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Thirty years on, CPJ gathers lessons and looks forward

British journalists Ian Mather, Tony Prime, and Simon Winchester in an Argentine police station after their arrest during the Falklands War in 1982. The three were one of CPJ's first cases. (Simon Winchester)

Journalists rarely report on themselves. But in 1981, when two of them heard about a Paraguayan reporter who had been arrested and was facing a potential prison term simply for reporting the news, they were convinced that it was time to act. It was this desire to help a colleague under threat that was the seed that spawned the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since then, CPJ has grown to a fully staffed organization advocating globally for press freedom.

To launch our 30th anniversary celebration, CPJ will dedicate its archives--a comprehensive collection of documents representing 30 years of research, reporting, and activism in support of a free press worldwide--to Columbia University Libraries' Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research.

The dedication will be marked by two public panel discussions on March 4 at Columbia University's Kellogg Conference Center, School of International and Public Affairs. "Looking Back: Thirty Years of Covering War" examines how risks faced by journalists have changed from when CPJ was founded during conflicts in Central America, to today's less clearly defined conflict situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond, where vehicles marked "Press" are not necessarily the best way for journalists to ensure they are not a target.

Panelists will explore an important question: How does the way journalists operate in conflict zones affect the ways wars are covered? Moderated by veteran U.S. journalist Dan Rather, the panel will include journalist who have covered multiple conflicts: Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post; Terry Anderson, formerly with The Associated Press; María Teresa Ronderos of Colombia's Revista Semana; and photojournalist Michael Kamber, currently with The New York Times Baghdad Bureau.

Our second panel, "Looking Ahead: Social Media and Revolution" will examine the complex reality of technology that has facilitated communication and reporting from the frontlines--while also being appropriated by repressive governments for data mining and surveillance. The panel of experts, moderated by Slate's Jacob Weisberg, includes Rebecca MacKinnon, co-founder of Global Voices Online; Sheila Coronel of Columbia University's Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism; Nazila Fathi, a correspondent formerly in Iran for The New York Times; and Ahmed Shihab-Eldin of Al-Jazeera English.


If you are unable to join us on Friday, a video of the discussions will be available on the CPJ website at a later date.  

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