Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: United States
As of December 31, 1998

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Since its founding in 1981, the Committee to Protect Journalists has, as a matter of strategy and policy, concentrated on press freedom violations and attacks on journalists outside the United States. We do not systematically monitor problems facing journalists in any of the developed industrial democracies. We devote most of our efforts to countries where journalists are in the greatest need of international support and protection.

While CPJ recognizes that press freedom requires constant vigilance and aggressive defense everywhere, we are able to rely within the United States on the thorough, professional efforts of organizations with a primarily domestic focus, such as the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Association of Broadcasters, among others. We recommend to journalists and other researchers the work of these and similar organizations, as well as the ongoing coverage of First Amendment issues provided by the American Journalism Review, Columbia Journalism Review, Editor & Publisher, and other specialized publications. On U.S. policy issues directly affecting the ability of U.S. reporters to work safely and legally abroad, CPJ works with U.S. journalism organizations for constructive change.

CPJ's overriding concern in the United States continues to be the safety of immigrant journalists and cases of journalists who are murdered for reasons directly related to their profession. As a U.S. organization that forcefully urges governments to investigate and prosecute the assassinations of local journalists, we believe that it is essential to hold our own government equally accountable when similar crimes are committed at home. Since the widely publicized 1976 murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles, at least 11 other journalists have been murdered in the United States because of their work. In all but one case, the victims were immigrant journalists working in languages other than English. Seven of those 11 homicides remain unsolved. Most received little or no national media attention. In December 1993, CPJ released a report on these murders titled  Silenced: The Unsolved Murders of Immigrant Journalists in the United States.

As part of its campaign to eliminate criminal defamation laws from the Americas, CPJ has expressed concern to U.S. officials about the fact that at least 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books that classify libel as a criminal offense. Such statues are clearly unconstitutional, and would be overturned by the Supreme Court if any attempt were made to prosecute a journalist under these laws. Because criminal defamation laws have no place in a democratic society, CPJ believes that state legislatures should expunge all criminal defamation statutes in order to set an example for countries throughout the world where journalists are routinely jailed because of what they write.

| Attacks on the Press in 1998 |