CPJ Impact

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, December 2012

2012: A year of reporting dangerously


Over the past several months, we documented in CPJ Impact violations of press freedom around the world and the efforts we made to combat them. This edition features highlights from 2012, when CPJ stepped in and advocated for journalists and news outlets at risk across the globe, from the armed conflict in Syria to targeted murders in Somalia.

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CPJ documents spike in killed journalists

Violence in Syria and targeted murders in Somalia contributed to the increased number of journalists killed worldwide in 2012, according to CPJ’s annual census. No country was more dangerous for reporters this year than Syria, where 28 journalists died. Twelve journalists were killed in Somalia, all of them murdered. The vast majority of victims worldwide were local journalists covering local issues, and the proportion of freelancers was again higher than the historical average, CPJ found.

With 70 journalists killed in direct relation to their work so far in 2012, this year is one of the deadliest years for the press since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992.

Free the press

CPJ advocacy won the release of 58 imprisoned journalists this year. But there is more work left to do: In our annual census conducted on December 1, CPJ documented 232 journalists jailed around the world. The three leading jailers, we found, were Turkey, with 49 journalists; Iran, with 45; and China, with 32. The imprisonments followed sweeping crackdowns on criticism and dissent, with authorities making use of anti-state charges in retaliation for critical coverage.

This year, CPJ awarded its 2012 International Press Freedom Awards to two journalists who remain imprisoned. CPJ and close to 20,000 supporters called on the governments of China and Kyrgyzstan to free Tibetan journalist Dhondup Wangchen and Kyrgyz journalist Azimjon Askarov. CPJ sent copies of the petitions to both journalists, with the hope that they will bolster the journalists’ moral strength.

A new CPJ video details the plight of imprisoned journalists worldwide and describes how international advocacy can make a difference in winning the freedom of jailed reporters, editors, photojournalists, and bloggers. CPJ continues to work toward the release of all jailed journalists.

Campaign for justice

In nine out of 10 journalist murders, the killers walk free. To create broader awareness and combat this climate of impunity, CPJ launched a new digital campaign, Speak Justice: Voices Against Impunity, in collaboration with global and local partner organizations. Within weeks, the campaign generated support for efforts to obtain justice in the killing of Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara.

By participating in the campaign, e-advocates can explore the circumstances leading to the murder of more than 660 journalists. Our dedicated website, www.speakjusticenow.org, features interactive maps and an infographic video showing that journalists killed around the world were primarily covering politics, corruption, conflict, crime, and human rights–all issues of vital concern to any citizen. Let’s break the silence by sharing, joining, and donating. Speak justice!

Supporting at-risk journalists

In November, we reported that that Brazilian journalist Mauri König was honored in New York with CPJ’s 2012 International Press Freedom Award. This month, CPJ helped König and his family flee into hiding after the journalist reported receiving death threats related to his coverage of police corruption.

In October, four men burst into the offices of a radio station in the Bolivian city of Yacuiba, and poured gasoline on the station’s host, Fernando Vidal. The journalist suffered second-degree burns to his face, arms, legs, and stomach and needed extensive medical support. CPJ helped cover part of Vidal’s medical bills and worked in close collaboration with other international press freedom groups to secure the full amount Vidal needed.

This year, CPJ’s Journalist Assistance Program supported close to 200 journalists in distress situations worldwide with legal, medical, exile, and family issues through a combination of financial and non-financial support. Most of CPJ’s assistance went to journalists in exile, and more than half of those assisted were African journalists.

Advocacy on a global level

In 2012, CPJ continued to advocate for the U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, an overarching framework to involve all U.N. agencies in supporting journalist security and fighting impunity in their killings. CPJ worked tirelessly all year, contributing research and expert assessment so that the plan could be efficient and realistic, and all the while advocating for member states to be involved in making the plan a reality in 2013.

On World Press Freedom Day, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon spoke about combating impunity at an event at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, which was hosted by the French and Greek missions to the U.N. The event marked the fifth anniversary of a U.N. resolution to protect journalists working in conflict zones. With the conflict escalating in Syria, journalists’ right to report in war zones was a key issue in 2012.

But the fact is that press freedom plays a part in global governance as well. CPJ is already taking part in a global consultation to shape the post-2015 agenda for the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. We believe that the objectives of responsible governance cannot be achieved or sustained without an independent press that is free to inform the citizenry and report on institutional failures.

This year also marked the first time a U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions focused a report on attacks against journalists and impunity in anti-press violence. The report, presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in June, cites extensively from CPJ research.

Journalist security on-site and online

The unrest in Syria has shown how physical and digital security are crucial to all journalists. As the conflict escalated in April, CPJ launched the Journalist Security Guide, which features in-depth analysis of the threats facing journalists and outlines the relevant steps reporters should take in considering their safety.

The guide is available online in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish, because it is local journalists covering stories that pay the highest price, according to CPJ research. To make sure new journalists are prepared for the challenges they must face, we also sent the guide to more than 125 journalism schools.

To accommodate situations and regions where sharing of files online is dangerous or not possible CPJ has produced USB-sticks loaded with the security guide and software to make data more secure. The sticks have become an essential part of the kit we bring when we meet with journalists around the world.

Upcoming events

CPJ’s comprehensive global guide to press freedom, Attacks on the Press, will be launched early next year. See our events page for more details.


CPJ’s Distress Fund provides emergency grants to journalists facing persecution for their work. Support our work and make an end-of-year gift today.

Best of the Blog in 2012

Closed trial in Politkovskaya case dashes hopes (December)

After Malala shooting, Taliban goes after media critics (October)

Charlie Hebdo cartoons set off fierce debate in France (September)

As it backs Assange, Ecuador stifles expression at home (August)

Where is Meles Zenawi? Ethiopians don’t know (July)

Most censored nations each distort the Net in own way (May)

In Syria, killing the messenger hasn’t killed the message (March)

Caveat utilitor: Satellite phones can always be tracked (February)