News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, August 2012
CPJ releases report on Venezuela in run-up to elections
As a result of President Hugo Chávez Frias’ 13 years in office, several critical media outlets have either disappeared or been scared into silence. The gap has been filled by a vast state media presence that merely echoes the government’s positions. CPJ’s special report, issued on August 29, the organization’s fourth since Chávez took office, highlights the legislative hurdles, online attacks against journalists, and repressive state media that are limiting critical news coverage in the run-up to Venezuela’s presidential elections in October.
CPJ received widespread coverage of the report, both in print, including articles published in The Associated Press and The Los Angeles Times, and social media. Editorials published by Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior Americas program coordinator, in Spain’s El País, and by CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, in The Miami Herald, also served to drive interest to the publication.
CPJ will be discussing the deterioration of the independent press in Venezuela at two events in September–the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C., on September 13, and the Americas Society, on September 18.
After outcry, Brazil supports UN plan for safety
After an uproar from CPJ and local Brazilian press freedom groups and journalists, the Brazilian government has thrown its weight behind a U.N. plan to improve journalist security.
Brazil had initially opposed the plan, called the U.N. Draft Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, but then reversed its course and called in Brazilian group Associacao Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI) for a consultation this month.
CPJ documented Brazil’s failure to support the U.N. plan and wrote a letter to President Dilma Vana Rousseff, asking that Brazil assert its global leadership to ensure that the fundamental right of freedom of expression is afforded to all.
Ethiopian editor freed after global calls for his release
Under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia has been one of Africa’s most repressive countries for journalists. CPJ has campaigned extensively on behalf of the Ethiopian press, calling on authorities to halt their practice of prosecuting journalists for expressing dissent. After the prime minister’s death this month, the government decided to drop charges against Temesghen Desalegn, editor of the leading independent weekly Feteh, who was accused of defamation.
CPJ had called on the government repeatedly to drop the charges against Temesghen as well as Mastewal Publishing and Advertising PLC, the company that publishes Feteh. CPJ will continue to call on authorities to release the eight journalists who still languish in Ethiopian prisons.
In Colombia, Supreme Court drops defamation suit against journalist
Colombia’s record of press freedom has markedly improved in the past few years, so it came as a surprise to local journalists when, in an unprecedented move, the Colombian Supreme Court filed a criminal defamation complaint against a prominent columnist this month. But after an outcry from CPJ and other local press freedom groups, the Supreme Court reversed its course and dropped the charges.
The entire criminal chamber of the court filed a complaint against Cecilia Orozco Tascón, a columnist for the daily El Espectador, in connection with her column criticizing the court’s recent actions.
In May, CPJ launched the campaign “Critics are not Criminals” to help fight the criminalization of speech in the Americas.
Keeping journalists safe at U.S. political conventions
CPJ’s Journalist Security blog, curated by Frank Smyth, the organization’s senior adviser for journalist security, has published articles on journalist safety by a range of experts including Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association.
In advance of the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, Osterreicher wrote two articles, published on the Journalist Security blog, that provided an overview of freedom of expression laws as well as tips for journalists who were either detained or arrested at the events. CPJ’s Americas Research Associate Sara Rafsky also provided a list of resources for journalists to consult before heading to the conventions.
CPJ’s Journalist Security Guide serves as a year-round guide for local and international journalists who are attacked, threatened, harassed, or killed in astonishing numbers around the world.
CPJ remembers board member Burl Osborne
CPJ mourns the death this month of Burl Osborne, who has served on CPJ’s board since 1997.
Osborne chaired CPJ’s investment committee and was part of a 2008 CPJ delegation that met Mexico President Felipe Calderón and urged him to pledge to address anti-press violence in the country. In June of this year, Mexico passed milestone legislation federalizing anti-press crimes.
“Burl Osborne has been a stalwart supporter of CPJ since he joined the board 15 years ago,” said CPJ Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe. “His incisive analysis, sharp wit, and generous spirit were a rare and treasured combination. We will miss him a great deal.”
Osborne had served as an editor and publisher of the Dallas Morning News and formerly worked as chairman of The Associated Press. The longtime journalist had also served as director of Gatehouse Media, director of the Newspaper Association of America, and the chairman of the Belo Foundation.
Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior Americas program coordinator, will be participating in a panel discussion after the screening of the film Reportero at the Bronx Documentary Center in New York on September 15. He will be joined by the filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz.
CPJ’s International Press Freedom Awards, an annual recognition of courageous journalism, is scheduled for Tuesday, November 20, 2012, in New York City. For tickets, please call CPJ’s Development Office: (212) 465-1004 x113.
CPJ’s Distress Fund provides emergency grants to journalists facing persecution for their work. Support our work and give a gift today.