awards

CPJ honored five journalists on November 20 with its 2007 International Press Freedom Awards. In a ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, CPJ highlighted the fight against impunity in light of increased attacks on journalists worldwide.

More than 900 people attended the benefit dinner, which raised over $1.4 million—a fund-raising record for the event. David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters, was the evening’s chairman, and Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News and a CPJ board member, hosted the black-tie gala.

Executive Director Joel Simon announced CPJ’s global campaign against impunity, which seeks to bring the killers of journalists to justice. The effort will focus initially on the Philippines and Russia, and is underwritten by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Three of the award winners—from Russia, Mexico, and Pakistan—highlighted the issue of impunity in their remarks. Dmitry Muratov, who has seen three reporters with his newspaper, Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta, murdered, said he had considered shutting down the paper but continued to publish “because our million readers share the values of democracy. Real democracy—not its imitation.”

Award winner Gao Qinrong was not able to attend the dinner because the Chinese authorities would not issue him a passport, but he sent a letter of appreciation. CPJ will hold Gao’s award until he can attend a dinner and receive it in person.

Tom Brokaw, NBC News anchor, reporter and best-selling author, received CPJ’s Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for lifetime achievement.

Video of the award winners and several speeches from the evening is available at CPJ’s Web site, www.cpj.org.

In Washington, The New York Times hosts CPJ’s award winners

CPJ is grateful to the Washington bureau of The New York Times for hosting a well-attended reception for its 2007 awardees at the Jury’s Hotel on November 15. Washington Bureau Chief and CPJ Board Member Dean Baquet welcomed the group, including CPJ board members Gwen Ifill, Andy Alexander, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran. CPJ staff and awardees also visited with government officials and journalists to discuss the issue of press freedom in their respective countries, and held a press conference at the National Press Club.


CPJ welcomes three new board members

CPJ congratulates Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post, Diane Sawyer of ABC News, and Brian Williams of NBC News on their appointments to the board of directors. The three prominent journalists were elected when the board met on October 17. CPJ is pleased to have these distinguished journalists become part of the ongoing fight to protect press freedom worldwide.

In Somalia, CPJ helps evacuate three journalists

After surviving gun shots, police raids, and detentions at their Mogadishu-based radio station, three brave Somali journalists have been evacuated to safety with the help of CPJ and other local and international groups. Baabul Noor Mohamed, Abdulkadir Ahmed Olad, and Hassan Sheik Abdullahi endured harassment, attacks, and the loss of a colleague because of their work with Radio Shabelle, one of the country’s leading independent radio stations. Both government security forces and insurgents have targeted the station for its critical reporting of the ongoing violence in Mogadishu. Shabelle was forced to close for 15 days this fall, and Bashiir Noor Gedi, acting manager of the station, was assassinated in October. Gedi was the seventh Somali journalist slain in 2007, according to CPJ research. Dozens of journalists have fled the country because of the growing violence.

CPJ emphasizes press issues during a mission to Kurdistan

CPJ concluded a two-week fact-finding mission to Iraqi Kurdistan in early November. Robert Mahoney and Joel Campagna met with members of the Kurdistan Regional Government in the city of Arbil.

The media climate in Iraqi Kurdistan is relatively free, and members of the press have had a wide berth to criticize the local authorities. However, local journalists say there has been an increase in physical attacks on the press, as well as a rise in arbitrary detentions of reporters by security forces and the use of the courts to harass journalists.

Journalists told the delegation about beatings and abductions carried out by men wearing military-style uniforms. “These alarming attacks are a dangerous threat to press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan and, if they continue, will undermine the important progress achieved by independent journalists here in recent years,” CPJ’s Mahoney said.

A complete report on its mission findings will be released in early 2008.

Photography exhibit to benefit CPJ’s Distress Fund

“Photographs by Iraqi Civilians,” a fund-raiser and print sale benefiting CPJ’s distress fund for journalists, will run from December 3, 2007-February 29, 2008 at Gallery FCB in New York City at 16 West 23rd St., 3rd Floor. The exhibition, curated by Pixel Press, features a selection of photographs by and of Iraqi civilians taken in 2004.  There will be an opening reception on December 7, 6-8 PM. November 11 and Friends of Jassim, two organizations working to help local media support workers in Iraq and Afghanistan, are presenting the event.

Special thanks

CPJ would like to extend a special thank you to Dow Jones, which generously donated $25,000 to the organization in honor of Paul Steiger’s retirement from The Wall Street Journal. Steiger is leaving the paper after serving as its managing editor since 1991 to start ProPublica, an “independent, nonprofit newsroom that will produce investigative journalism in the public interest.”