CPJ at 30: Celebrating the struggle

By Gypsy Guillén Kaiser/CPJ Advocacy and Communications Director on March 9, 2011 4:12 PM ET

CPJ founders and board members along with supporters and friends filed into Columbia University's Italian Academy on Thursday for a series of events to mark the 30 years of CPJ's existence. The celebration started with a 20-minute sneak peek at a feature-length documentary about CPJ that will be released later this year. 

A panel discussion with the current and former executive directors provided a revealing look at some of the victories that helped the organization evolve. Closing the event, Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger provided a historical analysis of where and how academia and human rights activism intersected, as well as the place of press freedom and of CPJ within that framework. He related his appreciation for journalists and the work that they do based on a personal experience: When he was a child, Bollinger's father, who ran a small newspaper, was threatened over a story on police corruption and forced to protect his family with a shotgun.

VIDEO: Panel discussion with CPJ Directors and Speech by Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University

Events continued on March 4, beginning with the dedication of CPJ's archives--a comprehensive collection of documents representing 30 years of research, reporting, and activism in support of a free press worldwide--to Columbia University Libraries' Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research. The first panel discussion, "Looking Back: Thirty Years of Covering War" examined how risks faced by journalists have shifted since CPJ's founding in 1981, when journalists covering conflicts were largely treated as impartial observers by the different parties to to today's less clearly defined conflict situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond, where vehicles marked "Press" do not definitively ensure they are not deliberately targeted. Panelists analyzed the rules of engagement when covering war today versus thirty years ago, the multiplying demands on journalists due to multimedia platforms and how this has affected news coverage.

VIDEO: Looking Back: Thirty years of covering war


The second panel, "Looking Ahead: Social Media and Revolution" gathered a experts who examined the complex reality of technology that has facilitated communication and reporting from the frontlines--while also being appropriated by repressive governments for data mining and surveillance. Panelists--all leaders in their fields--spelled out in detail, how Egypt shut down the Internet, the role of social media for protests in Iran versus other countries, as well as the cutting-edge censorship techniques employed by China. The discussion shed light on how different mediums used throughout the years (from radio in the Philippines to Facebook around the world today) to mobilize the public.

VIDEO: Looking Ahead: Social Media and Revolution

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