China's mounting crackdown on online news dissemination took an extra step today, when the country's Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, its de facto legislative body, announced new requirements on Internet service providers and mobile phone companies to identify their users. The new rules would potentially allow ISPs and the authorities to more closely tie real identities to posts and commentary on micro-blogging sites like Weibo, as well as connect text messaging and mobile phone conversations to individuals.
New York, December 28, 2012--Burmese authorities' decision to allow private daily newspapers to resume publication is a welcome change to a policy that has stifled press freedom in the country for decades, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
The most recent paper produced by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, "Media Freedom in post-war Sri Lanka and its impact on the reconciliation process<," does a great job of cataloging the abuse Sri Lankan journalists continue to face after the decades-long civil conflict with Tamil secessionists ended in May 2009.
For the safety of journalists and other people on the streets protesting injustice, Indian police must begin in earnest to address how they respond to demonstrations. One journalist died covering protests that have been taking place across the country following the gang rape of a 23-year old female medical student on a Delhi bus on December 16. The government's response to these protests, in which more than 100 people have been injured, has raised eyebrows across the world.
New York, December 24, 2012--Indian authorities must immediately investigate the death of a cameraman who was fatally shot by police on Sunday while covering protests against the sexual assault of women. The Associated Press identified the journalist as Dwijamani Singh, a reporter for the news division of the satellite-distributed Prime News channel that covers northeast India. Other reports have provided different spellings of Singh's name.
Assailants stormed the premises of Nepal Republic Media, a media company in the capital, Kathmandu, on December 20, 2012, attacking journalists and vandalizing the offices, according to news reports. Police arrested several of the attackers, who have identified themselves as members and supporters of the rightwing Shiv Sena Nepal party.
Several police officers in Dhaka, the capital, beat and briefly detained two photographers on December 11, 2012, as they covered clashes between police and supporters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, according to news reports.
New York, December 19, 2012--CPJ is deeply concerned by sedition charges leveled against Mahmudur Rahman, the acting editor and majority owner of the Bengali-language pro-opposition daily Amar Desh and the paper's publisher, Alhaj Hasmat Ali. The two were charged after publishing news stories based on leaked transcripts of conversations between a lawyer and the lead judge of Bangladesh's war crimes tribunal.
Dear Prime Minister Singh: The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by Indian authorities' continued abuse of a colonial-era sedition law to stifle freedom of expression. CPJ calls on your government to begin taking action toward repealing the law, section 124A in the Indian penal code, which Indian lawmakers have deemed punitive and outdated.
Syrian violence contributed to a sharp rise in the number of journalists killed for their work in 2012, as did a series of murders in Somalia. The dead include a record proportion of journalists who worked online. A CPJ special report
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.
Almost half of the 67 journalists killed worldwide in 2012 were targeted and murdered for their work, research by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows. The vast majority covered politics. Many also reported on war, human rights, and crime. In almost half of these cases, political groups are the suspected source of fire. There has been no justice in a single one of these deaths.
For most of its almost-150-year history, the meetings of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations' communications standards body, have been rather predictable affairs.
Back in November 2010, Britain's Channel 4 broadcast a leaked video that appears to show men in Sri Lankan military uniforms executing bound prisoners, the camera panning across a series of bodies laid out in a ditch. Family and friends identified one of those bodies as that of Tamil Tiger TV newscaster Shoba, also known as Isaipriya. If authenticated, the video could constitute evidence that Isaipriya was murdered. It would be one step toward accountability in a long string of unsolved murders of journalists in Sri Lanka. It would also be evidence of war crimes that are said to have been committed during the final phases of the 27-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE. But disputes have ensued between the United Nations, which claims the video is authentic, and the Sri Lankan government, which claims that it is fake.
Worldwide tally reaches highest point since CPJ began surveys in 1990. Governments use charges of terrorism, other anti-state offenses to silence critical voices. Turkey is the world’s worst jailer. A CPJ special report
The imprisonment of journalists hit a record high in 2012, driven by the growing use of anti-terrorism charges to silence critical voices. This video, a centerpiece of CPJ's new Free the Press campaign, details the plight of imprisoned journalists worldwide and describes how international advocacy can make a difference in winning the freedom of jailed reporters, editors, photojournalists, and bloggers. (4:40)
In 1950, the United Nations General Assembly declared December 10 Human Rights Day in commemoration of the adoption and proclamation two years earlier of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every year, on this day, the U.N. chooses one right to highlight and advocate. This year, Human Rights Day is focused on the right of all people to make their voices heard. This is not possible when journalists worldwide are being murdered.
A media buyout in Taiwan which would put independent news outlets critical of China into the hands of a pro-Beijing media tycoon is cause for concern for the island's press. Jimmy Lai, the outspoken mogul behind Hong Kong-based Next Media and the Apple Daily tabloid, is selling his Taiwan holdings to a group of businessmen that includes Tsai Eng-meng, whose China Times Media group is supportive of China, according to local and international news reports.
"I remain hopeful that I will one day see the sun once more--not through the barred window of my prison cell but as a free man." -Azimjon Askarov
Today, on International Human Rights Day, CPJ and close to 20,000 supporters are calling on the governments of China and Kyrgyzstan to release two journalists imprisoned for reporting on minorities' grievances and human rights violations.
There is an absolutely terrific seven-part special report by The News on Sunday on Pakistan's problem with the killing of journalists and the impunity surrounding their deaths. It's written by and for Pakistanis, with compelling direction from Adnan Rehmat of Intermedia Pakistan--and not only describes and analyzes the problem, but offers approaches to potential solutions.
The tortured and decapitated body of 39-year-old María Elizabeth Macías Castro was found on a Saturday evening in September 2011. It had been dumped by the side of a road in Nuevo Laredo, a Mexican border town ravaged by the war on drugs. Macías, a freelance journalist, wrote about organized crime on social media under the pseudonym "The Girl from Laredo." Her murder, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, was the first in which a journalist was killed in direct relation for reporting published on social media. It remains unsolved.
Not unusually, an already confusing situation in Tibet just got worse. Twenty-seven Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against Chinese this month alone, according to Human Rights Watch. That's almost one a day. Against this chaotic backdrop, Chinese authorities have issued an arrest order for a missing monk who helped film a 2008 documentary about life in Tibet, according to his film company, Filming for Tibet.
CPJ supporters will know that we just honored self-taught Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen with an International Press Freedom Award, recognizing his courage documenting life under Chinese rule with full knowledge that he would face severe repercussions (he is serving a six-year jail term--you can join our petition for his release here). So we've been following with concern the latest reports that his assistant on that project, the monk Jigme Gyatso, has been missing, reportedly detained, since September.
Three years ago, on November 23, 2009, 30 journalists and two media workers were brutally killed in the southern Philippine city of Maguindanao while travelling in a convoy with the family and supporters of a local politician. To this day, not a single suspect has been convicted, though local authorities have identified close to 200. The botched trial has been stalled with procedural hurdles. Victims' families have been threatened and key witnesses have been slain.
The battle for a free press sometimes feels like a war between indignation and intimidation. Journalists learn of abuses of power, crime, or corruption, and--indignant--they speak out. In response, the perpetrators of those abuses--be they government officials or criminals--try to intimidate the journalists into silence with threats, lawsuits, jail, or even murder. Last night, the Committee to Protect Journalists paid tribute to a handful of journalists for whom indignation is a driving force, no matter the scale of intimidation.
New York, November 21, 2012--Several Pakistani journalists were injured in a bomb blast today at a Shia site in Karachi that came just 30 minutes after an earlier explosion, according to news reports.
The arrest of two women in India this week because of posting and "liking" an opinion on Facebook has further inflamed debate over the right to freedom of expression in the world's largest democracy.
New York, November 19, 2012--Pakistani authorities must immediately investigate the murder of a journalist who was shot to death in Baluchistan on Sunday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Rehmatullah Abid was the second Dunya News TV journalist to be killed this year.
Haider Ali, an eyewitness to the 2011 murder of Geo TV reporter Wali Khan Babar, was gunned down on Sunday, two days before he was set to testify in the trial of five suspects. The murder sent shockwaves across Pakistan--one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists and one of the worst in bringing the killers to justice. According to the prosecutor in the case, Ali had identified several suspects as being involved in Babar's murder in a recent statement before a judicial magistrate. His killing was the latest in a series of murders that have targeted people linked to the Babar investigation. Five others--including eyewitnesses, police officers, an informant, and a family member of an investigator--have also been murdered.
Like many China watchers, we at CPJ have been struggling to interpret obscure floor markings and tie colors on display in Beijing as new Communist Party leaders were appointed in a rare leadership hand-off today. The names of the top seven are no longer in doubt. But the real question everyone's asking is: What does it mean (for press freedom)?
Reports of a massive surveillance operation in Tibet and harassment of journalists covering Tibetan issues cast a shadow over eagerly anticipated leadership appointments expected tomorrow in Beijing.
Dear President Obama: We are pleased that you will begin your second term as U.S. president with a trip to Southeast Asia. As you visit Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand from November 17 through 20 while attending the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and related meetings in Phnom Penh, we hope that your commitment to human rights and the fundamental right to free expression remains an important aspect of your agenda.
When a nation's most outspoken journalists are 11-year-olds, is it a good sign for the future? On the one hand, they might grow up to ask probing questions. On the other hand, they might end up following the path taken by their older peers and stick to scripted exchanges.
Here are the facts:
New York, November 9, 2012--An Indian television journalist who documented a large-scale attack on young women and reported the episode to police in Karnataka state has been charged with participating in the assault, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists considers the arrest to be retaliatory and calls on authorities to drop the criminal charges and release the reporter immediately.
New York, November 5, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists has created a petition that calls on Chinese President Hu Jintao to immediately release unjustly imprisoned Tibetan journalist Dhondup Wangchen.
Approximately 30 journalists are targeted and murdered every year, and on average, in only three of these crimes are the killers ever brought to justice. Other attacks on freedom of expression occur daily: bloggers are threatened, photographers beaten, writers kidnapped. And in those instances, justice is even more rare. Today, the Committee to Protect Journalists joins freedom of expression advocates worldwide in a 23-day campaign to dismantle one case at a time a culture of impunity that allows perpetrators to gag journalists, bloggers, photographers and writers, while keeping the rest of us uninformed.
If you've been watching the attempts to silence media in Sri Lanka through attacks, disappearances, legal harassment, and government policies aimed at restricting free speech and the right to information, take the time to speak out with others around the world today. An opportunity like this only comes around every four years.
New York, October 29, 2012--Officials from China's Communist Party should stop censoring and obstructing foreign journalists in the lead-up to the Party Congress scheduled for November 8, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Information security is notoriously tight before the five-yearly congress, which is expected to usher in high-level leadership change in 2012.
It is one step forward and two steps back in Pakistan's restive Baluchistan province. The nation's highest court has acknowledged the dangerous climate journalists face in Baluchistan, but it has also affirmed a directive that only adds to the pressure cooker conditions that journalists work under.
More than 40 media organizations worldwide are demanding urgent action by governments, the United Nations, and the industry to stop violence against journalists and end impunity in attacks on the press. They made their position known in a joint statement delivered today to the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
After intense public pressure, the Maharashtra state government last week dropped the charge of sedition against Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi. However, Trivedi still faces other charges as his case resumes tomorrow at the Bombay High court.
The 25-year old cartoonist, who was arrested on September 8, could have been sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted of sedition. He still faces up to three years in prison for other charges including violation of the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act and Information Technology Act, his lawyer Vijay Hiremath told CPJ by e-mail.
Journalists, like many others in Pakistan, have spoken out strongly since the Taliban attempted to kill the teenage Malala Yousafzai on October 9. The Taliban, in return, are threatening the media over their coverage, according to journalists and news reports.
On Tuesday, the Philippines Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order stopping the government from enforcing the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 which President Benigno Aquino III signed into law last month. The court, in full session, ordered that oral arguments for and against will start January 15. And it gave the government 10 days to respond to the many petitioners seeking to declare the law unconstitutional.
Covering political rallies in Pakistan must be considered a dangerous assignment. One journalist was killed and three others injured on Sunday when gunmen opened fire on a Pakistan People's Party (PPP) rally in Khairpur in Sindh province. All told, at least six died and 10 were wounded critically.
In a notoriously litigious country like the Philippines, it's bewildering that the government coupled a law targeting so-called cybercrimes like cybersex, child pornography, identity theft, and spamming with the hoary and over-used concept of libel. And no matter how abusive those crimes may be, it's an even bigger mystery why the government felt it should suspend its lengthy heritage of due legal process by giving the Department of Justice power to shut down websites and monitor all online activities without a warrant.
The government of Indian Kashmir has a long record of failing to respond to physical attacks on the press. This week, the possibility that websites like YouTube and Facebook were blocked indicated that online freedoms, too, are under threat.
New York, October 1, 2012--Cambodian authorities took a significant step backward on press freedom with today's harsh verdict against independent journalist Mam Sonando in connection with his coverage of land seizures, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
New York, October 1, 2012--Unidentified assailants shot to death a prominent journalist on Saturday in the city of Khuzdar in Baluchistan province, according to news reports. Abdul Haq Baloch was the secretary-general of the Khuzdar Press Club and a longtime correspondent of ARY Television, news reports said.
On September 11, a Cambodian journalist named Hang Serei Odom was found dead in an abandoned vehicle. Missing since September 9, the reporter with the local Vorakchun Khmer Daily newspaper had suffered several axe blows to the head.
New York, September 28, 2012--Indian authorities must determine the motive in a bomb attack that killed a freelance journalist in her home on Wednesday and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
This week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh marked his 80th birthday. He spent the day, Wednesday, in the company of family and at public events, according to news reports. "There are no celebrations. He prefers to be with his family in the morning--then work as usual," Singh's spokesman told the media.
Bangkok, September 24, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the harsh prison sentences handed down today to three prominent Vietnamese online journalists convicted of anti-state charges. In a widening crackdown on press and Internet freedoms, Vietnamese courts have sentenced six journalists and bloggers to prison in the last five weeks.
Although it is the world's largest democracy, India has retained its colonial-era sedition law. But with a national debate ensuing after the arrest of 25-year-old political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on the antiquated sedition charge and others, members of the Indian government have been forced to do some soul-searching.
On September 12, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued an administrative order--number 7169--accusing us, Danlambao, of "publishing information that is false, fabricated, and untruthful to slander the leadership of the nation, to agitate the people against the Party and the State, to cause doubts and create bad publicity reducing the people's trust in the state leadership." The order directed the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Information Communication and Media to investigate and discipline any groups or individuals who affiliate with Danlambao.
Vietnamese officials are stepping up repression of old and new media even as they promote an image of an open, globalized economy. Intense surveillance and imprisonment of critical journalists, coupled with increasingly restrictive laws, are choking the flow of information. A CPJ special report by Shawn W. Crispin
New York, September 18, 2012--Chinese authorities should release a well-known academic and Internet writer detained last week in connection with his published articles, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Jiao Guobiao has been targeted in the past for his articles criticizing the Chinese government.
New York, September 17, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Wednesday's attack on two media workers outside the offices of local daily The Arunachal Times in India and calls on police in Arunachal Pradesh state to increase security for the paper, which has been attacked three other times since March.
It doesn't take a baseball bat to silence a reporter in Japan--increasingly the blunt weapon being wielded by corporations, power brokers, and politicians is the court gavel.
In May of this year, a writer for the weekly magazine Shukan Kinyobi was sued by one of Japan's most powerful nuclear industry figures, for a total of 67,000,000 yen (US$858,000). The thrust of the lawsuit is that the term used to describe the plaintiff is libelous.
It was only a matter of time before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's physical absence from the public view was accompanied by his disappearance from cyberspace. The characters "Jinping" from his name were censored today from searches of Sina's microblog service Weibo, according to the Fei Chang Dao blog. Where else but China does a deficiency of information about a nonappearance become a story worth deleting?
So is there a story or isn't there? International news reports say that Xi, President Hu Jintao's expected successor, has not been seen in public since Sept. 1, and missed a Sept. 5 meeting scheduled with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That was either a snub, a swimming injury, a stroke, or an assassination attempt, depending on who you talk to. Xi has missed other appointments too, though the full extent of his truancy remains unclear.
Bangkok, September 12, 2012--Cambodian authorities must immediately investigate the murder of a journalist who was found with ax wounds in the trunk of his car on Tuesday, less than a week after he had exposed an alleged military connection to the illicit timber trade, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
CPJ has been monitoring the investigation into the shooting attack on Arunachal Times journalist Tongam Rina outside her office in Itanagar, capital of Arunachal Pradesh state, which left her hospitalized in critical condition this July. Her recovery is progressing, slowly but surely. The police inquiry, however, is not.
Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is in China this week to meet with top leaders, according to international news reports. CPJ's Advocacy and Communications Associate Magnus Ag and Senior Asia Program Researcher Madeline Earp co-wrote an op-ed calling on Thorning--as she is called in the Danish press--to raise the issue of press freedom. An edited version ran in the Danish newspaper Politiken today.
Speaking truthfully to China on its repression of human rights can be a tricky endeavor in diplomatic affairs, but Helle Thorning-Schmidt has a prime opportunity to raise press freedom on her trip to China. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not give the issue public priority during their visits earlier this month, but as Thorning meets with top Communist Party leaders and addresses a World Economic Forum meeting in Tianjin, the opportunity must not be wasted.
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.
New York, September 10, 2012--Indian authorities should immediately drop all of the charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and release him from detention, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Police in Maharashtra state arrested Trivedi, a 25-year-old freelancer from India's central Uttar Pradesh state, on Saturday, according to news reports. The cartoonist faces charges of sedition, violating Internet security laws, and insulting national honor for publishing cartoons mocking national symbols and criticizing corruption on his website, Cartoons Against Corruption, news reports said.
New York, September 7, 2012--A Vietnamese journalist who bribed a police officer during an undercover investigation to expose corruption was sentenced today to four years in prison, according to local and international news reports.
New York, September 4, 2012--U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should press Chinese officials in meetings this week to allow international journalists based in China greater access to news events and fewer restrictions of their coverage, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
When I first met Sandhya Eknelygoda in May 2010 in her home outside Colombo, she was a distressed mother of two young boys whose husband had gone missing. He was last seen four months earlier, just prior to the elections that returned President Mahinda Rajapaksa to power after the end of the decades-long war with Tamil secessionists. She still has no inkling of the whereabouts of her husband Prageeth, a cartoonist and columnist for the opposition website Lanka eNews (which has since ceased to operate in Sri Lanka because of arson attacks and legal harassment of its staff, but is maintained overseas).
Chinese dissident Wang Xiaoning was released today after serving a 10-year prison term on charges of "incitement to subvert state power," a case built in good part on client information supplied by Yahoo. Wang had used his Yahoo email account and the discussion forum Yahoo Groups to spread ideas the government deemed dangerous. His case closely parallels that of journalist Shi Tao, another Yahoo user who fell afoul of the Chinese government. In 2005, Shi was convicted of "illegally leaking state secrets abroad" and given a 10-year sentence. Yahoo had helped authorities identify Shi through his account information.
We talk a lot about hacking attacks against individual journalists here, but what typifies an attempt to access a reporter's computer? Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director, received an email last week that reflects some characteristics of a malware attack against a journalist or activist. There was nothing particularly notable about the targeting. (Like many reporters, CPJ receives such attempts occasionally). The attack failed at the first fence, and my casual investigation into the source was inconclusive. There are no shocking answers or big headlines to draw from this attack. But it does illustrate a contemporary reality: Opportunistic assailants regularly shower journalists with software attacks.
Early this month, newspaper offices in Indian-controlled Kashmir received a note warning journalists to be more supportive of the Kashmir independence movement, according to the leading national daily, The Times of India, citing a news agency in the state's summer capital, Srinagar. No militants took responsibility this time, but in mid-March insurgent groups issued a joint message that urged journalists to "highlight the pain and suffering of Kashmiris because of oppressive state policies."
Here's a quick pointer to a piece in the Daily Beast by freelance reporter Olesia Plokhii, who worked at The Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh until May this year. Plokhii's moving story, "Death of a Forester," describes the death of Chut Wutty, a Cambodian activist who was shot a few feet away from Plokhii and another journalist, Phorn Bopha, while he accompanied them to an illegal logging site in a protected forest in Koh Kong province.
Indian Internet advocates and journalists are in an uproar this week over the news that the government has blocked access to around 300 websites, pages, and social media accounts in an effort to quell communal violence in the turbulent northeast. The rationale is that inflammatory online content has fanned tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in states including Assam, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra, contributing to a mass exodus from the region and violence in other cities. The offending content included fabricated images of violence against Muslims, apparently circulated to incite retaliatory attacks, according to news reports.
Ansar Abbasi, editor of investigations for Pakistan's leading media group Jang, is apparently facing a de facto ban from his own employers. Other TV channels also report being told not to air his views. Abbasi has charged cable operators with spreading immoral, anti-Islamic messages through Indian movies and other popular culture broadcasts. In response, he says, they are censoring his views.
My colleagues and I were saddened to learn of the death of Mika Yamamoto, a Japan Press video and photo journalist who was killed while covering clashes in Aleppo, Syria, on Monday. The moment was all the more poignant because of the similarities with two other Japanese journalist fatalities: Kenji Nagai of APF News in Burma in 2007 and Hiro Muramoto of Reuters in Thailand in 2010. As with Yamamoto, Nagai and Muramoto were photojournalists covering conflict between anti-government elements and government troops in foreign countries.
It's a big news day in China, and state-controlled media are purposely dropping the ball to escape controversy and censorship.
Bangkok, August 20, 2012--Burma should dismantle its censorship agency and repeal all laws that continue to allow suppression of news in the name of national security, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The government announced today that it would abolish pre-publication censorship, a step CPJ welcomes but considers a partial measure in addressing the country's restrictive practices.
It's not often we at CPJ find ourselves calling on other countries to release Chinese journalists from detention. But that's just what happened yesterday. Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV contacted us to say that two of their journalists were among a group of 14 arrested by Japanese authorities over a disputed territory in the East China Sea. For once, we found ourselves in accordance with Chinese authorities, who called for the "unconditional and immediate release" of all 14, according to Reuters.
Bangkok, August 17, 2012--Harsh prison sentences handed down recently to two independent Vietnamese bloggers represent the latest official abuses in a widening crackdown on Internet freedoms in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
New York, August 14, 2012--At least three Indian journalists were attacked over the weekend during protests by Muslim groups calling for news coverage of the deaths of Muslims in the ongoing ethnic tension in the state of Assam, according to news reports.
New York, August 14, 2012--Indian authorities should immediately investigate a grenade attack that targeted a prominent local journalist on Saturday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. No one was injured in the attack, which came in the wake of death threats made by local insurgents against editors, according to news reports.
We cover all kinds of censorship here at CPJ. Recently we documented the cunning application of scissors to prevent readers from accessing China-related articles in hard copy magazines. But it's been a while since we've had chance to write about one favored implement of information control in China: the umbrella.
"Elections will not be fought, but will be bought," is a saying being used by political tacticians in Pakistan. Hope for the legitimacy of the country's first fair transfer of power between two civilian governments with the oversight of unbiased media is disappearing quickly. Billions of rupees are pouring into media outlets through secret sources, journalists and media watch organizations say. The cash is being paid out in several different ways.
New York, August 7, 2012--Authorities in the Maldives must immediately investigate today's attack on the opposition Raajje TV, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The attack came just days after police accused the station of making false allegations against security forces, according to news reports.
You would think that with fighting between government forces and secessionist Tamils finished in May 2009, the Sri Lankan government might ease its grip on public information--information which is really the property of the country's citizens, not whichever administration happens to be holding political power. In 2004, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike's cabinet did approve a Freedom of Information Bill, but parliament was dissolved and the bill never went further.
Bangkok, August 1, 2012--Two weekly news publications were suspended indefinitely in Burma on Tuesday, marking a significant reversal of the government's earlier loosening of media restrictions and pre-publication censorship, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
New York, July 30, 2012--The mother of an imprisoned Vietnamese blogger died after setting herself on fire to protest her daughter's detention on anti-state charges, her family has told international news outlets
One year ago, on July 28, 2011, Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak, 25, was killed by American troops during a brutal close-quarters battle with a Taliban suicide squad backed by gunmen. Khpalwak was one of 22 people killed in the hours-long siege on government buildings that included the governor's office and police headquarters in Tarin Kot, capital of Uruzgan province. A reporter for the BBC, Pajhwok Afghan News, and several other organizations, Khpalwak died with 11 bullet wounds in his body. He was shot in a government-run newsroom while waving his press card and declaring in English that he was a journalist. It's fair to ask, one year after Khpalwak died, if any lessons have been learned. The odds that a journalist could be killed by U.S. forces' fire seem, unfortunately, to be as high as ever.
Chinese propaganda officials must be thrilled that they're not responsible for the Olympics coverage in the British papers. Back during the Beijing Games, they worked hard to censor unrest and dissatisfaction in the domestic media. Reports of China's press freedom and human rights abuses were blocked, the kind of information control idiomatically referred to as "harmonizing."
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.
This week, Morgan Marquis-Boire and Bill Marczak of the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab provided a disturbing look into the likely use of a commercial surveillance program, FinFisher, to remotely invade and control the computers of Bahraini activists. After the software installs itself onto unsuspecting users' computer, it can record and relay emails, screenshots, and Skype audio conversations. It was deployed against Bahraini users after being concealed in seemingly innocent emails.
Chinese journalists are questioning government propaganda due to conflicting reports of the death toll following Saturday's devastating flooding in Beijing. Like the Wenzhou train crash and the Sichuan earthquake, the tragedy has galvanized mainstream and online journalists--and the official narrative is crumbling under their scrutiny.
Sanjana Hattotuwa, the founder of the citizen journalism website Groundviews, sent us the links to a new series of posters and videos focused on digital communications security. The material, which is aimed at a Sri Lankan audience, is available in English, Sinhala, and Tamil, but is relevant to anyone who uses the Internet or a mobile phone.
It started at 6:34 p.m. Monday. Abdulla Riyaz (@riyazabdulla), whose Twitter bio describes him as commissioner of the Maldives Police Service (MPS), published the following on his personal account: "MPS decides NOT to cooperate to Raajje TV [sic]. A statement will be released today."
New York, July 24, 2012--A year after drawing public ire for censoring coverage of a high-speed train crash, Chinese authorities should allow journalists to freely cover the aftermath of Saturday's deadly flooding in and around the capital, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. International news accounts said 37 people died in Beijing and up to 100 people nationwide.
This week, YouTube announced a feature that should catch the eye of video journalists and bloggers working in dangerous conditions. After uploading a video to YouTube, you can now deploy a "blur faces" post-production tool that, in theory, should disguise the visual identity of everyone on the screen. The Hindu newspaper has an excellent how-to guide for their readers.
For now, the Afghan government's apparent attempt at railroading through a less-than-media-friendly new Mass Media Law without consultation seems to have been sidelined, though not derailed. On Sunday in Kabul, representatives of the Ministry of Information and Culture received recommendations from civil society workers and journalists, including some from the provinces, which were drawn up at a June 27 meeting organized by Internews's Nai Media Institute in Afghanistan.
Bangkok, July 17, 2012--Cambodian authorities should immediately release Mam Sonando, one of the country's leading critical journalists, who has been held since Sunday on anti-state charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
New York, July 16, 2012--Authorities must immediately investigate Sunday's attack on Tongam Rina, a journalist for a local Indian daily, and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Rina was in critical condition today in a local hospital, according to news reports.
Violent clashes between police and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protesters continued in the streets of the capital, Malé, on Thursday night, according to international news reports. You can read CPJ's news alert on journalists swept up in the unrest--and background on the demonstrations--here, and some lively discussion on the situation here.
New York, July 12, 2012--Authorities in the Maldives must ensure journalists are able to cover ongoing political demonstrations in the country without fear of being attacked, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Bangkok, July 11, 2012--Malaysian authorities must immediately release independent blogger Syed Abdullah Syed Hussein al-Attas who has been in police custody since July 4, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
CPJ has been watching the Maldives with concern since its first democratically-elected President Mohamed Nasheed relinquished power in February following what he describes as a military coup. New President Mohamed Waheed Hassan says Nasheed's resignation was voluntary and refuted criticism that his rule marked a return to the ways of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a dictator notorious for jailing his critics, according to CPJ research. Yet press freedom is deteriorating under Hassan with the rise of partisan political strife and religious conservatism.
Bangkok, July 6, 2012--Vietnamese authorities must stop their harassment of independent blogger and rights activist Huynh Thuc Vy and allow her to report freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Huynh was briefly detained by police and threatened with anti-state charges on Wednesday, according to news reports.
One thing that had better be high on the agenda this weekend at the meeting of 70 or so international aid donors for Afghanistan in Tokyo is the recently released official draft version of the Mass Media Law (a copy of the draft can be found here). I mentioned the new draft in a June blog, "Afghan media is under political and economic pressure." The real thing is even worse than expected.
Shi Junrong, Xi'an Evening News bureau chief in the city of Wei'an, ran into trouble recently after he reported on the costly brand of luxury cigarettes favored by local officials. He announced on his microblog that the paper suspended him soon after, according to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia.
Well, that didn't take long. Just days after The New York Times' soft launch of its Chinese-language edition and accompanying microblog accounts, Berkeley-based China Digital Times website reports that the @nytchinese Sina Weibo feed is no longer accessible in China, along with two accounts hosted by Netease and Sohu. We couldn't pull them up this morning from New York, either.
New York, June 29, 2012--Chinese censors should unblock the website of the Bloomberg news agency, which became inaccessible today following a story on the vice president's family and its financial assets, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
With ratings driving the profits of media channels, journalists and political talk show hosts are being motivated to stir up controversy at any cost. Meanwhile, the professionals who believe in credibility, objectivity, and honesty as essential parts of ethical journalism are becoming sidelined.
New York, June 29, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in Sri Lanka to immediately stop harassing news outlets. Police in Colombo raided the offices of two opposition news websites today, arresting nine people and confiscating equipment, according to news reports.
A flurry of research on Weibo censorship underscores what we already know about the Chinese company Sina's microblog service--with a few surprises thrown in.
New York, June 25, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's attack on the offices of a Pakistani television outlet and calls on authorities to immediately investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Some journalists continue to receive the warning from Google about state-sponsored attacks that we mentioned last week. The message appears on top of logged-in services like Gmail. Occasionally it will disappear for a few hours and then reappear, but there is no way to remove it.
Last week, Tarun Sehrawat, a 22-year-old Indian photographer for Tehelka magazine, died from cerebral malaria and its complications, according to several of his colleagues and media accounts. He had returned, ill, from a shooting assignment with Tehelka's reporter Tusha Mittal in May. The team had been covering the ongoing Maoist revolt in Chhattisgarh in central India and reported it in "Inside Abujmarh The Mythic Citadel." Both Sehrawat and Mittal became very ill, but Sehrawat succumbed. Mittal, we understand, is still recovering.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is watching with concern the progress of H.R. 2899, the Chinese Media Reciprocity Act of 2011, which is under discussion Wednesday in front of the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. The bill seeks to reduce the number of visas available to journalists (and their families) working in the United States for 13 Chinese state-controlled publications. The aim is to pressure Beijing into allowing more Voice of America reporters into China; VOA staffers tell us that they are allowed only two China visas to cover a country of more than 1.3 billion people.
Chinese activists Lü Jiaping, his wife Yu Junyi, and an associate, Jin Andi, were imprisoned in 2010 without their families being informed. The full details of their 2011 trial and sentences were not made public until 2012, according to the English-language Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
CPJ is monitoring with concern the news coverage of Baker Abdulla Atyani, a Pakistan-based Jordanian Al-Arabiya TV journalist, and his two Philippine crew members, Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela, who have been unaccounted for since June 12.
Atyani, Letrero, and Vela left their hotel in Jolo, in the southern Philippines, to interview a commander for the militant Abu Sayyaf, a banned Islamic separatist group in the region, according to local and international news reports. The three refused offers of a security detail from local authorities, the reports said.
Fifty-seven journalists fled their country in the past year, with Somalia sending the greatest number into exile. Journalists also fled Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Rwanda--mostly for Kenya and Uganda. Exiles in East Africa must grapple with poverty and fear. A CPJ special report by María Salazar-Ferro and Tom Rhodes
"Bangladeshi democracy [may be] doomed to more of the same," International Crisis Group wrote in a recent commentary. They are describing a longstanding pattern of antagonism between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), which the Crisis Group describes as "a pernicious cycle of zero-sum politics." If the political situation descends into unrest, journalists covering it will suffer.
CPJ has received an encouraging letter from Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Brazil's permanent representative to the United Nations, affirming the country's support for the UNESCO-led U.N. Plan of Action for Security of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
Some weeks ago, the body of Esmail Amil Enog was found. The corpse had been chopped to pieces and then thrown together in a sack. Enog was a witness in a grisly massacre in November 2009, which took the lives of 57 people, 32 of them journalists, on a stretch of lonely highway in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao. It was the single largest attack on journalists in the world.
Danish Karokhel, who won a CPJ International Press Freedom Award in 2008, messaged this morning concerned that the news agency he runs, Pajhwok Afghan News, and some other media outlets have been referred to the Attorney General's Office by the Ministry of Information and Culture for reporting on an alleged bribery scandal involving a member of Parliament. The action was taken by the ministry's Media Monitoring Commission, and could lead to criminal charges.
China's state news agency Xinhua published the full text of the state council's National Human Rights Action Plan 2012-15 on Monday. There is no section dedicated to press freedom. But the most striking omissions can be found in the text itself.
The last few weeks have offered the strongest indications yet that nation-states are using customized software to exploit security flaws on personal computers and consumer Internet services to spy on their users. The countries suspected include the United States, Israel, and China. Journalists should pay attention--not only because this is a growing story, but because if anyone is a vulnerable target, it's reporters.
Dear Secretary Clinton: We are writing in advance of the third India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue coming up on June 13, which you will co-chair in Washington, D.C., with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. India is host to a vital and thriving news media, but CPJ has documented several violations against Indian journalists that are undermining the country's tradition of a free press.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in opening remarks at her press conference in Islamabad on Thursday, addressed a wide range of problems in Pakistan, including those faced by journalists. (The full statement is on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.) What was especially gratifying was her mention of meeting with human rights defender and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir at her home--a request we made on Tuesday of Pillay and E.U. Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who was also on an official trip to Pakistan.
In China, people know enough not to take to the streets to commemorate the brutal crackdown on demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Beijing is very quiet in the days before and after June 4. The Internet is a different story.
The New Delhi-based Tehelka magazine published an open letter by imprisoned freelance journalist Lingaram Kodopi on Monday. Kodopi, one of the two journalists CPJ documented in prison in India on December 1, 2011, has been held without charge since September 2011 as a suspected associate of insurgent Maoists in Chhattisgarh. His supporters believe he faces harassment for documenting police violence in the region.
There is no better time than now for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton to step out of their tightly planned schedule of meetings in Pakistan and make a trip to the home of human rights activist Asma Jahangir.
How far has democracy advanced in Cambodia?
Not very far.
Activists from three different political parties died during the 15-day campaign period leading up to the elections, in which the ruling Cambodian People's Party won a large majority of seats, according to a report issued by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel). The Phnom Penh Post ran articles on "allegations of intimidation, ghost voting, and electoral-roll sabotage" in the election, and the U.S. government-funded Voice of America (VOA) published a story headlined "Observers: Cambodian Vote Improved but Problems Remain."
For a good historical perspective on the abuse of journalists in Sri Lanka, Iqbal Athas, the recipient of a 1994 International Press Freedom Award from CPJ, wrote a center-page spread for the 25th anniversary edition of the Sunday Times, a popular weekly in Colombo. Athas, a critical journalist who specializes in defense issues, works as an associate editor and defense correspondent for the Times.
The lede to his article recounts a 1998 incident in which armed men invaded his home while he, his wife, and their seven-year-old daughter watched television. After the men left, the story spread, and all night, they received phone calls from friends and acquaintances inquiring about their safety. In his article, Athas describes how one of the callers was then-Minister of Fisheries Mahinda Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa was trying to make a name for himself as a champion of human rights and offered his support to the Athas family.
The climate of impunity that fostered the November 23, 2009, massacre of 57 people, including 32 journalists, is alive and well not only on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, where the massacre took place, but in all of the country. The revelation that the brutalized body of a key witness to the killings, Esmail Enog, was found two months after he had gone missing is an indicator of that. Enog testified last year that he had driven gunmen to the site of the November massacre, news reports said. The killings wiped out almost an entire generation of journalists in the region.
Former Attorney General Mohan Peiris has been ordered to testify about a statement he made at the U.N. Committee Against Torture in Geneva on November 9, 2011, in which he said that Prageeth Eknelygoda was alive and living outside the country (see "Sri Lanka's savage smokescreen"). Peiris will have to appear at the Homogama Magistrate's Court in Colombo on June 5, next Tuesday, which has been hearing the case brought by Eknelygoda's wife, Sandhya, to learn more about his disappearance on January 24, 2010.
At online discussion sites all over the world, comments are posted on the Web as soon as they are written. People argue, inform, express anger, and voice fears. Some say things in the heat of the moment that they might go on to regret. Others are elliptical and obscure. The enabling of such conversations is an important modern method of discovering and re-telling the news, and encourages previously uninvolved readers of the news to help gather and disseminate it--especially in times when traditional media is censored or afraid.
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.
The annual crackdown on commemorations of the June 4 anniversary of the brutal suppression of student-led demonstrations based in Tiananmen Square in 1989 Beijing is under way, according to Agence France-Presse. What's concerning is the number of writers and activists for whom "crackdown" is the new normal.
As Nepal's constituent assembly failed to meet Sunday's deadline for the passage of a new constitution, a new report released this week on the risks to Nepal's media should remind political parties that peace and stability are not prerequisites to media freedom but rather that a strong, independent press operating without fear is a requirement for a healthy civil society.
The murder of a part-time journalist and a gunfire attack on the house of the president of the Turbat Press Club, both on May 28, underscore the nature of the escalating violence in Baluchistan. According to the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, which monitors violence across South Asia, at least 10 people were killed in Baluchistan on May 28 alone.
Bangkok, May 30, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's conviction of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster and director of the Prachatai news and commentary website, for violating Thailand's 2007 Computer Crimes Act.
San Francisco, May 30, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's conviction of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of the Prachatai discussion board, under Thailand's Computer Crimes Act. The court's decision, which affirms that website operators can be criminally liable for the content of user comments, chills online press freedom in the country, and leaves Thai news sites vulnerable to unjustified and politically motivated prosecutions.
Sina's Twitter-like microblog service Weibo has released new guidelines to restrict users who share banned content, according to international news reports. It's the first time such guidelines target users who adopt puns, homonyms, and other veiled references to discuss censored news stories without using keywords on the propaganda department's blacklist, the reports said.
On May 21 this year, a military court convicted three Pakistani naval officers of negligence and dereliction of duty for their actions during an attack on the main naval airbase in the heart of Karachi on May 22, 2011. After the incident had ended, the military said 10 security guards were killed, two aircraft were blown up, and the four men who carried out the attack were shot or blew themselves up after they had held out for 16 hours on the Mehran Naval Base.
Perhaps the best insider details about the raid came from Saleem Shahzad, a political reporter for Asia Online, in his article, "Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistani strike," that ran two days before his abduction on May 29, 2011. He had written in the past about militant groups and the military, with a book, Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, released just weeks before his murder. In his last article, he wrote about the Mehran events, reporting that armed forces personnel sympathetic to Al-Qaeda had helped coordinate the attack. On May 31 last year, his body was found floating face-down in an irrigation ditch.
New York, May 29, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Monday night's attack on the offices of an Internet news outlet in Dhaka in which at least nine journalists were wounded.
New York, May 25, 2012--Local authorities in India must drop the criminal charges filed against video journalist Mukesh Rajak, an apparent attempt to prevent him from reporting on local government expenditures, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
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.
Jeffrey Gettleman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent, says he travels with "a small militia" whenever he reports from Somalia, the East African country afflicted by armed insurgency, poverty, and hunger. As intrusive as the security detail might be, he feels far more fortunate than the local reporters who face sustained and often deadly risks, or the freelance journalists who don't have the extensive support system the Times can provide.
Gettleman spoke to a crowd of about 100 at the Half King pub in Manhattan on Tuesday in the first event in the new CPJ discussion series, "CPJ Debrief." Gettleman, the East Africa bureau chief for the Times, has worked in the region for six years. With East Africa's needs so acute, and the volume of international reporting on the decline, the assignment has given him a chance to have a profound impact.
May has been a terrible month for journalists in Pakistan, a country that has ranked as the world's deadliest place for the press for two consecutive years. Two journalists have been killed, two more shot and wounded, and one attacked while in police custody, all in less than a month, according to news reports.
New York, May 23, 2012--Authorities in Nepal must protect journalists seeking to report on developments in the volatile run-up to Sunday's deadline for a new constitution, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Dozens of journalists were reportedly attacked by ethnic activists during a three-day general strike that began Sunday, according to news reports.
With general elections approaching, the landscape is again bearing eerie resemblance to the final days of General Pervez Musharraf's reign. In November 2007 he banned selected TV channels for 88 days to stifle what he saw as "irresponsible journalism." Now, Pakistani electronic media might be chained again, this time for violating cultural and ethical values by airing satirical programming and interviewing political leaders the government does not like seeing on air.
Because foreign journalists have been virtually banned from Syria during the uprising against Bashar al-Assad's regime, news coverage has relied heavily on citizen journalists and international reporters working with sources inside the country. Syrians who communicate with foreign news media run the risk of being threatened, detained, tortured, or even killed.
On Thursday, the United States rolled back prohibitions against American companies doing business in Burma. The announcement marked the latest diplomatic reward given to President Thein Sein's quasi-civilian government for initiating reforms in what has historically been a military-run country. In making the announcement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the democratic changes initiated so far were "irreversible," but that is a characterization few of the country's journalists would share.
On Wednesday, Sri Lanka's Supreme Court slammed the door on a case about the shutdown of four websites that had failed to register with the government. In handing down its decision, the Court appeared to rule that freedom of expression in Sri Lanka is not an absolute right and can be restricted--and you don't need to pass a law to do so. The three-judge panel told the petitioners who brought the case--Sunil Jayasekara, convener of the Free Media Movement, and Udaya Kalupathirana, a member of the movement's executive committee--that they saw no reason for the court to hear any further arguments.
Pity those of us who monitor the ups and downs of China's popular microblog platform, Sina Weibo. For every story its users spread in defiance of local censorship, there follows a clampdown. Whether it's the latest strike against rumors, or real name registration, or newly banned keywords, there's always another restriction in the works as the service struggles to keep a lid on sensitive conversations without driving away its user base. "China tightens grip on social media," we might report, as the Financial Times did in April. And last October. (The U.K.-based newspaper also noted China's grip tightening on lawyers in March.) It's not that these headlines are misleading. They simply show how difficult it is to illustrate the grip that always tightens, but never quite suffocates.
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.
Recent physical assault on two state media reporters in Vietnam underscores the risks of reporting on increasingly sensitive land issues in the communist-ruled country. The attack on the reporters signals a potential extension of the media crackdown that until now has targeted mainly unsanctioned journalists and bloggers.
"The Beijing branch of Al-Jazeera is still functioning normally."
This was not an auspicious reaction to the news that Al-Jazeera English has closed its Beijing bureau after being refused journalist visas. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Hong Lei's responses at today's press conference did not improve from there, according to a partial transcript published by Voice of America. His explanations for the ministry's refusal to renew credentials for the channel's Beijing correspondent Melissa Chan were a mixture of denial and obfuscation. (Al-Jazeera's Arabic-language bureau continues to operate with several accredited journalists, according to The Associated Press.)
Amid political tumult in Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and a team of six ministers are in London for far-ranging meetings today through May 13. The Pakistan-U.K. Enhanced Strategic Dialogue will review education, health, defense, security, and cultural cooperation. CPJ has written a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron to urge that press freedom conditions be raised as well.
New York, May 8, 2012--Authorities in the Philippines must investigate the murders of two journalists in the past two weeks, determine the motive, and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Dear Prime Minister Cameron: As you begin your meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to review the Pakistan-U.K. Enhanced Strategic Dialogue, we would like to draw your attention to concerns regarding the protection of journalists in Pakistan. CPJ data show that the country has been ranked the deadliest in the world for journalists for two consecutive years. This year, Pakistan also placed 10th on CPJ's Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are regularly murdered and their killers go free.
New York, May 7, 2012--China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs should immediately grant accreditation to Al-Jazeera English reporters to work in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The channel said China has refused its long-time correspondent Melissa Chan and other colleagues journalist visas, forcing it to close its Beijing bureau.
Will China's quickly expanding media presence in Africa result in a fresh, alternative, and balanced perspective on the continent--much as Al-Jazeera altered the broadcast landscape with the launch of its English service in 2006--or will it be essentially an exercise in propaganda?
New York, May 3, 2012--Chinese security officials' ongoing obstruction of foreign and domestic journalists covering dissident Chen Guangcheng is a worrying sign for supporters trying to secure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Authorities in Chen's native Shandong province have kept the blind, self-taught lawyer isolated from the media since September 2010.
Governments and criminal organizations are stepping up digital surveillance of journalists, but the press is not keeping pace in meeting the challenge, a panel of experts said Wednesday at an event marking the launch of the CPJ Journalist Security Guide. Reporters are using unsecure consumer electronic products for sensitive tasks such as note-taking and source management, the experts said, without sufficiently assessing the risks.
One big reason for the Internet's success is its role as a universal standard, interoperable across the world. The data packets that leave your computer in Botswana are the same as those which arrive in Barbados. The same is increasingly true of modern mobile networks. Standards are converging: You can use your phone, access an app, or send a text, wherever you are.
The battle over blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng's freedom and well-being is a battle over information. Both Chinese and U.S. officials are trying to spin the story their way. A few activists and media claim to speak for Chen, and in China's anti-press environment they are putting themselves at risk. Direct interviews with the man himself are hard to come by.
CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney counts down the 10 countries where the press is most tightly restricted. How do leaders in these nations silence the media? And which country is the worst of all? (4:03)
Read CPJ's report on the 10 Most Censored countries for more detail on how censorship works, and which countries were the runners-up.
As the Internet and mobile communications become more integrated into reporters' work, the digital threats to journalists' work and safety have increased as well. While many press reports have documented Internet surveillance and censorship--and the efforts to combat them--mobile communications are the new frontline for journalist security.
"High Tech, Low Life," a new documentary about Chinese bloggers directed by Stephen Maing, debuted at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 19. It documents the lives of Zola (Zhou Shuguang) and Tiger Temple (Zhang Shihe), as they blur the lines of citizen journalism and activism though their reporting on evictions, pollution, and official cover-ups in China. Zola was in town for the premiere, and he and the director fielded questions from the audience after the film's showing.
Stop the bleeding. It's a critical and fundamental step in aiding a journalist or anyone wounded in conflict. Hemorrhage is the number one preventable death on the battlefield. And yet large numbers of journalists covering wars and political unrest all across the world are untrained in this life-saving skill. It doesn't need to be that way.
News of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng has been censored for months. International news reports of his escape last week from incarceration in his home in Linyi, Shandong--apparently to U.S. protection, although his whereabouts remain unclear--has only intensified that censorship. That is unlikely to stop discussion among those familiar with Chen's case.
Bangkok, April 30, 2012--Security forces attacked several journalists Saturday while cracking down on a rally in Kuala Lumpur, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists rejects the government's claims that police acted with restraint and calls for an independent investigation into the attacks.
Earlier today, press and human rights groups from around the world heard that the decision in the case of Chiranuch "Jiew" Premchaiporn, the manager of Thai online news site Prachatai, was being delayed yet another month. Chiranuch is charged under Thailand's Computer Crime Act for 10 counts of not deleting apparently anti-monarchy comments on Prachatai's online discussion boards.
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.
New York, April 26, 2012--Cambodian authorities should thoroughly investigate a violent confrontation that led to the deaths of a police officer and an activist who was taking two journalists to a logging site said to be illegal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
New York, April 26, 2012--A court in Hunan province has sentenced local resident Hu Lianyou to two years in prison for defaming a police chief in online writings, according to local news reports.
New York, April 25, 2012--The U.S.-based, Chinese-language news website Boxun has come under two crippling denial-of-service attacks in the past week as the outlet sought to report on the unfolding murder and corruption scandal involving former senior Communist Party leader Bo Xilai. The attacks forced Boxun to change its hosting company twice, the site's founder and editor Watson Meng told the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Meng, who spoke to CPJ from his home in North Carolina, said he had not been able to trace the source of the denial-of-service attacks but believed they were in reprisal for Boxun's reporting on Bo Xilai and his ally Zhou Yongkang, the Communist Party's security chief, whose political fate has also been the subject of speculation this month. The first attack, on Friday, was so severe that it not only threatened Boxun but its entire hosting service, name.com. Denial-of-service attacks overload host servers with external communications requests, thus preventing websites from functioning.
Wednesday, the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) released its report, "Death of an Uruzgan Journalist: Command Errors and Collateral Damage," by Kate Clark on the July 2011 shooting death of journalist Omaid Khpalwak. Clark's details on how Khpalwak died corroborate and then go beyond the investigation already conducted by the U.S.-led NATO forces who were responsible. Her report was important to write, and is important to read.
"Of course you have to go to Afghanistan or to Syria," said French TV reporter Hervé Ghesquière, who was held hostage for 547 days in Afghanistan together with his cameraman, Stéphane Taponier, between December 2010 and June 2011.
The magistrate's hearings into the January 24, 2010, disappearance of opposition journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda continue at a tortuously slow pace. A correspondent in Colombo shared the details of the April 24 hearing, where Eknelygoda's wife, Sandhya, and the couple's two teenage sons continue to press for any news of Prageeth. The family's attorney said he may have to press Sri Lanka's Appeal Court to order former Attorney General Mohan Peiris to testify about the comments he made at the U.N. Committee Against Torture on November 9, 2011, in Geneva. The government has ignored the January 2012 ruling by the Court that Peiris could be called in as a witness.
The Friday Times in Lahore has come under cyberattack. Earlier Friday, its website could not be accessed.
Najam Sethi, the paper's editor, told CPJ that someone has "launched an attack on the websites of both The Friday Times and Vanguard Books [the book publishing and distribution company that owns the Times]. A tsunami of killer spams and log-ins have clogged the sites and blocked them."
First, a bit of history: In 2008, CPJ reported:
The high court in the western state of Gujarat defended the media, rebuking a prosecutor for demanding state regulation of newspaper content. The prosecution sought restrictions after the Ahmedabad police commissioner filed sedition charges against a Times of India editor and reporter, and a Gujarat Samachar photographer.
The ceremony for Murtaza Razvi was held in Karachi Friday. Even as more details of the killing of one of the Dawn Media Group's most senior journalists emerge, it's difficult to discern a motive. Several Pakistani media quoted an anonymous police official as saying, "We are investigating into the matter but it is a case of murder because his hands were tied and his body bore torture marks and he had apparently been strangled to death" with a belt. The official said police are waiting for the postmortem report.
New York, April 19, 2012--Pakistani authorities must thoroughly investigate the death of prominent editor and writer Murtaza Razvi, determine a motive in his killing, and apprehend all those responsible, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
When CPJ covered the Pakistani government's attempt to build a massive censorship system for the country's Internet in February, we noted a key problem with such huge blocking systems: they are, at heart, democratically unaccountable.
Journalists and bloggers in authoritarian countries have their work cut out thwarting governments that try to restrict their writing and reporting. The last thing they need to worry about is the provider of their publication platform helping authorities with censorship or surveillance. Cue the Global Network Initiative (GNI), a voluntary grouping of Internet companies, freedom of expression groups, progressive investors, and academics.
CPJ's María Salazar-Ferro names the 12 countries where journalists are murdered regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. Where are leaders failing to uphold the law? Where are conditions getting better? And where is free expression in danger? (4:46)
Brazil, Pakistan, and India--three nations with high numbers of unsolved journalist murders--failed an important test last month in fighting the scourge of impunity. Delegates from the three countries took the lead in raising objections to a U.N. plan that would strengthen international efforts to combat deadly anti-press violence.
In case there was any doubt about the stance of Pakistani authorities on the murder of journalists, UNESCO's 28th biennial session offered an instructive insight. In addition to discussing the U.N. Draft Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity during the meeting, held in Paris in March, member states were to report on judicial inquiries into the killings of journalists from 2006 to 2009. Pakistan was among 17 countries that did not respond to the request. It was also one of three countries that refused to discuss the UNESCO draft, intended to take legislative measures to combat attacks on the press. This was a reflection of our sad state of affairs.
Romeo Olea's unsolved murder is tragically typical of media killings in the Philippines. Before his death, the radio commentator had received anonymous threats over his reports on local government corruption.
Pakistani journalists are under threat, and the public is paying the price. The most recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan includes a detailed chapter on freedom of expression, which ties growing suppression to rising incidence of violence and threats against news media. Not coincidentally, Pakistan sits near the top of CPJ's Impunity Index and other the global lists of most dangerous countries for reporters.
New York, April 16, 2012--Vietnamese authorities have brought anti-government charges against three journalists who have languished in prison for several months, news reports said on Sunday.
New York, April 13, 2012--Chinese authorities should halt their censorship of Web content in the aftermath of senior politician Bo Xilai's dismissal, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Internet officials in China have deleted at least 210,000 online posts and shut down as many as 42 websites since mid-March for allegedly spreading rumors, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Thursday.
Chongqing hotpot = King of the Southwest = King Who Pacifies the West = Minister of Yu = Tomato
What do these words have in common? They are all coded references to Bo Xilai, the disgraced former Communist Party leader in southwestern Chongqing, and they were all censored in China on Tuesday, according to the Berkeley-based China Digital Times website. Bo was removed from his post in March, and state media reported Wednesday he had been suspended from the governing Politburo and Party Central Committee. Propaganda officials censored speculation about Bo's downfall and its implications for political stability, so Internet users adopted terms like the ones above to avoid triggering keyword filters. Now these, too, have been blacklisted, according to China Digital Times. Will this senseless battle to hide information ever end?
New York, April 10, 2012--Gunmen opened fire on a small plane landing at an airport in Mulia, a town in Indonesia's restive Papua region, on Sunday, killing a journalist and injuring four others, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Indonesian authorities to launch an immediate investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Dear Prime Minister: The International Fact Finding and Advocacy Media Mission to Nepal that met with you in February has finished its review of specific provisions from the country's draft constitution that the Constituent Assembly will finalize by May 28. As one of the groups on the mission, the Committee to Protect Journalists urges you to encourage the assembly to incorporate the group's recommended changes before the constitution is finalized. The review and recommendations pertain to freedom of expression, the right to information, and freedom of the press.
Given that it is usually punishable by death, "treason" is a dangerous word to bandy about. When it is applied to journalists, it is even more worrisome. We've seen that in Sri Lanka, which is in the throes of a backlash against a U.N. resolution on past human rights abuses. (See "Amid Sri Lankan denial, threats rise for journalists.") Photographs of journalists who have been critical of Colombo, their faces barely obscured, have been shown on television; one broadcast even repeatedly used the picture of a journalist's daughter, according to the Network for Rights media support group.
New York, April 2, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by Chinese authorities' recent clampdown on the Internet after rumors circulated about politician Bo Xilai's dismissal from the Communist Party leadership in Chongqing. In recent days, authorities have shut down several microblog sites and detained and targeted Internet users.
Amid the rush to see changes in Burma as an inexorable move toward full democracy--Aung San Suu Kyi's electoral victory over the weekend is certainly cause for hope--CPJ has maintained a healthy skepticism about media reform in Burma. Shawn Crispin's "In Burma, press freedom remains an illusion," posted on Friday, is the most recent example of our thinking on the subject.
On March 29, 2012, Tran Thi Thuy Lieu was convicted of the murder of her husband, journalist Le Hoang Hung, after a one-day trial in southern Long An province. Hung died January 30, 2011, after he was set ablaze while sleeping in his home in Tan An, news reports said. Reports said Lieu, who had suffered gambling losses, was motivated by her husband's refusal to sell their home.
New York, March 30, 2012--Authorities in Chongqing must clarify the status of a journalist who reports say was secretly sentenced to prison in 2010 for criticizing a government official in a personal blog, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ has not been able to independently confirm the journalist's jail sentence or his whereabouts.
Just ahead of this weekend's highly anticipated Burma by-elections, opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi today denounced the vote as not "free and fair." Indeed, Thein Sein government's harassment of opposition media in the run-up to the polls raises disturbing questions about the country's reputed new democratic direction after decades of repressive military rule.
New Delhi-based Tehelka weekly news magazine has published a scathing indictment of the police investigation into the 2011 killing of Mumbai crime reporter Jyotirmoy Dey--and of the Indian media's coverage of it. Beneath the allegations and the rumors, we still don't know exactly why he was killed, while the self-confessed mastermind is a fugitive from justice. Meanwhile, a second journalist has been indicted for the crime on apparently flimsy evidence.
The investigation into the notorious murder of muckraking Philippine journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat in Mindanao is now seven years old. A separate hunt for conspirators in the January 2011 killing of Palawan radio journalist Gerardo Ortega is just getting started. The Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa City issued arrest warrants against three suspects in the Ortega case on Tuesday, and one has been arrested, according to the local Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. But both cases should already have been solved.
The sacking of Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai has sparked some entertaining gossip this month, leaving journalists covering China with the difficult task of reporting on unconfirmed reports. The Chinese government blames the international media, not its own lack of transparency and comprehensive censorship apparatus, for the burgeoning rumors.
In the wake of the U.N. Human Rights Council resolution calling for an investigation into Sri Lanka's alleged abuses of international humanitarian law during its war with Tamil separatists, the government has resorted to outright threats of violence against journalists who might dare to return home after taking part in the Geneva discussions.
New York, March 22, 2012--The Sri Lankan government must immediately halt its intimidation of journalists who supported the adoption of a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution calling for an investigation into the country's alleged abuses of international humanitarian law during its war with Tamil separatists.
At Columbia University on Monday evening, CPJ board member Ahmed Rashid held forth to a full house in a conversation with Steve Coll about U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you're reading this blog, there's most likely no need to explain who Rashid is--or Coll, for that matter. The earliest reference I could find on cpj.org to Rashid dated back to 2000, about events in 1999, when he was the Islamabad bureau chief for the now-defunct Far Eastern Economic Review. His latest book, Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, is the most recent installment in a steady stream of trenchant, reliable, reality-based analysis of geopolitical affairs in Central and South Asia. If you need to be convinced, check out Foreign Policy's list of Top 100 Global Thinkers.
A video of the event, which was co-sponsored by CPJ, is now available here.
The political ouster of Bo Xilai, Chinese Communist Party top dog in the major southwestern city of Chongqing, has been making headlines around the world. Bo notoriously silenced critics like investigative journalist Jiang Weiping, but the shoe is now on the other foot, at least for a while.
Many China watchers are familiar with Bo because he was in line for a position in the inner circle of Chinese politics, until state media announced his replacement last week. CPJ has reported on Bo for different reasons. Jiang, CPJ's 2001 International Press Freedom Award winner, spent five years behind bars in China, after revealing several corruption scandals involving Bo, a former mayor of Dalian city and then governor of the province, Liaoning, where Jiang worked.
Lhamo Tso has not spoken to her husband Dhondup Wangchen since March 17, 2008. She, their four children, and his elderly parents live in India, and hear of him only when his sister visits the Xichuan Prison in Qinghai province, western China, where he is serving six years. Through glass, he passes on the news: He's contracted hepatitis, though the prison won't let the family pay for proper medical treatment. He's working less -- promoted from 17-hour days in a brick kiln to manufacturing acupuncture needles. His two lawyers have been told their Beijing-based firm will be put out of business if they continue to work on his case.
On March 9, Sri Lanka's military authorities told all news and media organizations that they would have to get prior approval before releasing text or SMS news alerts containing any news about the military or police.
New York, March 14, 2012--China has approved revisions to its criminal code that grants police broad powers to hold journalists and others who discuss sensitive national issues without charge in secret detention for up to six months, according to news reports.
New York, March 13, 2012--After reviewing evidence in the 2011 killing of journalist Gerardo Ortega, the Philippine Department of Justice on Tuesday recommended that murder charges be filed against ex-governor Joel Reyes in the local courts, news reports said. In doing so, the department reversed an earlier decision not to pursue charges against Reyes.
Although the accused triggerman, Marlon Recamata, named Reyes in the murder, a June 2011 Department of Justice investigation found his statement unsubstantiated, news reports said. Ortega's supporters submitted new evidence a few weeks later and petitioned for the department to re-investigate, reports said. After reviewing the evidence, the department issued a recommendation on Tuesday for murder charges to be filed against Reyes in the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa City, according to news reports.
Dear President Karzai: We are deeply concerned by the potential repercussions of a March 10 statement released by Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi over an article written by The Wall Street Journal reporter Maria Abi-Habib. The statement, which personally attacks the journalist, sends a chilling message to other reporters who write about alleged government misconduct. We call on you to publicly address Azimi's statement and ask all government officials to refrain from attacks on journalists. We also ask you to uphold your commitment to a free press in Afghanistan that you have made many times in the past.
New York, March 12, 2012--Philippine authorities must immediately launch an investigation into the shooting of journalist Fernan Angeles, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ is investigating the motive in the attack, which left the journalist hospitalized in critical condition today.
To many in the Indian media community, the arrest of independent journalist Syed Mohammad Kazmi by the Delhi police's Special Cell on March 6 for his alleged involvement in a bombing brings back troublesome memories.
"Zhang Mingyu isn't out of danger yet."
These words, posted at 7:37 p.m. Wednesday on the Sina Weibo account of Chongqing property developer Zhang Mingyu after his detention by police, mark the latest twist in a story of political intrigue leading up to this week's legislative meetings in Beijing. As required by China's hardworking censorship machine, the state media has approached these meetings with a heavy dose of old-school propaganda, along with excruciatingly dull depictions of handshakes and applause and descriptions of work sessions sucked clean of any controversy.
China media analysts are looking to two significant events to shape coverage this month: The anniversary of a failed uprising in Tibet, and the annual meetings of China's top political bodies, the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing. Journalists at work in both areas attracted coverage of their own today--but from vastly different angles.
New York, March 6, 2012--A large crowd attacked a group of about 100 Indian journalists covering local election results in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday and damaged their equipment, according to news reports. The journalists were forced to lock themselves in a school for several hours to protect themselves from the violence, news reports said.
New York, March 2, 2012--Ten Indian journalists were reported injured today after being attacked by a group of lawyers outside a court in the city of Bangalore, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attack and calls on authorities to conduct an immediate investigation.
Village elections taking place this weekend in southern Guangdong province's Wukan illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of China's media control. Censorship measures have not prevented strong domestic and international coverage of the democratic process. But has official tolerance of dissenting views increased since leaders cracked down on the attempted Jasmine revolution last year? Or is Wukan not a real challenge to one-party rule, and therefore OK to write about?
Beijing-based blogger Woeser reported on her website Invisible Tibet today that she has been confined to her residence by Beijing public security officers who are stationed outside her home. Woeser, an outspoken critic of Chinese government policies in Tibet, has written about a series of recent self-immolations among monks and arrests of writers in western China.
On the evening of March 1, 2010, Arun Singhaniya, owner of Janakpur Today newspaper and Janakpur Today Radio, stepped out of a prayer service during a holy celebration in Janakpur, Nepal's second largest city. A gunman on a motorcycle shot and killed the news proprietor, making him the second person affiliated with the Janakpur Today news group to be murdered within a year.
Two months into 2012, all-too-familiar stories are emerging from China's troubled minority regions, Tibet and Xinjiang. Following riots against Chinese rule in 2008 and 2009, violence and its corollaries--increased security and censorship--have become commonplace. Independent bloggers and journalists who cover the unrest pay a high price: Over half the 27 journalists documented by CPJ in Chinese prisons on December 1, 2011, came from ethnic minorities. Now we're bracing ourselves for the next wave of arrests.
On February 11, two Bangladeshi television journalists, Meherun Runi and her husband Golam Mustofa Sarowar, were murdered in their Dhaka home. Their 5-year-old son found their bodies. No arrests have yet been made and no motive has been publicly disclosed, although police claim they know why the couple was killed. Journalists have plenty of reason to be skeptical, and they staged a nationwide strike today to call attention to the case.
Tuesday marks the next step in a legal faceoff between Malaysian authorities and the well-known political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, also known as Zunar. Hearings will resume in civil lawsuit filed by Zunar that challenges the legality of his arrest and detention in September 2010. Malaysian police arrested him hours ahead of the scheduled launch of a new book of political cartoons, Cartoon-o-phobia. He was held until the next day on the accusation that his book violated the country's repressive Sedition Act. Although he was released without being formally charged, police served a search warrant at his office and seized dozens of copies of his book.
In her final hours, Marie Colvin gave this damning report to CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Bravery, generosity, and commitment: These are the three characteristics of Marie Colvin that have surfaced, again and again, in the many tributes spoken and published since the veteran Sunday Times reporter was killed Wednesday in the besieged city of Homs by Syrian forces.
In Pakistan, the term "a war of words" can take on a menacing dimension beyond the metaphorical. Words--written, spoken, or reported--regularly land journalists in trouble, a very literal, physical sort of trouble. Reporters have become accustomed to being threatened, and over the years they've seen threats sometimes build to abductions, beatings, and even death. Such violence seldom comes without a string of prior warnings.
Legislation for Internet security can quickly turn into a weapon against the free press. Cybercrime laws are intended to extend existing penal codes to the online world, but they can easily be broadened to criminalize standard journalistic practices. By Danny O'Brien
Analyses and data track press conditions throughout the region. Bob Dietz describes efforts by Pakastani journalists to address widespread violence. Shawn Crispin details the faltering prosecution in the Maguindanao massacre. Madeline Earp examines the future of information control in China, and Monica Campbell recounts the plight of Afghan reporters for international media.
As journalists continue to be targeted, the government of Asif Ali Zardari has shown itself unable and unwilling to stand up for a free press. Whatever solutions exist will have to be found by people in the profession. By Bob Dietz
Nearly two years since 32 journalists were murdered, the fight for justice has both intensified in rhetoric and bogged down in technicalities. Without a greater commitment of resources, the litmus test is one the Philippines could fail. By Shawn W. Crispin
Internet users posed ever-bigger challenges to Beijing's media controls, boosting debate on public safety and censorship. But ahead of a 2012 leadership transition, the Chinese Communist Party looks likely to fiercely suppress dissent. By Madeline Earp
Local "fixers" have been essential to foreign reporters covering the Afghan war. While they often do the same work as their international counterparts, they run greater risk and face a far more uncertain future. By Monica Campbell
Pakistani reporter Umar Cheema speaks out on the climate of impunity that led to his being abducted and brutally assaulted for his work. (4:15)
Read the Attacks on the Press 2011 country profile on Pakistan.
Photographers from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, and other news outlets documented historic events in 2011, often at great peril. The Year in Photographs: Press Freedom in 2011 features images from the Arab uprisings, South Asia's armed conflicts, and political repression in the Americas, Africa, and Europe.
Vietnam intensified a media crackdown targeting online journalists and bloggers, reasserting the government’s near-total control of domestic news media. Authorities arrested and detained five bloggers and contributors to online news publications, bringing to nine the number of journalists behind bars. Political bloggers Pham Minh Hoang and Vi Duc Hoi were both given harsh prison sentences on antistate charges related to their writings. Authorities continued to hold and deny visitation privileges for blogger Nguyen Van Hai even though his prison sentence expired in October 2010. A new executive decree that came into force in February gave the government greater powers to penalize journalists, editors, and bloggers who reported on issues deemed sensitive to national security. An "accusation" bill passed in November was designed to force journalists to reveal the identities of confidential sources critical of government agencies.
Journalists faced significant restrictions, particularly online, despite democratic elections and a change in government. Outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva cracked down on partisan media, shutting radio stations and detaining Somyot Preuksakasemsuk, editor of a newsmagazine aligned with the anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship. New premier Yingluck Shinawatra wielded the country's strict lèse majesté laws by censoring websites and Facebook pages, and harassing Internet users who posted online material critical of the monarchy. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, editor of the news website Prachatai, faced a possible 50 years in prison under the draconian 2007 Computer Crimes Act for anonymous anti-royal remarks that were posted to one of her site's comment sections. The case was pending in late year. A reporter was killed in September while covering bombings in the country's insurgency-plagued southern region, a fatality that continued the country's recent spate of media deaths. The government opened a new inquiry into the fatal shooting of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto during 2010 protests in Bangkok, but authorities left unresolved the case of a second international journalist killed in the 2010 unrest, Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi.
The government's effort to silence critical media has been brutally effective as politically motivated deaths, attacks, and disappearances go uninvestigated and unprosecuted. The sister websites Groundviews and Vikalpa became the last independent news sites based in Sri Lanka, after a series of attacks on Lanka eNews. Arsonists attacked the offices of Lanka eNews in January, and authorities arrested the site's Colombo-based editor Bennet Rupasinghe in March. The site continued to publish from London but was blocked domestically. Authorities have turned the notion of law enforcement on its head, obstructing justice in numerous anti-press attacks. Prime examples are the unsolved 2010 disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda and the unsolved 2009 murder of prominent editor Lasantha Wickramatunga. Anti-press violence continued in 2011. In July, Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, news editor of the Tamil-language daily Uthayan, was assaulted in northern Sri Lanka by assailants wielding iron bars. News media access to northern, predominantly Tamil areas remained severely restricted. The government and Tamil secessionists rejected allegations that they committed human rights violations during the long civil war, but independent coverage of the abuses was limited.
Despite high levels of press and Internet freedom, provincial journalists worked under constant threat of reprisal. Two broadcast journalists, Gerardo Ortega and Romeo Olea, were shot and killed for their reporting. Both cases were unsolved by year's end, underscoring the country's third worst ranking on CPJ's 2011 Impunity Index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country's population. The vow of President Benigno S. Aquino III to reverse the trend went unfulfilled as legal proceedings in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, in which 32 media workers were ambushed and slain, stalled amid numerous defense motions to disqualify witnesses and suppress outside scrutiny. In another high-profile case, an appeals court denied a dismissal motion filed by two government officials accused of plotting the 2005 murder of reporter Marlene Garcia-Esperat. Although the decision cleared the way for arrests, the long-running prosecution has been beset by delays. Press advocates were critical of a new freedom of information bill, which they said would curtail access to official documents.
Meeting with a CPJ delegation in May, President Asif Ali Zardari committed his government to the pursuit of justice in journalist murders. But with seven journalists killed, five in targeted killings, Pakistan was the world's deadliest country for the press for the second consecutive year. High-profile investigations into the drive-by shooting of Wali Khan Babar in January and the abduction and fatal beating of Saleem Shahzad in May yielded no prosecutions, replicating the country's long-standing record of impunity in journalist murders. Intelligence officials were suspected of complicity in the Shahzad case and other anti-press attacks. With Zardari's government unwilling or unable to protect journalists, media organizations stepped up efforts to protect reporters working in the field. But widespread violence in Baluchistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Karachi, and the Swat Valley--combined with the war in Afghanistan--made the challenge exceptionally difficult. At least three Pakistani journalists fled into exile during the year.
Anti-media attacks and harassment flourished in a power vacuum left by the ruling coalition's political struggles. Baburam Bhattarai of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) became prime minister in August, securing support with his proposal to offer amnesty for war crimes, including journalist murders. Four assailants were convicted in two separate journalist slayings, but masterminds remained unpunished as authorities struggled to address the nation's entrenched culture of impunity. Of several assaults on journalists, at least one caused life-threatening injuries. Journalists received threats nationwide for their reporting, many from politicians or political youth groups. Assailants targeted at least six newspaper offices and burned hundreds of newspapers to limit distribution.
With no work-related deaths reported in 2011, Southeast Asia's largest economy and most populous country pulled back from its record high of three fatalities in 2010. The country's vibrant media remained under threat, however, particularly in remote areas. Banjir Ambarita, a contributor to the Jakarta Globe, suffered serious injuries in a March stabbing in apparent reprisal for coverage that linked police to a prisoner sex abuse scandal. No prosecutions were brought in the case by late year. CPJ research shows that corruption was an extremely dangerous beat for reporters; corruption itself was widespread, according to international monitors. Three men were acquitted in the 2010 murder of TV journalist Ridwan Salamun in remote Maluku, with no new arrests made. In June, the Supreme Court acquitted Playboy Indonesia publisher Erwin Arnada, who had been unjustly jailed for eight months on politicized charges of public indecency. While Internet penetration was a relatively low 9.1 percent, Indonesia had the world's second largest number of Facebook subscribers. Legislation passed by the Senate in October would give the intelligence agency expansive new powers to tap telephones and track other communications. The measure awaited President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's signature in late year.
Although the motives remained unconfirmed in late year, the murders of Chhattisgarh's Umesh Rajput and Mumbai crime reporter Jyotirmoy Dey reminded colleagues of the risk of violence. India remained on CPJ's Impunity Index, a ranking of countries in which journalists are murdered regularly and authorities fail to solve the crimes. Violent clashes between insurgents and government forces in states such as Kashmir challenged reporters' ability to work. In a mid-year report, The Hoot, a media issues website, recorded nine journalist assaults between January and May, including four in Orissa, where industrialization and Maoists had each displaced local residents. Authorities retaliated against critical reporting with antistate charges: Two journalists were jailed for allegedly supporting rebels after they criticized the impact of anti-Maoist campaigns on civilians. Journalists who exposed police ineptitude and corruption faced jail time. Politicians and businessmen muzzled reporters with legal action, including defamation, which authorities failed to decriminalize. Internet penetration was relatively low but growing, prompting the government to pass regulations that could suppress online dissent.
Authorities blocked reporting of unrest occurring around the world, from Inner Mongolia to the Occupy movement. More than half of the 27 journalists imprisoned on December 1 were from Tibet and Xinjiang, reflecting crackdowns after earlier unrest in minority regions. After online calls for Arab Spring-style demonstrations, dubbed the Jasmine revolution, CPJ documented the worst harassment of foreign journalists since the 2008 Olympics, including beatings and threats. Police detained dissidents--including outspoken artist Ai Weiwei--and writers they feared could galvanize protests, often without due process, and kept them under surveillance after release. Draft revisions to the criminal code would allow alleged antistate activists to be held in secret locations from 2012. Officials obstructed reporting on public health and food safety issues, among other investigations. President Hu Jintao’s U.S. visit and two bilateral dialogues, one on human rights, made little headway on press freedom, but domestic activists successfully challenged censorship using digital tools, especially microblogs.
Burma's news media remained among the most restricted in the world, despite the transition from military to civilian rule and President Thein Sein's vow to adopt a more liberal approach. The Press Scrutiny and Registration Department reviewed all local news journals prior to publication, censoring a vast array of topics. Criticism of the government and military was forbidden, although censors allowed more coverage of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and some political and economic topics. Authorities exercised control with a vengeance: The nation was still among the world's worst jailers of the press. Exile-run media continued to fill the news gap, but at a high cost: At least five undercover reporters for exile media were imprisoned. Regulations adopted in May banned the use of flash drives and VoIP communication services in Internet cafés.
As NATO and Afghan military forces faced off with militant groups, the news media worked in a hostile and uncertain environment. Two journalists were killed for their work, both during major insurgent attacks. Accusations of widespread fraud marred the second post-Taliban parliamentary elections, which were resolved only by a presidential decree that ousted several apparent winners. International aid organizations continued to pump resources into developing local media, although many Afghan outlets faced severe challenges in sustaining their work. In May, diplomatic missions circulated a memo to international journalists warning of possible kidnappings, though the threat never materialized. Three France 3 television crew members were released in June after 18 months in Taliban captivity. Abductions, which had spiked in 2009 and continued into 2010, appeared to decline during the year. Afghanistan's mass media law, introduced in Parliament in 2003, had yet to be enacted because of a political stalemate. Under discussion were several draft versions, most of which threatened to be more restrictive.
New York, February 16, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists is disturbed by a series of violent attacks on international journalists that appear aimed at suppressing coverage of land-related protests in Panhe, in eastern China's Zhejiang province.
President Obama has promised to raise issues of human rights when he and his administration meet with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in the next day. After that, Xi, billed as China's next leader, is expected to make some speeches, visit a few factories, stop at the Pentagon, sign some contracts that will strengthen economic ties between the two countries, and then head home.
Bangkok, February 14, 2012--Indonesian authorities detained a Czech journalist on Wednesday, then deported him for reporting without official permission from a restricted area of the country, according to news reports.
New York, February 13, 2012--Saudi columnist Hamza Kashgari, whose Twitter postings about the Prophet Mohammed have drawn death threats and government reprisals, was deported from Malaysia back to his home country on Sunday, according to news reports.
New York, February 13, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists mourns the death of two TV journalists in Dhaka and calls on Bangladeshi authorities to act speedily to bring the perpetrators to justice.
New York, February 13, 2012--Egyptian authorities should immediately release detained Australian journalist Austin Mackell, his translator, and an American student traveling with them, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Just how free should the Internet be in India? And whose job is it to police the Web?
Two recent court cases turn on these questions and, more specifically, whether Internet companies have a responsibility to filter content. In a country where Internet usage is growing exponentially, but where the scars of communal violence, terrorism, and identity politics are fresh, the answers are likely to have deep ramifications for years to come.
New York, February 10, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on all parties involved in the ongoing political dispute in Maldives to respect the role of the media in covering the protests and stop the attacks on journalists and news outlets. After political violence escalated in the wake of former President Mohamed Nasheed's resignation on Tuesday, at least two TV stations were attacked, according to news reports.
In 2005, we deliberately violated the immigration laws of India. We broke the law by producing a documentary film even though we had entered the country on a tourist visa. We broke the law because we wanted to show that Scandinavian companies were in violation of many other laws in India.
China's investment in high-tech Internet surveillance technology is well known, and the byzantine rules of its Central Propaganda Department have inspired books and academic treatises.
But among the many tools in the box for media control, there's one that's very simple and low-tech: Keep journalists away.
The website of Xinhua News, China's state media flagship, leads today with EU's threats of sanctions against Syria. Elsewhere on their Chinese-language site, one can read about Wen Jiabao's remarks to the visiting Canadian prime minister, or look at photos of pretty white ladies lounging around, if that's your style.
We have been posting a lot about the challenges facing the Internet in India recently--see Mannika Chopra's "India struggles to cope with growing Internet penetration." On Tuesday, Angela Saini, a guest blogger on The Guardian's Comment Is Free site, posted "Internet censorship could damage India's democracy," with the subhead "Google and Facebook have been asked to remove offensive content, but it's not just out of a fear of stoking religious hatred." Saini makes the point that the official resistance to the increasing penetration of the Internet goes beyond fears of religious or ethnic violence:
CPJ award winner Mazhar Abbas penned a strong Sunday op-ed piece, "Death is the only news--Challenges of working in conflict zones," for The News. It's about conditions for journalists working in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan. As Abbas says, "The killing of one journalist is a message for another." He goes on to describe the situation in FATA:
Last week, Twitter provoked a fierce debate online when it announced a new capability--and related policy--to hide tweets on a country-specific basis. By building this feature into its website's basic code, Twitter said it hoped to offer a more tailored response to legal demands to remove tweets globally. The company will inform users if any tweet they see has been obscured, and provide a record of all demands to remove content with the U.S.-based site chillingeffects.org.
The Internet doesn't bring freedom. Not automatically, anyway.
That's one of the main messages of Rebecca MacKinnon's new book, Consent of the Networked, which had its New York launch at the offices of the New America Foundation last night. In a conversation with CNN managing editor Mark Whitaker, MacKinnon, a CPJ board member, said it's up to concerned citizens, governments, and corporations to make decisions about how the Internet is used. She contrasted the Twitter-powered revolt in Egypt last year with the "networked authoritarianism" of China, where corporations are collaborators in a system designed to preserve Communist Party rule.
Because of criticism from Hindu fundamentalists, the showing of a documentary by filmmaker Sanjay Kak at the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce in Pune has been indefinitely postponed. The conservative student organization Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parisha protested Kak's film, "Jashn-e-Azadi" (How we celebrate freedom), which is critical of the Indian army's role in Kashmir. In fact, the whole conference, scheduled to start Friday, has been postponed, according to the investigative magazine Tehelka and the BBC.
In China, state control over the media hasn't become more lax in recent years. Each year brings a new excuse for Communist Party censors to tighten the screws. The year of the rabbit brought the Arab Spring, and fears of a Jasmine Revolution. The year of the dragon brings a major political transition.
The case of a cartoonist charged with treason and offending India's national sentiments reflects a growing debate over what constitutes freedom of expression in India. His accusers argue that while it is permissible to make fun of politicians, you cannot make fun of the state. Not everyone agrees.
On Monday, I wrote about two demonstrations scheduled for Sri Lanka this week. Both were meant to commemorate the ugly string of anti-press attacks in recent Januaries, which has included journalists killed and abducted, television stations bombed, websites attacked, and media offices torched. But Wednesday's Black January effort, publicized by the Free Media Movement (FMM) and other media support groups, was sabotaged and had to be moved at the last minute. A source in Colombo gave the following account, the outlines of which were confirmed by other CPJ sources:
Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl in Karachi on January 23, 2002. On February 21 of that year, a video of his beheading was released. In the wake of the judicial inquiry into the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad, veteran Pakistani journalist Mazhar Abbas has taken a comparative look at the two investigations with this article from the most recent magazine section of The News on Sunday.
A couple of weeks ago, I described the terrible incidence of anti-press abuse that has come each recent January in Sri Lanka. Media activists have come to call the month "Black January" for good reason, as this email message details:
New York, January 20, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the harsh sentence given to Chinese writer and activist Li Tie, whose online writings calling for political reform were cited as evidence of "subversion of state authority."
Oprah Winfrey's first visit to India brought delighted coverage by the Indian media. Her meetings and tweetings with Bollywood stars, her bright orange sari, and her trips to slums and to the Taj Mahal were lovingly detailed by newspapers and TV outlets in that country.
It was in January four years ago that nearly 100 journalists from all over Pakistan got together to launch a new TV channel in Lahore, Dunya TV. That was where I first met Mukarram Khan Aatif, our reporter from Mohmand.
When President Thein Sein pardoned over 300 political prisoners last week in Burma, CPJ reported that at least nine journalists were among those released. Since then, the exile-run Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) has announced that all of its jailed reporters, including a group of eight who had remained anonymous, are now free.
With the shooting of Mukarram Khan Aatif on Tuesday, the once high-profile case of Saleem Shahzad has almost been overtaken by events. The day before Aatif's death, Umar Cheema had sent me a link to his analysis of the judicial inquiry into the killing of Saleem Shahzad.
New York, January 17, 2012--Unidentified gunmen killed broadcast journalist Mukarram Khan Aatif in a mosque north of Peshawar today, according to news reports. Aatif was a correspondent for private TV station Dunya News and also worked for Deewa Radio, a Pashto-language channel of the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Voice of America, news reports said.
Bangkok, January 17, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release from prison of French-Vietnamese blogger Pham Minh Hoang and calls on Vietnam's Communist Party-led government to remove the continuing restrictions on him and free the nine other journalists still behind bars.
New York, January 13, 2012--The decision of prominent Chinese writer Yu Jie to seek exile in the United States this week is an indication of the intensifying hardships that face dissidents who criticize Communist Party rule, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Today is the first anniversary of the killing of Geo TV broadcast reporter Wali Khan Babar in Karachi, a case that has almost been forgotten, particularly in the shadow of the release of the judicial inquiry into the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad. The report on Shahzad has been posted on the Ministry of Information's website.
Bangkok, January 13, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of nine journalists who were freed as part of a mass release of at least 600 political prisoners in Burma on Friday, but calls on President Thein Sein to release reporters still being held in detention and to implement press reforms that would end the country's repressive media environment.
Fiji's military leadership on Saturday lifted emergency regulations it had been using to stymie the country's press since 2009, according to local government websites. Good news? Maybe. Yet the regime still restricts the media, and anyone else who dares to question the legitimacy of the 2006 coup that brought its leaders to power--suggesting they are more concerned about appearances than press freedom.
About six months after it was launched, the commission investigating the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad submitted its report to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday. In the past, the government has not released results of such investigations into the deaths of journalists, but there might be an exception this time. There are early media leaks of its content: The Express Tribune's bylined story is "No culprit named in Saleem Shahzad report," and Dawn's story ("Posted by a reporter," the byline says) is here. Dawn echoes The Express Tribune's headline a bit further down in its posting: "According to sources, the commission has stopped short of fixing responsibility for the journalist`s killing." But with no names named, the government might find it politically viable to make the report public.
A quick pointer to a statement issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Monday: It said, in part, that "The HRCP is alarmed at reports of threats received by journalists on account of their work." The commission asked the government to ensure that threats to journalists end and that risks associated with practicing journalism in general are eliminated, as noted in the English-language daily Dawn.
For Sri Lankan journalists, January might be the cruelest month. In January 2011, Sonali Samarasinghe wrote about the death of her husband Lasantha Wickramatunga two years earlier on January 8, 2009. In January 2010 I reported in "Sri Lanka: A year later, still failing to fight media attacks" about the government's inactivity in investigating Wickramatunga's death one year on. That was a follow up to the February 2009 "Failure to Investigate," in which CPJ had investigated his death and two other January attacks --- one a bombing raid on an independent television station and the other -- an attack similar to that on Wickramatunga, though not fatal -- on Upali Tennakoon, the editor of a Sinhala newspaper.
Bangkok, January 6, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the shooting death of Philippine radio commentator and community newspaper publisher Christopher Guarin and calls on authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice quickly.
New York, January 4, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Van Khuong's detention on Monday in Ho Chi Minh City on charges related to "giving bribes." Khuong can be held in detention for as long as four months while authorities investigate his case, according to official statements.
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