Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora, founder of El Periodico newspaper, arrives for a court hearing in Guatemala City in May 2024. (AP/Moises Castillo)

CPJ Insider: June edition

CPJ welcomes journalist releases, calls for all charges to be dropped

Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora, founder of El Periodico newspaper, arrives for a court hearing in Guatemala City in May 2024. (AP/Moises Castillo)

Earlier this year, CPJ went to Guatemala to advocate for journalist José Rubén Zamora’s release from prison. While there, we met with newly elected Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo and discussed opportunities for his administration to improve the country’s press freedom record.

After a court ordered Zamora to house arrest on May 15, the journalist remains in prison pending two other charges.

Zamora told The Associated Press, “I have to face justice because I can defend myself. … I am innocent.”

As CPJ awaits Zamora’s full release, we have called on “authorities to immediately drop all charges against him” after the journalist was detained for nearly two years in an irregular trial process and sentenced to 6 years in prison.

Such news comes amid a string of cases in which journalists are allowed to go home after arrests yet charges against them remain. 

In March, Senegalese authorities released five journalists who have been jailed since last year. At least four of those journalists face ongoing prosecution.

“The release from detention of at least five Senegalese journalists jailed since 2023 is welcome news, but they should have never been arrested, and their cases underscore the imperative for legal reforms to prevent such criminalization of the press in the future,” said Angela Quintal, head of CPJ’s Africa program.

The same month, Congolese journalist Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine but released because he had already served time. His conviction and sentencing sought to justify his detention and sent a chilling message to the press in the DRC that they may face prosecution in connection with their work.

Even when a journalist is released from prison, ongoing threats of persecution can be daunting. CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Doja Daoud spoke recently with Iraqi Kurdish journalist Guhdar Zebari who was released following three-and-a-half years in detention, including 62 days in solitary confinement. “Every night since my release, my family has been receiving threatening calls from known and unknown individuals,” he told CPJ.

Zebari said he had been swept up in a string of arrests of activists from the ethnic Badinani group who were imprisoned in the wake of 2020 anti-government protests and charged with anti-state crimes.

Repeatedly during elections, protests, and in warzones, authorities are given undue cause to clamp down on journalists. In mid-May, amid the Israel-Gaza war, at least 10 journalists, including three held by Palestinian authorities and seven held by Israel, had been released while 28 remain under arrest. These arrests and releases of journalists are happening in the context of what CPJ has called a growing censorship regime following restrictive measures by Israeli authorities to shutter Al Jazeera and end the live feed from The Associated Press.

Fighting for the release of journalists from behind bars is difficult work. Last year, CPJ welcomed the early release of more than 200 journalists. Far too many, however, face ongoing prosecution. As CPJ works to end the criminalization of journalism, we support these journalists long after they are released as their effort to remain free and to report the news without fear of reprisal continues.

For journalist José Rubén Zamora, and so many like him, that effort isn’t complete until every charge is dropped and a more free and independent press is enshrined into the legal code.

Spotlight on Giving: DADA Goldberg

(Photo courtesy DADA Goldberg)

CPJ supporters Defne Aydintasbas (left) and Rebecca Goldberg Brodsky (right) are the Co-Founders of DADA Goldberg, a strategic public relations agency, which has grown to become the premier communications for the design field. In March, they visited CPJ’s New York headquarters at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Press Freedom Center with their team to learn more about our work. CPJ sat down with them to discuss that experience and why we are the company’s charity of choice.

CPJ: What motivates you to support journalists and press freedom?

Defne: We witness journalism to be under threat, both from an economic perspective in some of the western countries, and from democratic forces or lack thereof in the rest of the world. We feel that this is a field that requires all our attention because it’s so essential to a better world. This is why CPJ’s mission is just so, so important to us. Additionally, on a personal level, I’m from Turkey, so I have a sense of what happens when the press shrinks and what that does to society.

Rebecca: Of all the causes that could be supported in the world, the opportunity to be aware of the world is paramount to the success of each individual in this country. I’ve always found that democracy and journalism are intricately linked. I grew up believing in the American dream and wanting that for myself. I was in an isolated area of New York state at the time, so media was my entry point to the world. It’s linked to who I am as a human being. To be able to protect and preserve the institutions that uphold credible journalism is the most important thing that we could do.

CPJ: You brought your team to the CPJ office for a deep dive into our work. What aspects of our mission resonated with you, and why was it important for you to involve your entire team in this experience?

Defne: We work with a brilliant group of people who are at different parts of their career. Most are just starting out and gaining their footing in the world. We thought it was important for them to see the global context and understand newsmaking as a form of truth-telling—to understand the lengths to which journalists must suffer, and the challenges they face to fulfill that mission. In a way, it’s easy for us to think of ourselves completely removed from that because we’re not dealing with global or political news. So, I thought it was valuable for us to get to know the organization better. Before our visit, I thought of CPJ as an advocacy organization working with data, but I saw a hands-on operation with deep local community links. It was incredibly moving.

CPJ: In your view, why is press freedom crucial for a functioning society, and how do you see your support contributing to this cause?

Rebecca: I sincerely believe that all human beings are born with the same potential. Since education stops after a certain age, we all owe it to ourselves and each other to stay as current as possible and as worldly as possible. And I think that the only mechanism for continued self-education is journalism.

In some places, journalists are putting their lives on the line, dedicating themselves for the sake of humanity. There’s no greater cause that I could ever imagine backing.

Defne: We want the truth to be out there and for a system of checks and balances to be in place. If there’s a reason to fear the repercussions for what you write, that’s a really dangerous precedent.

CPJ: For someone reading this who also owns their own company, why do you believe integrating charitable giving into company culture is important?

Rebecca: Our choice to support CPJ was born out of the interest that Defne and I have with where the world is right now, and trying to predict the future because we live in a future state through public relations. We wanted to give back and create something that was more meaningful on behalf of our closest contacts and relationships. I would encourage others to look at donating specifically to CPJ for that reason. If you believe in being intentional with how you’re spending your time, resources, and energy and care about what you’re putting into the world, there’s no greater legacy that you could leave for either yourself or as a gift for someone else. You’re investing in the future by making sure that an entire global value system is protected.


CPJ spoke with Gaza journalist Shrouq Al Aila from Rafah, where she is sheltering with her 11-month old daughter, Dania, after her husband, Roshdi Sarraj, the founder of production company Ain Media, was killed in an Israeli airstrike. As she takes up the mantle of Ain Media, she hopes her message will be heard: “We as journalists talked about everything. We filmed everything. It is now time for foreign correspondents to come and cover the war. We don’t have any more words.”

CPJ staff prepared an in-depth analysis of the difficulty in documenting press freedom violations in Gaza as journalists are killed, arrested, or missing. From the loss of local sources, precarious living conditions, the absence of foreign journalists, communications blackouts, administrative detentions, and a fear of retribution that transcends borders, “Collecting and vetting this information is now taking us weeks or months, and in some cases won’t be possible at all,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna.

CPJ spoke with eight Serbian journalists and advocates, some of whom have left the country out of fear for their safety, to understand a deteriorating situation for journalists under populist President Aleksandar Vučić’s administration. “It’s hard to deal mentally with this level of daily harassment,” one journalist who spoke on the condition of anonymity told CPJ, “with blackmail, threats, stalking, or even unknown people desecrating my mother’s tomb.

CPJ in the news

‘Unimaginably difficult’ being a journalist in Gaza: Committee to Protect Journalists CEO,” CNN

Our freedoms depend on press freedom,” Project Syndicate         

‘I watch my back’: Spike in BBC World Service journalists working in exile,” BBC

Amid increasing pressure, journalists in India practice more self-censorship,” Al Jazeera

Four UCLA student journalists attacked by pro-Israel counterprotesters on campus,” The Los Angeles Times

China erases memory of ‘white paper’ protests in further threat to journalism,” The Guardian   

Protect journalists, everywhere,” The New York Times

Press Freedom Day with Muthoki Mumo CPJ’s Africa program coordinator,” VOA

Israel has shut down an Associated Press live camera position in Israel overlooking Gaza,” Al Jazeera

Ethnic strife is tearing Ethiopia apart, but America can help end it,” The Hill