CPJ Highlights: March edition

Standing in solidarity with the U.S. press

In recent months, CPJ has documented charges brought against at least 10 journalists who were covering protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota and Lee County, Iowa. We have consistently called on authorities to drop the charges against the journalists, most recently in a letter sent to the Morton County State’s Attorney office in early March. The letter was co-signed by a coalition of free press organizations and others, including representatives from the Native American Journalists Association, Reporters Without Borders, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

On March 2, charges against at least two journalists were dropped. Christopher Schiano and Nicholas Georgiades, from the nonprofit media collective Unicorn Riot, had faced trial on misdemeanor criminal trespass charges. CPJ will continue to call on authorities to drop the charges against the remaining journalists.

CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon speaks about press freedom in the U.S. and around the world at Western Kentucky University. (CPJ/Kerry Paterson)
CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon speaks about press freedom in the U.S. and around the world at Western Kentucky University. (CPJ/Kerry Paterson)

Separately, CPJ’s executive director, Joel Simon, spoke at Western Kentucky University’s School of Journalism & Broadcasting, in Bowling Green, on April 3. Simon’s speech, which was part of the 13th annual John B. Gaines Family Lecture Series, included highlights of CPJ’s work in advocating on behalf of journalists around the world and our recent efforts to uphold press freedom in the United States. “The president might call this all fake news,” Simon said in his remarks. “But I’m here to tell you–it’s the truth.”

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Coming soon: CPJ’s annual edition of Attacks on the Press

CPJ is partnering with the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism to launch the 2017 edition of Attacks on the Press at a panel event at the University of Oxford on April 25. We are also holding a launch event at Columbia University in New York, the same date.

The 2017 edition, “The New Face of Censorship,” explores how censorship has evolved into a sophisticated tool used to control the flow of information. Journalists are surveilled and monitored, websites are blocked, and the internet is used to spread propaganda and manipulate public information. This stranglehold on the flow of news stifles critical voices around the world.

The book features essays by leading journalists, including Christiane Amanpour and Alan Rusbridger, as well as reporters, academics, and experts from all over the world, including Alessandria Masi, Rukmini Callimachi, and David Kaye, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The book will be available to read online or in a hard copy through Bloomberg Press, an imprint of Wiley. CPJ gratefully acknowledges the generous support from Bloomberg, which underwrites the annual publication of Attacks on the Press.

In Mexico, police commander convicted in journalist murder

On March 3, a court in Oaxaca state convicted a former police commander in connection with the murder in January 2016 of Marcos Hernández Bautista, and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. Hernández, a reporter for the daily Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca and freelance correspondent at La Ke Buena radio, reported on social issues.

“While this is an encouraging first step toward addressing anti-press violence, justice will remain incomplete until the mastermind has been apprehended,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “We urge Mexican authorities to identify and prosecute the intellectual author of the crime and break the cycle of deadly violence against the media.”

At least 35 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 1992 when CPJ began keeping detailed records. Full justice has been achieved in only one case. Mexico ranks sixth on CPJ’s 2016 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free.

Must-reads in March

A blog by CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch examines how using “fake news” to describe the work of journalists and media outlets can create a rationale for clamping down on an independent press. The blog post, “Deciding who decides which news is fake,” also highlights how some tech companies, such as Google and Facebook, have updated their policies to ban sites that traffic in misinformation.

As U.S. President Trump meets Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Washington, D.C., to discuss Egypt’s fight against terrorism, CPJ highlights how the country has jailed dozens of journalists under this pretext. For a blog, “As Egypt-U.S. relationship moves forward, jailed Egyptian journalists left behind,” CPJ spoke to one recently released journalist who said, “I am trying to remember what normal life is like.”

In Russia in late March, CPJ documented the detentions of at least 11 journalists who were reporting on nationwide protests. The arrests took place amid the largest protests seen in Russian since 2012, as thousands of people joined rallies in 99 Russian cities. At least 1,400 protesters were detained. The journalists have since been released.

CPJ puts press freedom concerns at forefront of global digital media community

In March, CPJ partnered with other groups to host the Internet Freedom Festival in Valencia, Spain. Each year, the festival brings together those who defend digital rights around the world, from journalists and technologists to policy advocates and digital safety trainers. The festival supports online freedom of expression, protection from digital threats, and expanded access to online spaces. In one of the sessions, CPJ introduced its newly formed Emergencies Response Team, which provides support and digital safety advice to journalists working in dangerous environments.

CPJ also participated in RightsCon, an annual human rights and technology conference, held in Brussels in late March. CPJ organized the session “Journalism is not a crime…except when it is: How cybercrime, fake news, and extremism legislation is impacting journalism around the world.”

To stay up to date with other events hosted by CPJ or in which we are participating, visit our Events page or sign up for updates here.

Journalist released from Ethiopian prison

In mid-March, Ethiopian authorities released Anania Sorri, a freelance journalist who was imprisoned in November 2016. The journalist told CPJ he was released unconditionally after being detained without charge under a state of emergency the Ethiopian government declared in October.

Anania frequently posts critical commentary on Ethiopian affairs on his public Facebook page, which has more than 11,000 followers. He is also frequently interviewed by international media about the environment in Ethiopia. In September 2016, he appeared on a pro-government station in which he blamed the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for the country’s problems, an exiled Ethiopian journalist said. His arrest could be connected to that appearance, his colleagues and friends told CPJ at the time.

Anania was one of 16 journalists imprisoned in Ethiopia in late 2016. CPJ’s annual prison census found that nearly 260 journalists were behind bars worldwide, three-quarters of them on anti-state charges. CPJ’s “Free the Press” campaign raises awareness of journalists imprisoned around the world on anti-state charges. To get involved, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also tweet directly from the campaign page.

CPJ in the News

Putin destroyed Russia’s independent press. Trump seems to want the same.

Why it matters that the secretary of state is traveling with one reporter from a conservative website

Professional journalists give advice on staying safe in Trump era

Bahrain detains former AFP photojournalist on unspecified charges

Amnesty International: One third of all imprisoned journalists are in Turkey

Journalists protest against police assault

Another Mexican journalist has been killed–the third one this month