CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Frank Smyth

Frank Smyth is CPJ’s senior adviser for journalist security. He has reported on armed conflicts, organized crime, and human rights from nations including El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Cuba, Rwanda, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Jordan, and Iraq. Follow him on Twitter @JournoSecurity.

2012


Blog   |   Iraq, Security, Somalia, Syria

Combat deaths at a high, risks shift for journalists

Ambulances carry the bodies of Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik, who were killed in government shelling in Syria. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri)

Murder is the leading cause of work-related deaths among journalists worldwide--and this year was no exception. But the death toll in 2012 continued a recent shift in the nature of journalist fatalities worldwide. More journalists were killed in combat situations in 2012 than in any year since 1992, when CPJ began keeping detailed records.

Blog   |   Brazil, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Security, Somalia, Syria

Will UN plan address impunity, security for journalists?

A woman stands next to a banner reading "No more impunity" in Colombia. (AFP/Raul Arboleda)

Here are the facts:

  • A journalist is killed in the line of duty somewhere around the world once every eight days.
  • Nearly three out of four are targeted for murder. The rest are killed in the crossfire of combat, or on dangerous assignments such as street protests.
  • Local journalists constitute the large majority of victims in all groups.
  • The murderers go unpunished in about nine out of 10 cases.
  • The overall number of journalists killed, and the number of journalists murdered, have each climbed since the 1990s.

Blog   |   Security, USA

CIA case highlights need for digital security

Ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou has pleaded guilty to leaking information to a journalist. (AP/Cliff Owen)

Few cases better underscore the need for digital security among journalists. On Tuesday, ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou pleaded guilty to leaking the identity of another CIA operative to Matthew Cole, a journalist formerly with an ABC News investigative team. In a 2007 interview with ABC, Kiriakou became the first CIA official to confirm that waterboarding had been used on Al-Qaeda suspects.

Blog   |   Security, Ukraine

Finding common cause from first online journalist murder

Georgy Gongadze, shown here the summer of 2000, was the first online journalist killed in retaliation for his work. (AFP/Dima Gavrish)

The first online journalist killed for his work disappeared one night 12 years ago in the Ukraine. Georgy Gongadze, 31, left a colleague's house to return home to his wife and two young children. He never arrived. Seven weeks later, a farmer, a few hours' drive away, discovered the journalist's headless corpse.

Gongadze edited the website Ukrainska Pravda and ran stories about corruption and cronyism like no one else in the nation's state-dominated print and broadcast media. Later, the country's then-president was implicated in an audiotape in which he was allegedly heard speaking to aides about the need for Gongadze's murder.

Blog   |   Security

In Cryptocat, lessons for technologists and journalists

Alhamdulillah! Finally, a technologist designed a security tool that everyone could use. A Lebanese-born, Montreal-based computer scientist, college student, and activist named Nadim Kobeissi had developed a cryptography tool, Cryptocat, for the Internet that seemed as easy to use as Facebook Chat but was presumably far more secure.

September 11, 2012 12:12 PM ET

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Blog   |   Mexico, Security, USA

Mexico must back up federal measure to protect press

Journalists protest the murder of a Mexican journalist earlier this year. (AFP/Sergio Hernandez)

Using guns, grenades, explosives, and other deadly means, criminals have assaulted four Mexican newsrooms in less than six weeks. One of the country's top journalists, Lydia Cacho, was the target of a chilling death threat last month. Journalists in Veracruz have gone missing or been killed this year. Press fatalities in Mexico remain among the highest in the world, leading to vast self-censorship. And the perpetrators? They are not only well organized and heavily armed, they enjoy near-complete impunity for their attacks on the press. Mexican lawmakers began to address the crisis this year, but now they risk losing the momentum.

Blog   |   CPJ, Security, USA

Stressed out: How should newsrooms handle trauma?

A TV crew reports on the shooting in Colorado from a parking lot across the street. (AFP/Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

The rampage inside a Colorado movie theater that killed 12 people and injured dozens more is the most recent reminder that a journalist anywhere can face sudden, great emotional stress. Any story involving tragedy--from domestic violence to natural disasters--can inflict an emotional toll on field journalists. The very empathy that makes a journalist a good storyteller puts him or her at risk.

July 27, 2012 1:49 PM ET

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Blog   |   Brazil, Security

Bossa Nova's home and Olympics host is risky for press

The Rocinha neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Such neighborhoods, or favelas, have been risky for reporters. (AP/Felipe Dana)

The jagged mountains ringing Rio de Janeiro descend to a temperate valley with two storied beaches on the Atlantic. Here is the city that gave the world a new, eclectic musical beat with the Bossa Nova, the South American jewel that will host the summer Olympic Games in 2016. Yet Rio has also been the setting for violence against journalists, a trend that is on the upswing again throughout this nation. 

July 13, 2012 3:14 PM ET

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Blog   |   Canada, Russia, Security, Syria, USA

Skype Trojan targets Syrian citizen journalists, activists

The Russian manufacturer promises results. The software can be used to control your own or, say, a customer's computer by making it a remote software client. Or it could be used for spying on others.

June 20, 2012 3:25 PM ET

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Blog   |   Bolivia, CPJ, Ecuador, Security

Free expression in Americas goes beyond left or right

On Sunday the general assembly of the Organization of American States will convene in Bolivia in the verdant, highland valley city of Cochabamba. The 35 member states (every nation in the region except Cuba) are expected to vote on a measure that, if passed, could curtail free expression and press throughout the hemisphere and put journalists and others at greater risk.

Blog   |   CPJ, El Salvador, Security

Solidarity, a key to security, eludes Salvadoran press

Visitors look at an exhibit displaying the bloodstained clothes of the Jesuit priests murdered by the Salvadoran military in 1989. (AP/Luis Romero)

No other journalists are remembered quite like this. Visitors looking through the glass display at the Monsignor Romero Center & Martyrs Museum in San Salvador see the pajamas and other clothes that three Jesuit university priests were wearing when they were shot down by automatic rifle fire. A series of clear containers are filled with dark blades of grass cut from the campus lawn where each had spilled his blood.

Blog   |   CPJ, Security, USA

Should J-School grads just get up and go overseas?

Photographers take cover behind a barricade during a protest in Egypt last year. Journalists are often forced to take deadly risks when working in war zones, usually with limited training and no insurance. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

The guidance is hardly clear. At a Columbia University event last week pegged to the release of the new CPJ Journalist Security Guide, one journalism student said he and his classmates are getting contradictory advice. Many J-school professors, he said, have encouraged him and others to just get up, go overseas, and try to make it as a freelancer. But the experienced journalists speaking at the event advised caution.

Blog   |   Afghanistan, CPJ, Egypt, El Salvador, Security, Syria, USA

Why journalists need new ways to stay safe

Gang members at a prison in Izalco shortly after a government-brokered truce. (Reuters/Ulises Rodriguez)

After the Salvadoran online newsmagazine El Faro exposed a secret government deal with criminal gangs last month, its staff faced repercussions that illustrate the new and complicated risks facing journalists worldwide. El Faro's report, which said the government provided more lenient treatment of imprisoned gangsters in exchange for the groups' agreement to slow down their murderous practices, addressed one of the most sensitive topics facing journalists today--crime and its many interconnections with government.

Blog   |   Security, Syria, USA

From Small World, timely advice on safe satphone use

Journalists and technologists often speak different languages. But a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit, Small World News, is bridging the gap with a new guide on the safe use of satellite phones. It comes at a critical time.

The group's Guide to Safely Using Satphones just went online, less than three weeks after the deaths of international journalists Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik in Homs, Syria. Several journalists who worked in Homs suspected the Syrian government targeted the building where Colvin, Ochlik, and other journalists were working. If government forces indeed targeted the building, they could have relied on several forms of intelligence, including the tracking of journalists' satellite signals.

March 13, 2012 2:43 PM ET

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Blog   |   Security, Syria

Caveat utilitor: Satellite phones can always be tracked

The Telegraph in London was the first to report that Syrian government forces could have "locked on" to satellite phone signals to launch the rocket attacks that killed journalists Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik, as well as many Syrian civilians, besides wounding dozens more including two more international journalists. Working out of a makeshift press center in Homs, foreign correspondents and local citizen journalists alike have been using satellite phones to send images of attacks on civilians around the world.

Blog   |   Egypt, Libya, Security, Syria, UK, USA

To quote Marie Colvin: 'What is bravery, and what bravado?'

Not since the worst period of the Iraq war, or in the Balkans the decade before, have so many storied journalists been killed or seriously injured in such a short period of time. Inevitably, the spate of deaths leaves many journalists asking questions about whether and how much they are willing to risk their own lives, and possibly the lives of others. Many experienced journalists might agree on one thing: the decisions one makes about risk are among the most intimate decisions they will ever make.

Blog   |   China, Colombia, Mexico, Security, USA

For journalists, cyber-security training slow to take hold

For centuries, journalists have been willing to go to prison to protect their sources. Back in 1848, New York Herald correspondent John Nugent spent a month in jail for refusing to tell a U.S. Senate committee his source for a leak exposing the secret approval of a treaty with Mexico. In a digital age, however, journalists need more than steadfast conviction to keep themselves and their sources safe. Government intelligence agencies, terrorist groups, and criminal syndicates are using electronic surveillance to learn what journalists are doing and who their sources are.  It seems many journalists are not keeping pace.

Blog   |   Security

Can't an aspiring war correspondent get some fresh advice?

My role has changed. Over the past decade, I handled both Washington advocacy and journalist security issues for CPJ. Now I focus exclusively on the latter. Today's entry is the first in what will be a regular look at the dangers journalists face worldwide and the resources available to address those risks. How to Avoid Being Killed in a War Zone is one such resource, a war correspondent's survival guide published in 2011 that offers fresh, reported, and at times irreverent advice.