CPJ Highlights: June edition

CPJ will use Gianforte settlement funds to document press freedom violations in U.S.

The $50,000 CPJ received as part of a settlement in June from Montana then Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte will be used to help underwrite a project we are working on in partnership with other organizations including the Freedom of the Press Foundation, based in San Francisco. The project, which is called the “U.S. Press Freedom Tracker,” will document every major press freedom incident that occurs under the Trump administration. It is due to launch in late July.

The settlement also included a public apology by Gianforte to Ben Jacobs, The Guardian reporter whom he assaulted last month. CPJ criticized the congressman for his assault on Jacobs, saying it sent “an unacceptable signal that physical assault is an appropriate response to unwanted questioning by a journalist.”

CPJ has also requested a meeting with Gianforte to discuss our concerns. We’ll keep you posted.

Q&A with CPJ’s new Washington Advocacy Manager

Michael De Dora, CPJ's new Washington advocacy manager.
Michael De Dora, CPJ’s new Washington advocacy manager.

In June, CPJ welcomed Michael De Dora as the organization’s first Washington Advocacy Manager. De Dora, who began his career as a writer and editor, joins a staff of three in Washington, where he will lead CPJ’s efforts to strengthen engagement with the U.S. government and other policymakers.

We sat down with De Dora in New York and asked him about himself and his new role at CPJ.

Why CPJ? What drew you to the organization?

I consider the situation for journalists around the world to be particularly dire right now. In societies where a free press is restricted, state and non-state actors are often more capable of engaging in deception, corruption, and oppression and preventing citizens from speaking truth to power. Freedom of the press is a fundamental and essential right, insofar as protecting press freedom protects us all.

CPJ’s efforts to uphold press freedom inspired me and fueled my desire to join the organization. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to do so.

You have worked for other NGOs in the past. What have you learned from those experiences that can aid you in your work for CPJ?

Before CPJ, I spent five-plus years advocating for freedoms of religion, belief, and expression on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations. That work taught me a number of valuable lessons, including recognizing that quiet diplomacy can sometimes be more effective than public pressure and, perhaps most important, that human rights advocacy requires patience.

You have a background in journalism. How do you see this influencing your work for CPJ?

I have a deep understanding and respect for journalism, as well as its role in society–it’s a necessary ingredient of a healthy democracy. I’m a journalist too–I started my career at Fox News. I think that knowing why and how journalists do their job will enable me to better represent their interests to policymakers and help drive my advocacy for CPJ.

How do you anticipate your work in DC will help uphold press freedom in the US and globally?

Press freedom is under attack as never before–not just around the world but increasingly in the United States. But while the nation’s current political climate certainly presents some challenges, it presents opportunities as well.

By working with career civil servants and diplomats, we can ensure CPJ’s reporting on international violations is included in U.S. government human rights investigations and reports. I will also talk to members of Congress and ensure CPJ’s concerns are voiced at the highest levels of government. And by collaborating with other advocacy organizations and think tanks, we can amplify our concerns about government officials not taking appropriate action.

In the end, the hope is to increase recognition of the importance of press freedom and ongoing threats to journalists around the world and spark effective action.

Interview conducted by CPJ Development Intern Henry Buckley

Turkish journalist released

Mathias Depardon, a French photographer based in Istanbul, was released from prison on June 9, more than a month after he was detained in the Turkish city of Hasankeyf. The journalist was on assignment for National Geographic at the time.

CPJ called on Turkish authorities to free the photographer, who was detained on allegations of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization.” The accusation was in connection with pictures he had shared three years ago on social media.

Depardon’s lawyer, Emine Şeker, told CPJ she was still clarifying the conditions of her client’s release, including whether his criminal investigation would remain open.

Tweet: No journalists should be imprisoned for their work! #FreeThePress

Must-reads in June

Our first item here is a must-watch. In a Facebook Live video in June, CPJ’s executive director, Joel Simon, and CPJ’s former Americas Program research associate, Sara Rafsky, remembered Javier Valdez, a brave Mexican journalist who was murdered in May. CPJ honored Valdez with its 2011 International Press Freedom Award.

CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, Shawn Crispin, took a look at Myanmar, where press freedom continues to lag behind democratic progress one year after Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won office. “Press freedom in our country is not really improving,” one journalist told Crispin.

Egyptian journalists told CPJ they are starting to think twice about covering sensitive stories as Egypt’s crackdown on the press is extending to social media and other communication platforms. In a blog post called “How surveillance, trolls, and fear of arrest affect Egypt’s journalists,” CPJ MENA Intern Marwa Morgan highlighted how Egypt has taken steps to tighten its control of social media.

Do your part to #FreeThePress

Imprisoned Turkish journalist Musa Kart is facing trial. (Jonathan Guyer)
Imprisoned Turkish journalist Musa Kart is facing trial. (Jonathan Guyer)

Earlier this year, CPJ launched a “Free the Press” campaign to raise awareness of journalists imprisoned on anti-state charges around the world. The campaign will run through November 2017.

The journalist featured by the campaign in June is Musa Kart, a Turkish cartoonist for the pro-opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet who was arrested in October 2016. Kart and at least 11 other staffers and board members of Cumhuriyet are facing trial on accusations of “acting on behalf of an armed terrorist organization while not being a member.”

Turkish officials say that Kart and his colleagues published what they called “propaganda” articles that were critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish government.

CPJ has called for the release of Kart and his colleagues along with all imprisoned journalists in Turkey.

To get involved, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or share his story.

Tweet: No journalists should be imprisoned for their work! #FreeThePress

CPJ to host annual awards ceremony in November

Guests of CPJ's annual awards dinner give a standing ovation in 2015. (Getty Images/Michael Nagle)
Guests of CPJ’s annual awards dinner give a standing ovation in 2015. (Getty Images/Michael Nagle)

CPJ will hold its 27th annual International Press Freedom Awards at the Grand Hyatt New York in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, November 15!

Interested in which brave journalists CPJ is honoring this year? Stay tuned to find out!

CPJ in the news

Greg Gianforte apologizes to reporter, donates $50K to nonprofit as part of settlement,” Missoulian

Trump rages about leakers. Obama quietly prosecuted them,” The Washington Post

Charges show peril for leakers, journalists alike,” Politico

Trump’s imminent Cuba problem,” The New York Times

“‘City of Ghosts’ lays bare the terror in Syria–and the courage of its citizen journalists,” The Village Voice

International organizations call for end to violence against journalists in Mexico,” Latin America News Dispatch

The murder of Mexican journalists points to a U.S. role in fueling drug war violence,” Uproxx/The Intercept

South Sudan censors press, restricts reporters in civil war,” The Washington Post

Two Dutch journalists remain in captivity in Colombia,” The Miami Herald

Demonstrators in Tbilisi protest Azerbaijani journalist’s alleged abduction,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The forgotten war,” VICE News