News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, May 2014

CPJ’s Brazil report spurs government meetings on press freedom

CPJ board member María Teresa Ronderos and CPJ Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría traveled to Brasilia this month to launch a new special report, “Halftime for the Brazilian press,” and met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, as well as other high-level government officials. CPJ also presented President Rousseff with the report’s recommendations.

Brazil is home to a vibrant investigative press, but journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free, CPJ’s report found. Brazil is the 11th deadliest country in the world for journalists, and at least 10 have been killed in direct reprisal for their work since President Rousseff came to power, CPJ research shows. 

CPJ spoke to President Rousseff as well as three ministers–Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo, Human Rights Minister Ideli Salvatti, and Social Communications Minister Thomas Traumann, the president’s spokesman–about the findings of the report. Ricardo Uceda, executive director of the regional press group IPYS, and Fernando Rodrigues, a prominent Brazilian journalist and founding member of press freedom group ABRAJI, were also present in the meetings.

“The federal government is fully committed to continue fighting against impunity in cases of killed journalists,” President Rousseff told the CPJ delegation. She pledged to address the issue of impunity in journalist murders in her speech before the U.N. General Assembly in September.

The Brazilian media are subject to legal harassment, and a new law on Internet rights contains flaws that could harm free expression, CPJ’s report also found.

President Rousseff told the delegation that her administration would implement a mechanism to prevent deadly attacks, protect journalists at risk, and support legislative efforts to federalize crimes against freedom of expression.

Defending press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan

A CPJ mission to Iraqi Kurdistan this month pressed the government to bring to justice the masterminds behind the murders of two journalists and to fully implement laws to help the local press. In meetings with senior officials, including Iraq’s first lady, Hero Talabani, CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney and CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour raised the cases of Sardasht Osman and Kawa Garmyane, two journalists killed in recent years in relation to their work.

“The government, from the president to the prime minister, takes those cases seriously and will do everything it can to ensure justice,” Interior Minister Karim Sinjari told CPJ.

During the four-day mission, officials acknowledged that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had fallen short on commitments to improve the climate of press freedom and agreed to follow up on the recommendations laid out in CPJ’s April report, “Mountain of impunity looms over Iraqi Kurdistan,” which called on the KRG to investigate unsolved attacks on journalists and hold those responsible to account.

CPJ also met with Sherwan Haidary, minister of justice, and Omed Muhsin, spokesman for the Judiciary Council, and raised concerns about threats against journalists that remain uninvestigated. Both officials agreed to work with the local journalists’ syndicate to help journalists under threat.

The report was written by Namo Abdulla, Washington Bureau Chief for the Kurdistan news channel Rudaw and the host of a weekly, English-language political talk show called “Inside America.” He is based in Washington.


Turkish journalist released from prison

CPJ welcomed the release from jail this month of Fusün Erdoğan, a jailed Turkish journalist who the organization highlighted in its “Ten journalists to free from prison” report, published in the run-up to World Press Freedom Day. When the journalist was released on May 8, she tweeted: “Many thanks to the whole @pressfreedom team for your efforts for #PressFreedom in #Turkey!”

Erdoğan, the former general manager of Özgür Radyo, spent more than seven years in prison before being convicted on anti-state charges. She was sentenced to a life term in late 2013.

Turkish authorities have released multiple journalists from jail in the past few months. With the release of at least five other journalists in mid-May, Turkey is holding at least 11 journalists in jail. When CPJ conducted its most recent prison census in December 2013, the country was holding at least 40 journalists behind bars.


Assisting refugee journalists in Kenya

CPJ joined RSF and the Rory Peck Trust in a public letter calling on Joseph Ole Lenku, Kenya’s secretary of interior, to provide clarity on the government’s refugee policy and to exempt journalists from forced relocation to refugee camps. The letter was covered in a number of regional media outlets, including All Africa, Pambazuka News, and PanaPress.

After the letter was published, Somali journalist Mahad Omar was released from a refugee camp, where he had been forcibly relocated, and allowed to return to Nairobi. 


Development in focus on Press Freedom Day

World Press Freedom Day marked a small but important step in the process to secure press freedom and the right to independent media as part of the U.N.’s Post-2015 development agenda. In a speech on May 1, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “On this World Press Freedom Day, I call on all governments, societies and individuals to actively defend this fundamental right as critical factors in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the post-2015 development agenda.”

The U.N. is working to devise a global post-2015 development agenda to replace the eight Millennium Development Goals. The current goals range from halving extreme poverty rates, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, and providing universal primary education, but do not include any mention of democratic government or accountability and, thus, press freedom.

CPJ has long advocated for the framework to address press freedom, maintaining that systems that allow people to hold governments accountable are fundamental to achieving economic growth, social equality, and environmental sustainability. Last month, CPJ sent a letter to the co-chairmen of the U.N. Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, urging them to include freedom of expression and access to information in their post-2015 recommendations.

CPJ participated in multiple World Press Freedom events across the globe, from Nairobi to Paris to New York. “We should not have to endure the sad irony that in an era defined by information, the frontline journalists who keep us informed are being killed and imprisoned in record numbers,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon at a U.N. event hosted by the International Peace Institute in New York.


CPJ’s emergency fund renamed in honor of Gene Roberts

CPJ’s Distress Fund has been renamed the Gene Roberts Emergency Fund in honor of Gene Roberts, veteran U.S. journalist and former chairman of the CPJ board who was instrumental in the creation of CPJ’s Journalist Assistance Program.

CPJ’s Journalist Assistance program, founded in 2001, uses the Gene Roberts Emergency Fund to dispense grants to journalists in distress worldwide. Through a combination of financial and non-financial support, the program helps journalists obtain medical and legal aid; supports those who have been forced into hiding or exile; and gives assistance to the families of journalists who have been imprisoned or killed.



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CPJ welcomes Tom Lowenthal as the organization’s San Francisco-based staff technologist in the Internet advocacy program.


Upcoming events

CPJ will release its annual Exile Report on June 18, ahead of World Refugee Day.

CPJ will release a Portuguese translation of its Journalist Security Guide in June, ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.  

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