News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, October 2012
Tackling Turkey’s press freedom crisis
Turkey’s use of broad anti-state charges to jail at least 61 journalists in reprisal for their work has resulted in the country being ranked the worst jailer of journalists, surpassing global press freedom violators such as China and Iran, CPJ found in a special report released this month in English and Turkish.
CPJ’s findings were featured in most leading national dailies in Turkey and on the national cable networks, including the widely viewed CNN Turk. International media coverage was also widespread, with BBC and CNN International broadcasting live interviews about the report, and an especially powerful editorial published by Bloomberg View.
A delegation to Istanbul led by CPJ board Chairman Sandy Rowe met with human rights advocates, press freedom groups, and Turkish journalists who have been victims of the crackdown. A second CPJ delegation that will arrive in Turkey in early November has requested high-level government meetings. The report is also a seed for longer-term advocacy, including with the European Union and United States government.
To reduce the number of journalists in prison in Turkey, CPJ is pushing for comprehensive reform. A number of imprisoned journalists, including Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, have already been released as a result of international pressure.
Welcoming an exiled Ethiopian journalist
Journalists joined with press freedom supporters to welcome Ethiopian journalist Kassahun Yilma, CUNY’s 2012 International Journalist in Residence, at a discussion panel and reception hosted by CPJ in collaboration with the City University of New York‘s Journalism School. The program, in its fifth year, provides a professional nest for journalists from around the globe who have been forced out of their countries, and gives them access to the journalism school and all of its resources.
CPJ first encountered Kassahun in January 2010, a month after he and his colleagues from the Ethiopian independent Addis Neger fled their homes due to charges under the government’s vague anti-terrorism laws and other threats.
At least 48 other Ethiopian journalists have been forced into exile since 2007, following continuous harassment and the threat of imprisonment. CPJ research shows that more journalists have gone into exile from East Africa in the past five years than from anywhere else in the world. In recognition of the dangers they face, CPJ’s Journalist Assistance Program has made a special effort to optimize support for East African journalists.
Cameroon reacts to CPJ report
CPJ called the Cameroonian government’s attention this month to the country’s shortcomings in press freedom by making a public statement with other media watchdogs. But the government instead denied the claims in a press conference and called the findings “nonsensical.”
Along with PEN International and Internet Sans Frontieres, CPJ filed a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council ahead of Cameroon’s human rights review in May and April 2013, on the country’s failure to meet its stated pledge of freedom of expression. The report found that the climate of free expression in the country had sharply deteriorated in recent years. Authorities were using legal regulations to limit free speech of journalists, writers, and musicians, and were also restricting online free expression, the report found. In addition, the report said, the country was not safe for people whose opinions were not in line with those that are officially accepted.
Fighting Philippines’ cybercrime law
After much criticism by local and international human rights and press freedom groups including CPJ, the Philippines Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on October 9 to stop the new Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 from being implemented in the country.
CPJ had written extensively on the cybercrime law, which would increase restrictions on the press, including doubling maximum penalties for libel from six years to 12 and criminalizing the posting of online comments that were deemed libelous.
CPJ will continue to put pressure on President Benigno Aquino III, who signed the bill into law in September despite intense criticism from local and international journalists and human rights communities.
UN spotlight on Iran’s press freedom record
CPJ provided much of the research necessary for a report submitted by Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, to the United Nations General Assembly on October 13. The report painted a deeply troubling picture of the human rights situation in Iran, including “many concerns which are systemic in nature.” Much of the report was focused on freedom of expression and the right to information, and used a great deal of CPJ research to highlight how Iranian authorities have undermined press freedom through surveillance, detention, and imprisonment.
Shaheed’s report will be the basis for a General Assembly resolution critical of Iran’s human rights violations, which will likely be voted on in December.
Defending the mobile Internet
Earlier this month, CPJ brought together African journalists and entrepreneurs, executives, and technologists from Silicon Valley to discuss the far-reaching implications of the mobile Internet. In CPJ’s second annual Online Press Freedom Summit in San Francisco on October 10, the organization facilitated a discussion between companies developing online tools and the journalists who use these tools on the front lines.
Along with several independent journalists, CPJ met with leading online companies during the two-day summit. The meeting ended with a public panel at Stanford University, which was sponsored by the school’s Program on Liberation Technology in collaboration with CPJ and the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship, where the summit’s conclusions were discussed by all.
With the mobile Internet set to surpass the wired Net in usage and users, repressive governments now have unprecedented power to identify, locate, and harass journalists, their sources, and their audiences. The implications of this are most obvious in Africa, where journalists have seized on mobile-driven innovations to transform newsgathering. Keeping this in mind, CPJ is intent on providing journalists with information and resources to fight the repressive oversight.
Urging strong steps to protect journalists
In a statement given to UNESCO this month, CPJ joined more than 40 international media organizations to demand action by governments, the United Nations, and the news industry to stop violence against journalists and end impunity in attacks on the press.
The call for action comes ahead of the Second U.N. Inter Agency meeting on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, where representatives from U.N. agencies, member states, and civil society will debate the implementation of the U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The meeting is scheduled for November 22 and 23 in Vienna.
CPJ was consulted on the development of the U.N. plan, and will continue working to ensure UNESCO and other U.N. agencies are sustaining their commitment to journalist safety and the issue of impunity.
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 +1 (212) 465-1004, ext. 113.
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