CPJ Impact

November 2009

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists

President Obama: Press China to release jailed journalists
Ahead of his trip to China on November 15, CPJ sent U.S. President Barack Obama a letter requesting that he and his staff urge the release of jailed journalists. China continues to be one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists with at least 26 in prison. The letter highlights the cases of Shi Tao, an IPFA winner in 2005, and Hu Jia as emblematic cases of jailed Chinese journalists, both imprisoned for “anti-state” crimes.

Paul Steiger will double your dollars
CPJ chair Paul Steiger will donate a $25,000 to CPJ, but we need your help to make that happen. He’s giving a matching grant in an effort to expand CPJ’s supporter base-he’ll match any new or increased donations up to $500. Click here to find out more about the match. Please help us spread the word by forwarding this link. Here is a short video of CPJ board member and CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lara Logan talking about why she is committed to the cause.

Kati Marton and Nina Ognianova in International Herald Tribune
Jointly authored by CPJ’s Kati Marton and Nina Ognianova, an op-ed piece titled “The Kremlin Can’t Have It Both Ways” appeared in the November 10 edition of The International Herald Tribune as well as on The New York Times’ Web site. The article is a follow-up to Marton and Ognianova’s mission to Russia where they launched our special report Anatomy of Injustice: The Unsolved Killings of Journalists in Russia. The op-ed argues that Russia must put an end to impunity in the cases of murdered journalists as it positions itself as a legitimate democracy and requests equal treatment with what it calls other “great nations.”

Arrests made in Moscow murders
Following on the heels of Marton and Ognianova’s op-ed was news out of Moscow that Russia’s Investigative Committee, which met with CPJ during our Russia mission, had made two arrests in the double murder case of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasiya Baburova.

This is a small but positive step toward defeating the culture of impunity that permeates the cases of murdered journalists in Russia. Ognianova stressed in a statement that the Investigative Committee’s work must be transparent in this case and that it must continue to push for the arrests all those involved.

Rwandan journalist avoids jail with CPJ’s help
CPJ received a note of thanks from Jean Bosco Gasasira, editor-in-chief of the Rwandan bimonthly Umuvugizi, after we publicly denounced the criminal defamation charges leveled against him. CPJ’s Africa program outlined the highly politicized nature of the case against Gasasira and called for the Rwandan authorities to drop the charges and revise the media laws that allow for criminal defamation. CPJ also did an interview about the case on Voice of America radio that has been instrumental in spreading the word on Gasasira’s case and allowing the media community in Rwanda to speak out.

The alert and VOA interview received nationwide attention in Rwanda. The court ruled that Gasasira will face only a monetary fine and not jail time. The paper, one of two independent newspapers in Rwanda, will be allowed to continue to operate. Along with the note from Gasasira, Gaspard Safari, president of the Association of Rwandan Journalists,expressed his gratitude to CPJ during a meeting with CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes in New York.

U.K. should investigate Munadi death
In a letter sent this month to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, CPJ urged the British leader to undertake a full investigation into the death of Afghan journalist Sultan Munadi, left. A reporter for The New York Times, Munadi was killed September 9 during a British military operation that rescued reporter Stephen Farrell from Taliban captors.

The letter garnered some attention in the British press, including BBC News coverage. Joel Simon authored a blog piece for The Guardian’s “Comment is Free” that sparked a heated debate. While there has not yet been an official response from 10 Downing Street, we are hopeful that the British media attention will prevent Munadi’s death from being easily forgotten.

Our support of Munadi was well received by his colleagues in Afghanistan, who had earlier called for a full investigation of his death in a signed statement sent to CPJ.

CPJ thanks Thiel Foundation
In late October, CPJ chair Paul Steiger and Executive Director Joel Simon spoke at a reception in San Francisco hosted by Peter Thiel, who has generously supported CPJ through his foundation. Funding from the Thiel Foundation will be used to launch a new program dedicated to defending online journalists and press freedom on the Internet. “The freedom to express our ideas, to disseminate information though the Internet cannot be taken for granted,” Simon said at the event. “Like all freedoms it must be actively and permanently defended. And thanks to Peter’s generosity that exactly what we will be doing.”