News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, September 2012
CPJ announces 2012 IPFA winners
Four journalists who risked their lives to report the truth will be honored at CPJ’s 2012 International Press Freedom Awards ceremony. The award winners are Mauri König, a Brazilian investigative reporter; Mae Azango, a Liberian journalist; jailed Tibetan journalist Dhondup Wangchen; and Azimjon Askarov, a reporter serving a life term in Kyrgyzstan.
After CPJ announced the award winners, Muzaffar Suleymanov, the organization’s Europe and Central Asia researcher, was interviewed by Voice of America’s Uzbek service about Askarov. The journalist, who heard the broadcast in his prison cell, was visibly moved by the honor, his lawyer told CPJ.
CPJ will also be presenting Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, with the 2012 Burton Benjamin Award for his unwavering commitment to press freedom.
The dinner will be hosted by Gwen Ifill, senior correspondent for PBS and a CPJ board member. The ceremony will take place on November 20, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Please contact the Development Department for tickets.
Swedish journalists freed in Ethiopia
Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were pardoned and freed from Ethiopian prison after being sentenced in December to 11 years in prison on terrorism charges. CPJ and other groups have campaigned for the journalists’ release since their arrest in July 2011 and have closely monitored their cases.
In a statement issued after their release, Persson and Schibbye told the press about their Ethiopian colleagues who remain in Kality Prison. “As we were about to leave the prison last Monday, one of the prisoners forced his way toward me,” Schibbye said. “He hugged me and whispered in my ear: “Martin and Johan, promise, promise … tell the world what you have seen!”
The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has used Ethiopia’s sweeping anti-terrorism law to silence critical reporters, according to CPJ research. CPJ continues to urge the new Ethiopian government to pardon its imprisoned journalists and end its crackdown on the press.
CPJ’s special reports
CPJ’s special report on Argentina, released on September 26, was featured on the website of the widely read Argentine daily Clarín as well as in other Spanish-language media. The report found that a bitter confrontation between the government and the critical Argentine press has deprived citizens of information on issues of public interest. The report also details the media’s dependence on official advertising, which remains a challenge to objective reporting, and calls on President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to pass legislation that will limit the government’s discriminatory advertising.
A special report on Vietnam, issued on September 19, found that its Communist Party-dominated government has used surveillance, imprisonment, and restrictive laws to silence those seeking to report on crucial topics such as human rights abuses, anti-China protests, and land disputes. Days after CPJ issued the report, authorities sentenced three bloggers to harsh prison terms on anti-state charges.
CPJ met with Kyrgyz Parliament Speaker Asilbek Jeenbekov on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week to present the case of imprisoned journalist Azimjon Askarov as an aberration to the rule of law that the country claimed to champion in a speech to the U.N. CPJ published a special report in June on Askarov, who is serving a life term in prison. Askarov will be honored at CPJ’s International Press Freedom Awards this year.
Initiating dialogue on the Venezuelan press
Building on the momentum generated by CPJ’s late-August special report on Venezuela, CPJ Senior Americas Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría spoke at two panel discussions this month, putting press freedom on the agenda in the lead-up to the country’s presidential elections.
Latin American leaders and experts attended the panels, which were held at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C., and at the Americas Society in New York. Lauría headlined the D.C. discussion and was joined by other experts in New York in discussing how the Chávez administration has used legislation, threats, and regulatory measures to weaken the independent Venezuelan press in an election year.
CPJ welcomes first Paul Steiger Fellow
CPJ is pleased to announce the appointment of Sumit Galhotra as our first Steiger Fellow. The fellowship is a six-month position created in honor of Paul E. Steiger, a member of CPJ’s advisory board and president of ProPublica.
Galhotra will be assisting with research on India while conducting an independent project on press freedom. He has worked at CNN, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International USA, and is fluent in Hindi, Punjab, and Urdu.
The Paul E. Steiger Fellowship program trains young journalists to become leaders in the global press freedom movement.
CPJ is hosting a panel at Stanford University in California on October 11 that will focus on the mobile Internet revolution and its implications in Africa. The panel will be moderated by CPJ board member Rebecca MacKinnon and will feature leading African journalists and entrepreneurs. Mohamed Keita, CPJ’s Africa advocacy coordinator, will also be speaking at the discussion. The event is open to the public, but registration is required.
A CPJ special report on Turkey will be released on October 22.
CPJ has scheduled its annual International Press Freedom Awards for Tuesday, November 20, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. For tickets, please call CPJ’s Development Office at (212) 465-1004, ext. 113.
CPJ’s Distress Fund provides emergency grants to journalists facing persecution for their work. Support our work and give a gift today.