UN holds session on journalist protection
Speaking at the UN Security Council’s first special session on the protection of journalists, AP Executive Editor and CPJ Vice Chair Kathleen Carroll began by remembering the AP journalists who were killed in the line of duty. But most journalists killed around the world are murdered. “In the overwhelming number of cases, 90 percent, the killers go unpunished,” she said, citing CPJ research.
Mustafa Haji Abdinur, a Somali journalist working for Agence France-Presse, also spoke at the discussion. Mustafa, who received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2009, said that reporting on local issues in Somalia has earned him the title of “dead man walking.”
Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, permanent representative of the UK mission to the UN, criticized failures to prosecute the killers of journalists and insisted that the culture of impunity had to end. “In countries where justice for these crimes is left unaddressed, there is clear evidence that systematic violence against the press recurs year after year,” he said. Grant also cited CPJ’s Security Guide in his comments.
In a blog published on the CPJ website, CPJ Executive Editor Joel Simon called on the Security Council, U.N. leaders, and member states to fully implement the U.N. Plan of Action to combat impunity, strengthen international legal protections for the media, and reduce violence and censorship against journalists.
CPJ has worked for several years to sensitive U.N. leadership to press freedom issues. We have met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon twice to raise concerns about impunity, In 2012, after extensive consultation, the U.N. launched an inter-agency plan to combat impunity and improve the safety of journalists, with an initial focus on Iraq, Pakistan, and Nepal.
Journalists freed … in China
Chinese filmmaker and photographer Du Bin was released this month after 37 days of detention in Beijing. A week before his arrest, Du published The Tiananmen Massacre, a book on the 1989 government crackdown against protesters. He told the BBC that officials had questioned him about the book as well as a recent documentary he made on a labor camp in China’s Liaoning province, which exposed torture of mostly Falun Gong practitioners.
CPJ had reported on Du Bin’s detention in June, and called on authorities after his release to refrain from pursuing formal charges against him.
Du told The New York Times that he had been accused of “picking quarrels and making trouble” and that despite his release that authorities could try him on those charges. CPJ will continue to work to ensure Du is able to report freely without fear of harassment or imprisonment.
… in Yemen
Freelance journalist Abdulelah Hider Shaea was released from prison on July 23 after spending three years in jail on charges of “providing assistance” to Al-Qaeda, according to news reports.
Shaea, who was sentenced in January 2011 to five years in prison, was a commentator and contributor to Al-Jazeera, and frequently interviewed Al-Qaeda leaders. He had also reported for The New York Times and ABC News.
For years, CPJ advocated for Shaea’s release, joining other local and international human rights and press freedom organizations.
In February 2011, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh pardoned Shaea, but withdrew the pardon after U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concern over his release, news reports said.
Last month, in a meeting with officials from the U.S. State Department, CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour also raised CPJ’s concerns about Shaea’s case.
Justice for a journalist in Bangladesh
Authorities in Bangladesh have sentenced nine individuals to life terms in connection with the 2005 murder of journalist Gautam Das. The ruling is considered an important step in ending impunity for the attackers and killers of journalists.
“This marks the first time in Bangladesh’s 42-year history that the police thoroughly investigated the murder of a journalist, arrested the perpetrators, and that a court delivered a favorable verdict,” according to Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul, a prominent journalist and former head of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists.
CPJ has spent years reporting on the case and advocating for justice in Das’s murder. Late last year, we collaborated with global and local partner organizations and launched a digital campaign, Speak Justice: Voices Against Impunity, which fights impunity in press murders.
Aleksei Navalny released in Russia
While not a traditional journalist, Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s conviction was still a devastating blow to freedom of expression. Navalny was jailed on July 18 immediately after being sentenced to five years in prison on charges of large-scale theft.
CPJ and others believe that the trial and conviction were politically motivated and in reprisal for his anti-corruption blog that had drawn special attention from the authorities. We joined local and international press freedom groups in calling on authorities to stop their harassment of Navalny. The anti-corruption blogger was freed from jail on July 19. His appeal is pending.
Supporting the family of a jailed journalist
One of the priorities of CPJ’s Journalist Assistance program is to support the families of journalists jailed around the world. In a recent example, CPJ provided financial support for the family of jailed Tibetan journalist Dhondup Wangchen to help them pay for living expenses while Wangchen is in prison.
In a letter posted on CPJ’s blog, Lhamo Tso described Wangchen, her husband, as a man “fueled by curiosity and strong principles which finally led to the challenge of a regime that does not believe in the good of men.”
The journalist is serving a six-year jail term after being convicted of “inciting separatism.” He was the first of at least 10 Tibetans who were imprisoned as Chinese authorities launched a crackdown on independent coverage of tensions in Tibet.
Wangchen is one of more than 60 journalists whom CPJ has assisted this year. In 2012, our Journalist Assistance assisted 195 reporters, editors, and photographers from across the globe with legal, financial, medical, exile, and family support.
CPJ’s Distress Fund provides emergency grants to journalists facing persecution for their work. Support our work and make a gift today.
Fighting for free Internet
Geoff King, who was appointed CPJ’s new Internet advocacy coordinator in June, is leading the organization’s efforts to promote online freedom and defend journalists and bloggers around the world.
“There is no press freedom without Internet freedom, and we are delighted to have someone with Geoff’s background and experience in this key position,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.
King is an advocate, journalist, and lawyer, who has represented journalists in press freedom cases. He is also a lecturer at UC Berkeley, where he teaches a course on digital privacy law and policy.
Tanzania: President Obama visited Tanzania in early July, but ignored the country’s press freedom crisis. A new CPJ report, highlighting the deteriorating press freedom climate in Tanzania, will be released on August 6.
Egypt: President Mohamed Morsi cracked down on his media critics during his one year in office, and now Egypt’s new leaders have turned the tables, stifling media supportive of the ousted president. A new CPJ report, to be released later next month, examines the challenges.
United States: This fall, CPJ will release its first-ever comprehensive report on press freedom conditions in the United States. The report is being written by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post.
Save the date
CPJ’s annual International Press Freedom Awards will be held on Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 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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