News from the Committee to Protect Journalists
Journalists freed in Cuba, China with CPJ’s support
After years behind bars for their work as journalists, two journalists in Cuba and two journalists in China were released from prison in February.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos announced the release of Cuban journalists José Gabriel Ramón Castillo and Alejandro González Raga on February 15. The two were imprisoned after a massive crackdown against the independent press five years ago. CPJ has lobbied intensively for the release of all jailed Cuban journalists–in March 2007, CPJ met with Trinidad Jimenez, secretary of state for Iberoamerica at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which played an important role in their release.
In China, Straits Times journalist Ching Cheong was released unexpectedly on February 5 after spending nearly three years behind bars for allegedly spying for Taiwan. Just before he was let out, Ching’s wife, Mary Lau, asked CPJ and other organizations to push for his release because of his deteriorating health. Then Yu Huafeng, deputy editor in chief and general manager of Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis News), was set free on February 8. Yu was detained along with a colleague in 2004 after his newspaper published a story about a suspected SARS case in Guangzhou. He was given a 12-year sentence for corruption.
Even after these releases, China remains the world’s leading jailer of journalists with 25 behind bars. With 22 imprisoned journalists, Cuba continues to be the second leading jailer of journalists.
Attacks on the Press receives global attention
In February, CPJ staff and board members traveled the world to release our annual report, Attacks on the Press, at events that received widespread media coverage. In Germany, Der Spiegel reporter Mario Kaiser profiled Paul Steiger and Novaya Gazeta Editor in Chief and 2007 IPFA award winner Dmitry Muratov after spending the day with them as they visited with officials to discuss press issues in Russia and Eastern Europe.
CPJ representatives also traveled to London’s Frontline Club for a discussion about the book and the deteriorating climate for the press in Russia. Featuring Dmitry Muratov and Russian media expert Masha Lipman, the event was well attended by top editors and reporters. Attacks on the Press was released simultaneously on our Web site and is available online at www.cpj.org.
CPJ in Cairo to push for press freedom
In addition to releasing Attacks on the Press, which sparked a substantive debate within the Egyptian press, CPJ Senior Middle East Program Coordinator Joel Campagna and Consultant Kamel Labidi spent two weeks researching the current press freedom climate in Egypt. They examined reactions to the previous press crackdown, and met with a number of local editors and journalists. Those interviews will be released as a special report on our Web site. In Cairo, Campagna also attended the trial of Al-Jazeera journalist Howayda Taha Matwali, who was being tried for exposing torture in Egyptian prisons. Campagna was present when the court upheld the original conviction, but quashed the prison sentence.
In Washington, CPJ testifies about China in the run-up to the Games
Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz traveled to the Hill on February 27 to take part in a Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing titled “The Impact of the 2008 Olympic Games on Human Rights and the Rule of Law in China.” Experts, including Dietz, discussed the impact that the 2008 Olympics will have on human rights and society in China. Dietz’s testimony focused on the risks Chinese journalists face. The panel also examined how open China truly is to outside scrutiny in the run-up to the Games.
CPJ in Philippines to fight impunity
Executive Director Joel Simon traveled to Manila late last month to participate in a conference on “Impunity and Press Freedom.” The conference, which was co-sponsored by CPJ, brought together local press groups, representatives of the Philippine government, human rights advocates, and groups that had successfully campaigned against impunity around the world. In his keynote address opening the conference, Chief Justice Reynato Puno declared, “It is a dangerous time for those who report the truth. … Democracy in this country is under siege because bullets fired at the direction of journalists pierce not only human flesh, but also our republican ideals.” According to CPJ statistics, 32 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 1992. The vast majority of cases have gone unpunished, but the landmark convictions in a recent murder case have inspired hope for more progress. At the end of the conference, CPJ announced its support for a campaign to combat impunity in the Philippines that will be carried out by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists. The conference received widespread coverage in the local media. With support from the Knight Foundation, CPJ launched a global campaign to end impunity in journalist murders in November.
Photo exhibit spotlights Iraq and Afghanistan
“Battlespaces: Unrealities of War,” a photography exhibit featuring work from conflict zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, opened February 28 at Gallery FCB in Manhattan. CPJ attended the opening to provide more information about the dangers faced by journalists covering these conflicts, and to raise awareness about two cases from the region: Bilal Hussein, the award-winning Associated Press photojournalist who has been held by the U.S. military in Iraq since April 2006 and Jawed Ahmed, an Afghan journalist working for Canadian network CTV, who has been held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Base since October 2007.
On March 12, CPJ will be honored at the PODER – Boston Consulting Group Business Awards in Miami with a Freedom of the Press Award. The awards are part of the magazine’s first Philanthropy Forum and celebrate excellence in business leadership in the Americas.