News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, June 2014

CPJ releases annual exile report

In the run-up to World Refugee Day on June 20, CPJ brought the human toll of exile to the fore in its annual special report on exiled journalists. The report found that Syria, Ethiopia, and Eritrea are responsible for the most cases of journalists who flee.

The report spotlights the violence, imprisonment, and threats that have forced journalists into exile from some of the world’s most repressive nations. Told in a narrative form, the report follows the stories of eight journalists from around the world who were forced to flee their homes.

The report was covered in local and international outlets including the Diplomatic Courier, Star Africa, Mexico’s el Periodico Comentario, and Ecuador’s Hoy.

Imprisoned press freedom awardee freed in China

CPJ welcomed the news this month that Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan filmmaker who has been imprisoned since March 2008, was freed from prison on June 5 but faces deprivation of political rights. Wangchen was arrested while shooting the film “Leaving Fear Behind,” which portrayed life in Tibet in advance of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. CPJ honored the filmmaker with its International Press Freedom Award in November 2012. The following month, CPJ sent a petition with almost 15,000 signatures to the Chinese government, calling for his release.

“We are relieved that Dhondup Wangchen has been released, but Chinese authorities will never be able to return the six years they’ve already taken from him,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.
In a letter to CPJ, Lhamo Tso thanked the organization for its support and for making her husband’s case known to a global audience: “By giving Dhondup the award, CPJ has recognized the importance of his work and the sacrifice he has made,” she wrote. “Because of CPJ, more people in the world know Dhondup’s story.”

One step closer to justice in Russia

While CPJ welcomed the progress made by Russia this month in the conviction of five individuals involved in the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya, we noted that the mastermind of the murder was still at large.

“True justice can only be achieved when the masterminds of the crime are identified, prosecuted, and punished,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said.

A Moscow City Court on June 9 sentenced Rustam Makhmudov, the convicted gunman, and Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, the organizer of the crime, to life terms in prison. Two other Makhmudov brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim, convicted as the gunman’s driver and lookout, received 14- and 12-year terms in jail, respectively. Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer with the Moscow Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and an accomplice in the murder, received 20 years in prison. The defense said it would appeal.

Russia ranks 10th on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and killers go free.

World Cup and Journalist Security

As journalists gathered in Brazil to cover the FIFA World Cup, one of the most watched sports events in the world, CPJ released the Portuguese translation of its Journalist Security Guide. The guide covers a wide variety of safety practices for journalists, from covering violent conflicts to basic preparedness and digital security.

Last month, CPJ released a comprehensive report on the press freedom climate in Brazil and met with President Dilma Rousseff.

CPJ’s Journalist Security Guide is now available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Somali, and Spanish.

Road to justice for slain Gambian journalist

CPJ has consistently called for justice in the case of Deyda Hydara, a journalist from The Gambia who was murdered in 2004. On June 10, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice ruled that the Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency, tasked with investigating Hydara’s murder, did not carry out a proper investigation and cited the authorities’ failure to carry out ballistic tests on the bullets and weapons recovered from suspects.

The court said the agency was “not an impartial body to conduct the investigation,” but that there was no evidence linking the Gambian government to Hydara’s murder. The court awarded US$50,000 to Hydara’s family as compensation for the government’s failure to effectively investigate the murder, and US$10,000 for legal costs.

CPJ welcomed the ruling and calls on the Gambian government to honor the ruling. There are no sanctions in place to enforce compliance with the ruling.

Safety of journalists underscored at UN

The U.N. Human Rights Council’s 26th human rights sessions in Geneva this month hosted a panel discussion on journalist security and related issues. In her opening remarks, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, “Sound, bold and independent journalism is vital in any democratic society. […] The safety of journalists is quite simply essential to the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all of us, as well as to the right to development.”

Pillay’s statements tie closely to CPJ’s stance that press freedom is linked to development and should be included in the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals. This was also echoed by the G-7 this month.

Frank Smyth, CPJ’s senior adviser for journalist security, attended the panel in Geneva, where he called for more clarity and earnestness when dealing with the murder of journalists, as it is member states that are often accountable.

Five years later: Covering the crackdown in Iran

CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program launched a social media campaign this month calling for the end of the press crackdown in Iran that began on June 12, 2009, the day of the tumultuous presidential elections. That day, at least nine journalists were behind bars; 26 days later, CPJ announced Iran had officially become the world’s worst jailer of the press with 30 journalists in jail.

Iran has ranked among the world’s top three worst jailers of the press every year since. In 2013, Iran was holding at least 35 journalists in jail, according to CPJ research.

From June 12 through July 7, CPJ MENA’s Twitter account is “live tweeting” major events in the Iranian crackdown five years ago. The program is also updating a Storify page with the latest tweets. To join in the campaign, see the blog for sample tweets and use the hashtags #5YearsAgo and #IranElection.

CPJ on Tumblr

This month, Tumblr listed CPJ as a trending blog, which more than doubled our following from the account’s launch in March.

Follow CPJ’s Tumblr page here.


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