CPJ Impact

November 2008

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists

Dangerous Assignments: Malaysia’s daring bloggers
As editor of the popular online journal Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Kamarudin has been a leader in Malaysia’s vibrant blogging culture. For three months, he was held without trial in an open-ended detention that came to symbolize the government’s new assault on Internet expression, CPJ’s Shawn W. Crispin writes in a special report, “Malaysia’s Risk-Takers,” featured in the Fall/Winter 2008 edition of CPJ’s magazine, Dangerous Assignments.

Also in this edition of Dangerous Assignments, a CPJ special report, “The Witness,” takes a look at the case of “Chief” Ebrima Manneh, who hasn’t been heard from since Gambian security agents took him away for questioning in July 2006. Manneh has reportedly been kept in secret locations by a government that has officially denied holding him. In “The Witness,” Manneh’s colleague Ousman Darboe recounts his search for the journalist and his risky decision to testify about the case before a regional court.

The Dangerous Assignments cover story is “The Disappeared,” a CPJ special report we told you about last month in which CPJ’s Monica Campbell and Maria Salazar trace an ever-increasing threat to Mexican journalists: disappearance at the hands of criminal gangs.

For information on receiving a copy of Dangerous Assignments, as well as other CPJ publications, please visit our Web site.

Our new Web site is up
We recently let you know that we had updated our Web site at www.cpj.org. If you haven’t had a chance to look at it, please click around and let us know what you think. We’ll be officially launching the site in mid-November.

Will global warming impede press freedom?
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev may not be the first name associated with the topic of climate change, but in an effort to pursue “global glasnost,” Gorbachev hosted “Environment: From Global Warnings to Media Alert,” a conference on media and climate change that CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon attended last month in Venice, Italy.

The question before the gathering of journalists, scientists, politicians, and policymakers was whether the media must do more to report on the threat posed by climate change. Journalists can aggressively cover climate change issues, hold policymakers accountable for their actions–or inactions–and track environmental changes already under way. Unfortunately, many countries don’t want this kind of coverage and will hinder journalists covering the effects of climate change, as we saw in Burma when officials there restricted reporting on the devastation after Cyclone Nargis.

For further discussion of the seminar, read Joel Simon’s post about it on the CPJ Blog.

Scared silent in Mexico
More than 20 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, and seven more journalists have disappeared since 2005. When CPJ’s board met in Mexico City last June, board members Josh Friedman and Victor Navasky were so shocked by the level of violence journalists face that they were determined to invite a wide range of experts to Columbia University to discuss possible solutions.

Last month, CPJ joined a two-day event at Columbia called “Scared Silent.” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon moderated the first panel about the consequences of the surge in violence. Everyone agreed that journalists are self-censoring, particularly on coverage of drug trafficking and corruption, and that many important stories are going unreported. Mexico’s government has promised to make attacks on journalists a federal crime and Congress is expected to consider legislation in the weeks ahead.

See Joel Simon’s comments about the meeting on the CPJ Blog.

Protecting journalists in cyberspace
When Chinese journalist Shi Tao was sentenced in 2004 to 10 years in prison for sending pro-democracy information using his personal Yahoo! e-mail account, CPJ became concerned, along with other human rights organizations, about the responsibilities of communications and information companies. Shi’s case became the catalyst for human rights groups, academics, socially responsible investors, and the communications and information industries to work together to establish a set of guidelines to protect and advance the rights of freedom of expression and privacy worldwide.

To that end, CPJ was proud to be a part of the Global Network Initiative launched last month. CPJ joined a coalition of Internet companies, including Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google, as well as academics, investors, and other human rights groups, to draw up a set of principles, or guidelines to protect privacy and free expression. Companies in the communication and information industries that sign on commit to following these guidelines when doing business in countries that monitor or censor the press.

Robert Mahoney discusses CPJ’s participation in the Global Network Initiative on the CPJ Blog.

Journalism in Zimbabwe after Mugabe
Author and journalist Geoff Hill, a native of Zimbabwe, joined CPJ for lunch on October 15 to discuss the current and future state of the press freedom in his home country.

Hill, author of the book What Happens after Mugabe?, spoke passionately about looking forward to the end of the Mugabe regime and what journalists can do now. Hill called on them, especially those in the Zimbabwean diaspora, to help the country’s media develop. Working under the firm grip of two dictators since colonial independence, Hill argued, Zimbabwe has never experienced press freedom and journalists maintain self-censorship as the status quo.

IPFA Countdown
CPJ’s awardee Farida Nekhzad has arrived in New York and will be joined soon by her fellow awardees; Danish Karokhel, Andrew Mwenda, and Beatrice Mtetwa will arrive in mid-November.

The dinner is November 25 and tickets can still be purchased here. BBC News will be hosting a reception for our award winners at the Newseum in Washington on November 20.

Meredith Greene Megaw
Communications Director
The Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10001
212-465-1004 x105