CPJ Impact

January 2010

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists

CPJ reaches out to Haitian journalists
We’ve moved quickly to assess the situation for journalists during the crisis in Haiti, and respond with direct assistance for the basic daily needs of Haitian journalists in order to get them on their feet again.

Our Journalist Assistance program is working with longtime CPJ contact Jean Roland Chery-a reporter for Radio Haiti-Inter who now lives in New York-to use his well-developed network of on-the-ground contacts to get through to journalists, evaluate their needs, and look into the possibilities of partnering with local organizations. You can read Chery’s blog about Signal FM, the only Haitian radio station to continuously broadcast during and after the earthquake on January 12.

We are in contact with journalists on the ground, including Haitian journalist Guylar Delva, the country’s leading press freedom advocate as head of SOS Journalistes, the organization he created in 2005 to protect local reporters and promote professional journalism. You can read about his experience in the earthquake on the CPJ Blog.

If you have any information on journalists and media outlets in Haiti please notify us via e-mail: [email protected], or Twitter: @HelpJournalists. We are collecting funds that will go directly to Haitian journalists. If you’d like to make a contribution, please click this link and enter “Haiti” in the “Notes” section on the second page.

CPJ presses Azerbaijan to release IPFA awardee
A CPJ delegation hand-delivered a letter to Chargé d’Affaires Khazar Ibrahim at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington on the morning of January 20 calling for the release of imprisoned editor and 2009 International Press Freedom Award recipient Eynulla Fatullayev. CPJ board members Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Clarence Page, and Andrew Alexander, as well as Executive Director Joel Simon, Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova, and Washington Representative Frank Smyth met with Ibrahim, who promised that CPJ’s letter would be delivered to President Aliyev. He invited a continued dialogue with CPJ.

The letter, which was signed by more than 500 international journalists who attended CPJ’s International Press Freedom Awards in November, lays out evidence that the charges again Fatullayev “were not based on factual evidence and were pursued, instead, to retaliate against Fatullayev and silence his critical journalism.” CPJ also demanded that Azerbaijani authorities scrap a new trumped-up charge against Fatullayev. On December 30, Fatullayev was charged with drug possession after prison guards allegedly found heroin in his cell. On New Year’s Eve, a Baku district court judge ordered the editor be tried on the fresh charge, following a late-night hearing that lasted just minutes. Based on Fatullayev’s account and the government’s long record of persecuting the editor, CPJ believes the charge is fabricated.

Highest number of journalists ever recorded killed in 2009
Unprecedented violence in the Philippines in November drove the number of journalists killed in 2009 to a record number of 71. While 2010 has just begun, we are still seeing a steady rate of fatal violence. In Afghanistan two journalists were killed two weeks apart in roadside bomb attacks while embedded with soldiers. Along Mexico’s border, attacks on journalists have escalated in the past month with three journalists found dead, two after being abducted by gunmen. Another pointed his finger at a local mayor on his deathbed.

CPJ appreciates your continued support to advocate for our fallen colleagues to ensure that their killers be tried and convicted. In 2010, CPJ will continue to push for justice in the cases of murdered journalists and advocate for the safety and well being of all those working towards a free press, local journalists and foreign correspondents alike. We are grateful for the support we receive from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for CPJ’s Global Campaign Against Impunity.

One CPJ awardee freed on bail, but sentence looms
On November 24, CPJ honored Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam with an annual International Press Freedom Award. Less than three months later, the Sri Lankan editor is free on bail in Colombo. While this is a step forward, a 20-year sentence of “rigorous imprisonment” still hangs over him. Tissa, as he is known, was indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in August 2008. The government’s decision to revoke Tissa’s passport suggests that his troubles are not over. CPJ is calling on President Mehinda Rajapaksa to use his power to grant a full pardon, and ensure that Tissa will be allowed to continue his work as a journalist.

CPJ’s board expands internationally
CPJ is proud to announce the addition of three leading journalists to our board of directors. Rebecca MacKinnon, co-founder of Global Voices, Ahmed Rashid, one of the world’s foremost experts on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban, and María Teresa Ronderos, editor of Semana.com, bring expertise in new media as well as invaluable regional expertise. CPJ is pleased to expand the board’s international reach-we’re confident that each of these journalists will be at the forefront of press freedom issues as we move into a new decade and a new frontier of digital journalism.

Delegation meets with new UNESCO director-general
CPJ Chairman Paul Steiger, board member Anne Garrels, Executive Director Joel Simon and Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova met with Irina Bokova, the new Director-General of UNESCO, the Paris-based U.N. agency that promotes culture, education, science, and, occasionally, press freedom around the world.

“Freedom of expression and the freedom of journalists are important,” Bokova told us. “I am convinced that passing a principled message to convey that is essential.” You can read about CPJ’s meeting on our blog.

Journopalooza II at National Press Club
The immensely successful rock ‘n’ roll journalists’ battle of the bands called Journopalooza returned for the second year on January 8 to rock Washington’s normally business-like National Press Club in the name of press freedom. This year’s line-up featured two repeat bands made up of journalists, Nobody’s Business and Suspicious Package, and newcomers Dirty Bomb and Charm Offensive.

Journopalooza II raised nearly $14,500 that will go to CPJ’s Journalist Assistance Fund, Reporters Without Borders, and the Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library.

Iraqi cameraman Jehad Ali thanks CPJ
Jehad Ali was ambushed and seriously injured in Baghdad in 2005 while working for Al-Iraqiya TV. While rehabbing the serious trauma to his femur by swimming daily, he met CPJ board member Lara Logan, who was in Iraq for CBS News. Logan championed his cause and together with CPJ, Ali was brought to the U.S. to undergo a number of medical procedures that have brought his health “almost back to 100 percent.”

On the eve of his return to the Middle East after a year in the U.S., Ali thanked CPJ for “not only by providing the necessary financial support but also a much-needed moral pillar.” Jehad will head next to Lebanon, where he plans to regroup before deciding whether o return to work at Al-Iraqiya or search for a position as a journalist elsewhere.

Read Ali’s full story on the CPJ blog.

Attacks on the Press to be released around the world
CPJ’s annual book on freedom of the press, Attacks on the Press, will launch in February across the globe. CPJ will lead a panel in Tokyo, while new CPJ board member María Teresa Ronderos will launch the book in conjunction with Colombian press group FLIP in Bogotá. CPJ staffers and board members will also head up releases at the Press Club in Cairo, at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City, as well as in Brussels and in Nairobi.