News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, July 2010
begins releasing journalists
For weeks, CPJ staff had been getting hints that Cuba, under a
deal brokered by the Catholic Church and Spanish government, would release
imprisoned journalists and political dissidents. Some families had been told to
buy suits for their jailed loved ones, a sure sign that something was up. After
years of painstaking reporting, contact-building and campaigning on Cuba, we
were in a great position to move quickly when at last on July
13 the Cuban authorities put six journalists on a plane for Madrid. CPJ
Europe Consultant Borja Bergareche was there to welcome the new exiles, the
first in what is expected to be a series of releases by the Castro regime. Three
more journalists have since been freed. Prior to the releases, CPJ research had
identified 21 journalists in Cuban prisons for their independent reporting and
commentary. All but one of the journalists had been detained in March 2003, in
the massive government crackdown on political dissent and independent
journalism that came to be known as the Black Spring.
Imprisoned awardee Tissa free at last
Our 2009 International Press Freedom Awardee from Sri Lanka is a
free man. J.S. Tissainayagam, who is known as Tissa, slipped quietly out of Colombo last month. His
departure capped nearly two years of intensive advocacy by CPJ and others for
the Tamil editor’s release. We raised the case with the government during a mission
to the island in March. Tissa
was met at Dulles Airport by CPJ representative Kamel Labidi, who described
him as all smiles and gratitude. Tissa has kept a low profile since arriving in
the United States.
On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, the government announced that it would grant
Tissainayagam a presidential pardon, but six weeks passed before he was handed
back his passport. He had been released on bail in January and had lived in
seclusion in Sri Lanka
until his departure. He was first jailed in March 2008 and eventually indicted
under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in August 2008. We hope he will
attend our annual benefit in New York in November to receive his award.
Nieman Fellow denied U.S. visa
Hollman Morris, a well known Colombian journalist and TV
news producer, has been denied a visa to enter the United States to take up a Nieman
Fellowship. CPJ wrote
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to reverse the decision, made
under a provision of the Patriot Act, and ensure that Morris can take up his
Appeal for help from
Ailing Tunisian journalist Fahem Boukadous appealed to the public for help through CPJ from a
hospital bed in the Tunisian city of Sousse.
Boukadous, who has been sentenced to four years in prison, suffers from acute
asthma. Shortly after leaving the hospital, he was arrested. CPJ continues work
on the case.
Making the Web safer for
are increasingly turning to social media to gather and spread news. But useful
as these services are, there can often be unfortunate consequences when the
intent of the companies involved doesn't match the needs of reporters in the
field. The designers of these and many free Internet services are often
supportive to the innovative uses, but can be unaware of the consequences of
even simple changes to their products or policies.
Internet advocacy coordinator, Danny O'Brien,
is based in Silicon Valley, and has been
speaking to developers big and small about better defending free speech in the
early stages of product design. "A lot of individual programmers here want
to create code that protects privacy and free speech," O'Brien says,
"and with headlines about YouTube removing vital video footage, or Twitter
helping in Iran,
the companies understand the public impact of getting the balance right before
launch, instead of after an incident occurs."
of this advocacy takes place behind the scenes, but for the last few months,
O'Brien has also been touring the "geek lecture circuit," keynoting
at the popular Open Source Bridge
conference, and informally answering questions at "hacker spaces"
like San Francisco's
Noisebridge. It's not just dotcom startups that can help journalists and their
readers: media companies can adapt their current websites, too. At the U.K. Guardian's Activate 2010 conference earlier this month, O'Brien spelled out one
simple step that any site can take.
of my strongest recommendations to both tech and media companies is to offer
protected, encrypted versions of all their Web pages (the kind whose address
starts with "https", not "http"). It's easier than many
developers think, and it has real advantages for journalists and their sources.
It makes private communications harder to monitor by government or criminal
elements, and makes websites more difficult to censor by state blocks like the
Great Firewall of China."
has already offered an "https" version of its search engine at https://encrypted.google.com, and now turns on
encryption by default for Gmail users. The
New York Times and Washington Post
also offer encrypted versions of their websites.
you're interested in having O'Brien speak at your tech or media event, contact CPJ
at [email protected]. CPJ supporters in the Netherlands can hear his keynote at the open
source GUADEC conference on 29th July in The
Moving into Africa
We’re revamping our Africa
program in an effort to respond more quickly and effectively to events in a
continent where communications are still a challenge. As part of the first
phase, our Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes has changed roles. He arrived
in Nairobi this month where he will work as our
consultant for East Africa. Research associate
Mohamed Keita takes on the new role of Africa advocacy coordinator based in New York.
Other highlights from CPJ’s advocacy and blog: