News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, May 2010
Two Victories for
Press Freedom Online
Danny O’Brien, CPJ’s new Internet Advocacy Coordinator, joined
us with a brief to defend online journalists and the Internet itself as a
medium for global press freedom. In his first month, he helped reform a weak
law in Brazil
and get a persecuted Ethiopian media outlet back online. On April 21, Google published international statistics on
government demands for content removal and access to private user data. The
figures contained some surprises, including the high ranking of Brazil as a
censor of online content and unmasker of anonymous Internet sources. O’Brien’s
analysis of Brazil’s
position led to a frank discussion on the CPJ Blog between CPJ and officials at
the Brazilian Ministry of Justice. Within days, a new draft law criticized in
the blog entry had been redrafted by the ministry to create better protections
for Brazilian online journalists. You can read our analysis, and the ministry’s
Defending at-risk journalists remains the heart of CPJ’s
mission whether they work for traditional press or the emerging online media.
The editors and writers of Ethiopia’s
Addis Neger newspaper had no choice over their switch from print to digital. In
2009, their Addis Ababa
print newspaper was shut down, and its staff forced into exile after threats
and harassment from officials and government supporters. They continued to keep
in touch with their audience by using a Facebook group of more than 3,000 fans—until
Facebook abruptly removed their page earlier this month, citing high levels of
user complaints, presumably from government supporters. CPJ worked behind the
scenes at Facebook to lobby to reinstate Addis
Neger’s page. The journalists were able to restore contact with their
supporters in time to launch their own independent news site at AddisNegerOnline
at the beginning of May.
A Global Gathering
CPJ hosted the first-ever Impunity Summit on April 20 and
April 21. Press freedom advocates gathered from around the world to work to
bring the killers of journalists to justice. Representatives from Russia, Mexico,
the Philippines, Pakistan, and many other countries attended the
summit, which took place at Columbia University and the offices of the Open Society
Institute in Manhattan.
We emerged from the meeting with a common commitment to expanded and
In conjunction with the summit, CPJ hosted a public panel
discussion at Columbia
titled “Fighting Back: Bringing the Killers of Journalists to Justice,” moderated
by CPJ board member and Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll.
Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger and Journalism School Dean
Nicholas Lemann both spoke at the event. CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon
presented the findings for our 2010 Impunity Index, a ranking of countries
where the killers of journalists go free. There were setbacks—conditions in the
worsened dramatically—but also some improvements. Brazil,
for example, dropped off the list by solving an outstanding case.
A week later, on April 29, CPJ released another report, “Ten
Cases to Solve” in which we provided a list of outstanding murder cases and challenged
authorities to bring justice and reverse culture of impunity.
CPJ is grateful to the John S. and James L. Knight
Foundation for underwriting the Impunity Summit as well as our Global Campaign
CPJ Award Winner Granted Pardon, but Future
Facing intense international pressure, Sri Lankan Mahinda Rajapaksa reportedly pardoned journalist
J.S. Tissainayagam, who had been released in January on bail. But the pardon
has not been officially announced, and its impact is unclear.
CPJ honored Tissainayagam, known as Tissa, with an
International Press Freedom Award in November 2009. At the time, Tissa was
serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted under Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism
Act. In January, CPJ deputy director Rob Mahoney and Bob Dietz traveled to Sri Lanka and met with the county’s attorney
general to discuss the Tissa case and other matters. CPJ’s report on press
freedom conditions in Sri Lanka
will be released soon.