CPJ Impact

July 2008

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists

In Mexico, President Calderón meets CPJ, supports federalization plan

President Felipe Calderón pledged his support for legislation that would federalize crimes against freedom of expression, at a June 9 meeting with CPJ board members and staff at his official residence in Mexico City. The president’s commitment marked a significant step forward for the protection of Mexican journalists, who are facing an unprecedented wave of violence. CPJ Board Chair Paul Steiger and Executive Director Joel Simon led the delegation. They discussed their concern about journalists who cover organized crime and official corruption, and highlighted the climate of fear in which the Mexican media work.

Calderón‘s support of the federalization bill was the culmination of years of CPJ advocacy to raise the profile for the prosecution of journalist murders from state to the federal level. The meeting came at the end of a three-day board meeting and mission to Mexico that featured a well-attended panel discussion, the release of a special report written and researched by CPJ’s Mexico consultant Monica Campbell titled “Three Killings, No Justice,” and a reception at the Washington Post‘s Mexico City bureau. CPJ’s meeting with the president received widespread coverage in Mexico’s leading dailies and international coverage from The Associated Press, the Madrid-based daily ABC, CNN International, and the Los Angeles Times.

In Tunisia, CPJ calls for release of jailed journalists
In late June, CPJ board member Cheryl Gould and Senior Middle East Program Coordinator Joel Campagna traveled to Tunisia to lobby for the release of jailed journalist Slim Boukhdir and to investigate press freedom conditions in what has become the Arab world’s leading jailer of journalists. The delegation interviewed local journalists and the families of jailed journalists. Boudkhdir is a popular blogger and contributor to the London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi who is serving a one year prison term for violating public decency.

‘Bad to Worse in Zimbabwe,’ CPJ releases special report
Journalists in Zimbabwe are experiencing the harshest press crackdown in the country’s repressive history, according to “Bad to Worse in Zimbabwe,” a special report released by CPJ on June 23, the week of Zimbabwe’s election runoff. Tom Rhodes, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, traveled to South Africa and its border area with Zimbabwe to interview local and foreign journalists covering the crisis. In the report, Tom outlines patterns of violence and danger faced by local and foreign journalists alike as the struggle to cover the presidential elections. President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF government has detained at least 15 journalists and media workers, intimidated sources, obstructed the delivery of independent news, and tightened its grasp on state media.

An audio slideshow with excerpts from those interviews is available online. Tom also blogged about Mugabe’s media war in The Guardian’s “Comment is Free” blog and was interviewed on CNN’s “International Correspondents.”

CPJ speaks to Israeli ambassador about Reuters’ cameraman death
In a meeting with Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor on June 11, a CPJ delegation urged Israeli authorities to release the findings of an official investigation into the death of Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana. Shana was killed on April 16 when he was struck by shellfire from an Israeli tank as he filmed Israeli military forces near the Israel-Gaza border. The Ambassador expressed regret over the death in the meeting.

The CPJ delegation, which included board member David Marash, CPJ’s Senior Middle East Program Coordinator Joel Campagna, and CPJ Journalist Security Coordinator Frank Smyth, urged the government to commit to a thorough, impartial, and credible inquiry into the killing. At least eight journalists have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza since 2001, seven in shootings by Israeli Defense Forces.

CHINA: CPJ speaks and blogs widely on the Olympics
Weeks before the opening ceremony in Beijing, CPJ Board Chair Paul Steiger hosted a breakfast briefing on June 17 for a group of editors and journalists traveling to China to cover the Games this August. Paul was joined by CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz, Executive Director Joel Simon, and former Senior Asia Researcher Kristen Jones. The discussion marked the release of CPJ’s updated China Olympics report, Falling Short, and focused on the difficulties that reporters may face while reporting in China. Bob said that local journalists are the most vulnerable to government harassment and that foreign reporters should use discretion when employing locals for reporting assignments. Questions about visa issues, satellite transmission, Internet censorship, and general safety concerns were raised at the briefing.Bob has been writing frequently on the Olympics in the run up to the Games including blogging on The Huffington Post and The New York TimesRings blog, as well as writing an opinion piece titled “How much of the story will be told?” that ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

He traveled to Minneapolis to speak at the annual meeting of Associated Press Sports Editors on June 26 where he led a discussion about the issues facing reporters in China, and presented the updated version of Falling Short to sports editors from major publications around the country.

CPJ Web site redesign and blog up soon
Be on the lookout for the re-launch of CPJ.org in August. The redesigned site will feature easier navigation and bring a new spotlight to our special initiatives. CPJ also plans to start a blog around the same time with posts from staff members and our colleagues in the field.

     Staff news:
After seven years at CPJ, Communications Director Abi Wright is leaving to become the director of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, which honor the best in television and radio journalism. During her time at CPJ, Abi worked as communications coordinator, Asia program coordinator, and communications director.

“Everyone at CPJ has been proud to have Abi Wright as the public face of this organization, defending journalists around the world and giving voice to our message,” said Joel Simon. “We admire her commitment, energy, and professionalism and cherish her friendship. She will be sorely missed.”