Press Freedom in 2018- A note from CPJ Advocacy

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Dear friend of CPJ,

There is no question that this year has been a tough one for press freedom. The number of jailed journalists topped 250 for the third year in a row, and the number of journalists targeted for murder in reprisal for their work nearly doubled, jumping from 18 in 2017 to 34 in 2018. This year, the danger faced by journalists was brought into stark relief by a number of high-profile cases: the depraved murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October; the ongoing efforts by the Philippine government to bankrupt critical news site Rappler, and the deaths of four journalists and a sales associate in Annapolis, Maryland, when a gunman stormed the Capital Gazette newsroom in June.

But amid the painful stories and grim statistics, 2018 also presented many opportunities.

Making cases impossible to ignore:

  • December marked one year of detention for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, the two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar for violating the Official Secrets Act. We worked closely with Reuters to highlight their cases on World Press Freedom Day, and during the U.N. General Assembly we held an event on imprisoned journalists where Amal Clooney–the lawyer for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo–spoke passionately their behalf, and CPJ featured cases from Egypt, Bangladesh, and Kyrgyzstan.
  • As pressure on Rappler from the Philippine government increased throughout the year, we supported founder, CEO, and executive editor Maria Ressa by recognizing her courage and tenacity with the 2018 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award. Shortly after Ressa was included as part of the TIMEmagazine person of the year announcement, CPJ worked with partners to launch a legal defense fund to help support fearless journalism, like the work being done at Rappler through its ongoing legal battles.
  • We engaged with both the United Nations and the U.S. Congress to demand a thorough investigation into the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and launched the #JusticeForJamal campaign.
  • Over the course of the year, we secured the early release of at least 79 journalists around the world, including #FreeThePress campaign cases Ghys Fortune Bemba, and Jones Abiri.

Engaging locally and globally:

  • Throughout the year, CPJ traveled to nearly 30 countries, and advocated on behalf of journalists in Washington, D.C., at the European Union, and at the United Nations.
  • Through our Emergencies Response Team, we addressed immediate security concerns: providing guidance on digital security for journalists covering elections in Mexico; sending out safety updates to journalists in Syria and Nicaragua; and meeting with photographers as part of CPJ’s photojournalist initiative.
  • Our Journalist Assistance Program provided emergency support to more than 100 people in 2018.

Shaping the global conversation:

  • In 2018, we were a leading voice for women journalists, speaking on issues ranging from online abuse, to sexual violence, to the unique challenges for women of color. We co-sponsored events at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, and led sessions on journalist safety and online harassment at conferences and festivals around the world, including the Internet Freedom Festival, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, RightsCon, and the International Journalism Festival.
  • To demonstrate solidarity with imprisoned journalists, we collected messages of hope using digital and physical postcards as part of our annual #FreeThePress campaign.
  • We spoke with diplomats at the U.N. Human Rights Council, met with several countries’ permanent missions to the United Nations, and provided information to members of Congress and commissions in Washington.
  • Over the course of the year, we placed over 40 op-eds in at least 20 different outlets around the world, and collaborated with the Columbia Journalism Review on a joint issue on threats to press freedom in the U.S.
  • This year, Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York City will ring in the year with a celebration of press freedom and the importance of journalism. Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment, the co-organizers of the iconic annual event, have chosen CPJ as this year’s charity honoree, and many journalists will be adding their messages of support for why we should #CelebratePressFreedom.

Whatever the year ahead might bring, CPJ will continue to fight for the rights of journalists and to advocate for press freedom worldwide.

Thank you for your ongoing support and cooperation.


Courtney Radsch

Director of Advocacy

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