The publication in March of CPJ’s Attacks on the Press in 1996 was the culmination of months of intense preparation by CPJ staff, investigating and verifying more than 1,000 documented cases of violations of press freedom worldwide. The 376-page volume, edited by Publications Director Alice Chasan, is the longest and most comprehensive of CPJ’s annual studies to date, with overviews of five world regions and assessments of more than 100 countries. Eight special reports illuminate subjects as diverse as the CIA’s new legal right to use U.S. journalists in covert operations, the role of Ireland’s arcane libel laws in reporter Veronica Guerin’s death, the restrictions on Vietnam’s independent press, and the dangers that Russian journalists face.
The book, released at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., as part of Freedom of Information Day activities, made news around the world. Executive Director William A. Orme, Jr. managed to squeeze in three live television interviews that morning, beginning with C-Span’s “Washington Journal” and continuing to CNN’s “World News Today” and “Fox in Depth.” Orme, Chasan, and program coordinators Kakuna Kerina (Africa) and Vikram Parekh (Asia) met with the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Timothy Wirth, obtaining his promise to “look very closely” at the cases CPJ raised. Other coverage included featured stories in The Baltimore Sun, the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Miami Herald, and many ethnic, regional, and overseas newspapers. All major wire services reported the book’s news. Program coordinators conducted extensive interviews with radio and print media. Columbia Journalism Review ran a two-page spread on Attacks, and World Press Review published a page-long excerpt from Orme’s introduction.
Middle East Program Coordinator Joel Campagna took part in April in the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s NGO briefing on Lebanon and presented recent CPJ casework relating to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 19-related issues. He was featured speaker at the International Human Rights Day forum in Norwalk, Conn.
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, program coordinator for Central Europe and the republics of the former Soviet Union, took part in a panel on “Establishing a Free Press in Eastern Europe” at the Media Studies Center of the Freedom Forum. Fitzpatrick’s active media schedule included interviews in March with Tass on CPJ’s concern about four Russian journalists abducted in Chechnya, a critical essay on the State Department’s Country Reports published in April’s Post Soviet Media Law Newsletter, an op-ed piece on Russian press law printed in Moscow Times, and an interview for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” about changes at Russia’s leading newspaper, Izvestia.
Fitzpatrick moderated a press seminar in April at CPJ with four visiting journalists from independent media in Belarus. She also scheduled meetings and interviews for them at Columbia and Princeton universities, Associated Press, The New York Times, WBAI, and Voice of America.
Another press roundtable in April, arranged by Africa program coordinator Kakuna Kerina, brought to CPJ Nigerian journalists Babafemi Ojudu and Dapo Olorunyomi of the Independent Communications Network (ICN), a leading Lagos-based news organization. The subject: Gen. Sani Abacha’s escalation of harassment and detention of journalists.
Kerina recently participated in a panel on “Media, Democracy, and Development in Africa” at the Freedom Forum’s Media Studies Center. In recent months, she has given numerous interviews about regional media issues, including commentary on the British Broadcasting Service, Radio France International, Worldnet Television, Voice of America, and Agence France-Presse.
Suzanne Bilello, CPJ’s Americas program coordinator until May 1, when she became the director of the Freedom Forum’s new Latin American Center, based in Buenos Aires, traveled extensively this spring on behalf of CPJ. She was in Colombia in March at the invitation of two universities to discuss human rights and the press. She also met with journalists from El Tiempo and El Espectador, Colombia’s two main national newspapers, and representatives of the Foundation for the Freedom of the Press, a journalists’ group that CPJ helped. Other travel took Bilello to Mexico to lay the groundwork for a conference CPJ will hold in the fall with Mexican journalists on the topics addressed by A Culture of Collusion: An Inside Look at the Mexican Press, published by CPJ and the University of Miami North-South Press and edited by William A. Orme, Jr. The Latin American Journalism Center in Panama invited Bilello to participate in the first regional conference of Latin American journalists.
CPJ’s Asia program coordinator Vikram Parekh also left CPJ this spring, impelled by a need to resume his career in human rights law. In May, CPJ welcomes two talented and experienced individuals to carry on their predecessors’ work: A. Lin Neumann, who will oversee the Asia program, and Joel C. Simon, for the Americas program.
Neumann brings extensive knowledge of and experience in Asia, where as a free-lance journalist he covered the fall of Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos, the transition to democracy in South Korea, and the 1988 uprising in Burma among other stories for NBC News, the San Francisco Examiner, the London Sunday Times, The Baltimore Sun, MacLean’s, and other publications. He was editor in chief of the Sacramento News & Review for two years before becoming managing editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian in March 1993. Recently, he has worked as a free-lance writer and editor, contributing to Asia Inc., Far Eastern Economic Review, Wired magazine, and other publications.
Simon, who has been based in Mexico City, has written widely for major newspapers and magazines in the United States and Canada. His book, Endangered Mexico: An Environment on the Edge, was published in April by Sierra Club Books. He was associate editor for Pacific News Service for six years, reporting on Mexico, Central America, and Cuba, and since 1994 free-lance correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, Copley News Service, and The Christian Science Monitor.