CPJ Impact

June 2009

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists

CPJ seeks release in Lee, Ling case
Euna Lee, left, and Laura Ling. (AP)We are calling for the release of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who have been sentenced to 12 years’ hard labor in North Korea for illegally crossing the border. We have been consulting with the family and raising awareness of the case in the media. Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz has made dozens of media appearances-on everything from NPR and PBS’ “Wide Angle” to FOX News and Al-Jazeera.

CPJ staff has supported the Lee and Ling families since their decision to go public. We have offered advice and guidance, and authored a letter, which was co-signed by 40 member groups of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). In the joint appeal, we called on the member nations of the Six-Party Talks to press for the release of Lee and Ling. Sent just ahead of the journalists’ scheduled trial date, the letter highlighted the families’ call for understanding from the North Korean government and expressed our desire for a swift humanitarian resolution to the situation.

On Tuesday, the official Korean Central News Agency stated that “the accused admitted that what they did were criminal acts, prompted by a political motive to isolate and stifle the socialist system of North Korea, by faking moving images aimed at falsifying its human rights performance and hurling slanders and calumnies at it.” We remain hopeful that added pressure on all parties involved will lead to a positive outcome.

Roxana Saberi says thank you, reaches out to Lee and Ling on CPJ Blog
Roxana Saberi, who was imprisoned in Iran for nearly four months, sent CPJ the following note and asked that we share it with our supporters:

“I wanted to say thank you for the support that CPJ gave to my family and me during my time in Evin Prison. Thank you for doing so much to raise awareness about my case and for keeping my story alive. Without such support, it is very likely that I would still be in prison. Please accept my deepest gratitude for your efforts.”

Saberi also asked CPJ to release a statement of support from her to Laura Ling and Euna Lee. In an interview with CPJ, Saberi said she was “amazed and very moved at the support I received” while in prison. When asked what words of support she would offer to Lee and Ling, Saberi said:

“Perhaps you are stronger than I was during the early days of my detainment, when I felt scared, weak, and alone. Over time, I learned several lessons, which you may already know well. In any case, I would like to share them with you: Try to turn the challenges you are facing into opportunities. Do not fear but love, have hope and courage, and stand up for what you believe in. No one can hurt your soul. You are not alone. You have a whole world of supporters who are rallying and praying for you.”

Read the full interview on the CPJ Blog.

Case dropped against Colombian journalist
Prominent Colombian journalist Daniel Coronell wrote to thank CPJ for its help in overturning an arrest warrant issued against him by a court in Villavicencio. Coronell, a magazine columnist and TV reporter, had been forced to defend himself against various accusations in Colombian courts.

You can read more about the threats against Coronell and other journalists in Colombia at the CPJ blog.

Free Ibrahim Jassam
Reuters photographer Ibrahim Jassam continues to be held without charge by the U.S. military in Iraq-he is the last journalist in U.S. military custody. We are highlighting his case and calling for his release. In a joint letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, CPJ and the Baghdad-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory outlined numerous press freedom abuses in recent months. In particular, a spate of politically motivated lawsuits against news organizations filed by government officials.

Read the full letter online at the CPJ Web site.

CPJ also sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to reaffirm U.S. leadership on press freedom ahead of his speech in Cairo. CPJ’s Joel Simon called on the administration to release Jassam and to pursue full investigations in the cases of 16 Iraqi journalists killed by U.S. fire.

The full letter is available online. CPJ was featured in media coverage of the Jassam case, including this story in the Los Angeles Times.

CPJ hails conviction in 2003 journalist murder in Brazil
CPJ welcomed the conviction of Cássio Santana de Sousain the June 2003 murder of Brazilian journalist Nicanor Linhares. A Judge sentenced Santana de Sousa to 23 years in prison for his participation in Linhares’ killing in the northern city of Fortaleza.
An Iraqi Journalist in America
Mudhafar al-Husseini, a 23-year-old Iraqi journalist living in exile in Arizona, continues his ongoing journal on our blog, “Finding Refuge,” this month. His newest post begins during his first trip to California:

I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t want to blink and waste a single moment of looking at the beach and the Pacific. I had never seen an ocean. If I could set up a tent on the sand, I thought, I could stay there forever. I have loved the seas, rivers, and oceans since I studied them when I was a child. Now here I was standing on the beach at Santa Monica, watching the waves of the biggest ocean shattering on the California coast…

You can read this post, along with the others in the series on the CPJ blog.

New York Times on dangers for freelancers
A June 14 article in the New York Times features an interview with CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. The story highlights the increased dangers freelance journalists face when taking on dangerous assignments. On their own, freelancers don’t have the same resources to draw on when in trouble as do journalists at major media organizations. Mahoney makes clear the contrast: “When Alan Johnston, a reporter for the BBC, was kidnapped in Gaza in 2007, the network held rallies, organized petitions, arranged for a simulcast on competing networks, and placed advertisements in newspapers to put pressure on his captors and call for his release.”

Read the full article at The New York Times.