CPJ Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe

CPJ Impact

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, June 2011

CPJ Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe
CPJ Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe

CPJ welcomes new leadership

Sandra Mims Rowe, a distinguished editor with a record of journalistic and civic leadership, has been elected chairman of CPJ. Rowe succeeds Paul Steiger, president and editor-in-chief of ProPublica. Steiger served as CPJ chairman since 2005.

“We are immensely grateful to Paul Steiger for his untiring leadership, and we are excited for the future of CPJ under Sandra Mims Rowe’s direction,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. 

Rowe, who joined the CPJ Board of Directors in 2003, has been producing award-winning journalism for nearly 40 years. With Rowe as editor, The Oregonian, a U.S. daily newspaper based in Portland, Ore., won five Pulitzer Prizes including the Gold Medal for Public Service. In 2010 and 2011, Rowe was the Knight Fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, where she researched the case for partnerships and collaboration in local investigative reporting. She is a past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and former chairman of the board of the Pulitzer Prizes. 

Rowe was elected chairman at a meeting of the CPJ Board of Directors held June 15. Steiger served two three-year terms, the maximum under CPJ’s bylaws.

UN secretary-general pledges to defend press freedom

Press freedom, particularly free expression online, will be a priority for newly re-elected U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. chief pledged in a meeting with the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders. The heads of both organizations said they were encouraged by statements made by the secretary-general in support of press freedom during upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa.

The organizations’ leaders asked Ban, who at the beginning of his first term pledged to support journalists working in dangerous conditions, to use his new mandate to expand support for press freedom everywhere. Ban assured the delegation that addressing individual cases of press violations is a priority.

Impunity: Seeking justice for journalists

The murders of 251 journalists have gone unpunished over the past decade in 13 nations, but they have not gone unnoticed. CPJ’s 2011 Impunity Index, published on June 1, identifies countries worldwide in which journalists are murdered regularly and governments are unable or unwilling to solve the crimes.

The 2011 index shows improvement in Russia, where deadly anti-press violence has waned and authorities obtained two high-profile convictions. The alleged gunman suspected of murdering prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow in 2006 was recently arrested.

In Mexico, the country’s impunity rating worsened for the third consecutive year, with 13 cases unsolved. As testament to the continuing deterioration of security there, a prominent Mexican journalist was murdered with his family on June 20.

The countries at the top of the index–Iraq, Somalia, and the Philippines–registered either no improvements or deteriorating conditions. More than 40 percent of the victims included in the index were threatened prior to being murdered, while nearly 30 percent had covered politics. Local journalists were the victims in the vast majority of unsolved cases worldwide.

CPJ is advocating for law enforcement officials to respond aggressively when journalists are threatened, and to solve the crimes once reporters are attacked. Failing to do so perpetuates a vicious cycle in which impunity breeds violence and ensures silence. CPJ delegations have met with heads of state in the Philippines, Mexico, and Pakistan, and with senior law enforcement officials in Russia to seek systemic reforms and convictions in unsolved cases. In an effort to continue putting the spotlight on impunity, a global network of press freedom groups has designated November 23 as an International Day to End Impunity.

The Impunity Index is part of CPJ’s Global Campaign Against Impunity, which was launched with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

To know and do more, you can download the report, watch the video, or support the campaign.

CPJ investigates sexual violence

Dozens of journalists from all regions of the world are breaking their silence on the sexual aggression they have endured in the course of their work. Their accounts, detailed in a new report by CPJ, provide the most extensive documentation gathered thus far on how sexual assault threatens press freedom worldwide.

The report, launched on June 7, reveals a broad range of sexual violence against the press. CPJ found sexual aggression in reprisal for reporting, mob-related sexual violence while covering events, and sexual abuse of journalists in detention or captivity. The findings, published along with CPJ’s new security guidelines concerning sexual aggression, will form the basis for further CPJ research in the coming year.

Listen to an audio report here.

Azerbaijan finally releases Fatullayev

Persistent advocacy does pay off. After four years of unjust imprisonment (and 68 posts on the CPJ website), Eynulla Fatullayev, an independent journalist from Azerbaijan, was finally released from prison on May 26.

Fatullayev, editor of the now closed newspapers Realny Azerbaijan and Gündalik Azarbaycan, was imprisoned in April 2007 shortly after publishing an in-depth piece highly critical of the official probe into the murder of his former boss and mentor, Elmar Huseynov. Following a series of spurious charges, authorities jailed Fatullayev, sentencing him to eight and a half years.

In 2009, he was slammed with another trumped-up indictment that added two and a half years to his term. Authorities continued to hold Fatullayev, defying a March 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which ordered his immediate release. In 2009, CPJ honored Fatullayev with an International Press Freedom Award.

Speaking with CPJ after his release, Fatullayev said: “The fact that I am alive and free today is without any exaggeration due to the relentless campaign of the international community to release me.” He is expected to join CPJ’s 2011 awards dinner in November and receive his award in person. “Your actions kept the public attention on my case. And that, in a sense, gave me immunity. I believe it literally saved my life,” he told CPJ.

Voices from exile

On World Refugee Day, June 20, CPJ turned its attention to the plight of journalists forced into exile in the face of imprisonment and other threats. At least 649 had to flee their countries in the last decade, according to a new CPJ survey.

Ethiopia, Iran, Somalia, Iraq, and Zimbabwe account for nearly half the total number of journalists driven out of their countries in the past decade, the report shows. In the last 12 months, nearly 70 journalists fled their homes, more than half of them from Cuba and Iran.

The report, available in Farsi, French and Spanish, was complemented by a video interview with Cameroonian journalist Agnès Tailè and numerous blog posts illustrating the different dimensions of independent voices driven out of their homelands.

CPJ partnered with English Pen and Index on Censorship for a panel discussion examining the plight of journalists and writers living in exile. The event, held on June 20 in London, included CPJ campaign consultant Elisabeth Witchel and three writers living in exile in the U.K.: Iranian journalist and human rights activist Yousef Azizi Banitorof, Sri Lankan journalist and press freedom activist Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, and the first vice president of the Gambia Press Union, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba.

Journalist security deteriorates in Pakistan

Following the targeted killing of prominent Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, CPJ has been working with journalists and media organizations to pressure the government to find the killers and bring them to justice. A blog post by CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz, lays out discussions with different groups and options for Pakistani journalists to protect themselves in light of the lack of protection and deadly situation.

In May, Pakistan’s president committed to pursue justice for journalists killed in the line of duty, pledging to take steps to reverse the country’s rising record of impunity. A delegation from CPJ, headed by outgoing Chairman Paul Steiger, met with President Asif Ali Zardari on World Press Freedom Day. The CPJ group urged him to ensure that journalists are free to report on sensitive issues. A renewed demand to uphold this pledge was sent to the president on June 1.

At least 15 journalists have died in targeted assassinations in Pakistan since 2002, according to research CPJ compiled and presented to Zardari. The May 10 death of a journalist who had apparently been targeted by militants highlights the urgency to act.

Convictions in California murder case

Journalist and editor Chauncey Bailey was shot dead in 2007 in a daylight murder near his office by a masked man wielding a shotgun. Nearly four years later, on June 9, a jury convicted two men of first-degree murder over the crime.

Bailey, editor of the Oakland Post group of newspapers, which is oriented toward African-Americans in the San Francisco Bay area, was investigating the finances of a bakery when he was killed. A group of local journalists called the Chauncey Bailey Project helped bring many irregularities in the police investigation to light.

Upcoming events

Report: “After the Black Spring: Cuba’s New Repression,” a CPJ special report assessing the state of free expression on the island, is due to be released in early July.

Donate to the Steiger Fellowship

CPJ is pleased to announce the launch of the Paul E. Steiger Fellowship in 2012. The Steiger Fellow will receive a modest stipend to work at our New York headquarters. Our intention is to increase CPJ’s research capacity and, more important, to help train a young journalist in CPJ’s reporting methodology and professional ethics. Preference will be given to international candidates returning to work in their home countries. CPJ hopes that the Steiger Fellows will go on to become leaders in journalism and in the global press freedom movement.

So far, we have raised $65,000 of our $100,000 goal to fund the program. Please click here to donate and add “Steiger Fellow” in the notes section.

Best of the CPJ Blog

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The Internet in East Africa: An aid or a weapon?

Beyond the Amina hoax: Real cases in the Middle East

Sethi: Pakistani media challenging military

Having captured killing on tape, cameraman fears for his life

Kyrgystan no ‘island of democracy’ as it censors the press

Chinese media freedom in a ‘sensitive’ period