A CPJ delegation traveled to Pakistan this month and met with high-level Pakistani officials including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who pledged to continue to expand Pakistan's media freedoms and address the insecurity plaguing the country's journalists.
Prime Minister Sharif also made a number of other commitments to the delegation, including putting press freedom on the agenda in upcoming peace talks with the Taliban, appointing special prosecutors to oversee investigations into journalists killings, creating a joint commission of journalists, government officials, and CPJ board member Ahmed Rashid aimed at addressing impunity in anti-press attacks, expediting visas for foreign journalists in Pakistan, and reviewing the case of New York Times Bureau Chief Declan Walsh, who was expelled from Pakistan in May 2013.
The delegation, which included CPJ board members Kati Marton and Rashid, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, and CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz, had called on the government to address the country's long-standing record of impunity in journalist murders and presented recommendations for improving press freedom in Pakistan. Marton later summarized CPJ's efforts in a blog.
The killing of journalists was a primary item on the agenda for the delegation's mission to Pakistan. Just before the CPJ mission, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan announced the conviction of six defendants in the 2011 murder of Geo News reporter Wali Khan Babar. The convictions were the first in the murder of a Pakistani journalist.
In a May 2013 special report, called "Roots of Impunity," CPJ covered Babar's killing, as well as the murder of Mukarram Khan Aatif, a senior journalist in Pakistan's tribal region. The report exposed the intricate web of manipulation, intimidation, retribution, and impunity that has led to a significant rise in journalist murders in recent years. In the report, CPJ issued recommendations to the Pakistani government, calling on them to, among other measures, bring about successful prosecutions in unsolved journalist murders.
The meeting was covered by a number of regional news outlets, including The News, The Hindu, Dawn, Geo TV, Pakistan Today, and the Pakistan Observer, and a number of international outlets including The New York Times, International Business Times, The Associated Press, and the Huffington Post.
Turkey frees several journalists
CPJ has advocated widely on behalf of imprisoned journalists in Turkey. In our most recent prison census on December 1, we ranked Turkey the leading jailer of journalists, with 40 reporters imprisoned in relation to their work. We have consistently condemned repressive anti-press measures by Turkish authorities. This month, our advocacy paid off: Turkish authorities released at least 15 journalists whom CPJ had determined were imprisoned in relation to their work.
While much remains to be done to secure the release of the remaining journalists, this initial victory proves, in the words of CPJ Europe Representative Jean-Paul Marthoz, "dogged, focused advocacy matters and brings results."
But Turkey has a long way to go. This month, it banned access to the social media platform Twitter, hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to shut it down, according to news reports. The move was followed by YouTube being blocked in the country. The site was blocked after a leaked voice recording was posted on the website in which Turkish officials were allegedly heard discussing possible intervention in neighboring Syria, the reports said.
"As Turkey moves toward elections, the world will be watching, and talking, and tweeting; that reality is inescapable," said CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator Geoffrey King in a blog. "So too are the lessons of history. As Erdoğan appropriately commented when the Egyptian Internet went dark in 2011: 'No government can survive against the will of its people. We are all passing, and we will be judged by what we left behind.'"
CPJ calls for support for Bahraini press
CPJ partnered with the Paris-based nonprofit Reporters Without Borders to launch a digital campaign ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix on April 6. The campaign will use the social media tool Thunderclap to collect hundreds of tweets and Facebook posts that will be posted simultaneously at the start of the Formula 1 race.
CPJ research shows that the Bahraini government intensifies its crackdown on the press before high-profile events like the Grand Prix, in an attempt to whitewash its human rights record. In the most recent example, Bahraini authorities on March 26 sentenced freelance journalist Ahmed Humaidan to 10 years in prison on charges including participation in an attack on a police station in 2012. Humaidan was at the station to document the attack as part of his coverage of unrest in the country.
We also reported on the March 6 detention of freelance photographer Sayed Baqer al-Kamil. Three days after CPJ covered the story, authorities released him. No reason was provided for his arrest, although CPJ has found that much of al-Kamil's work focused on covering the Bahrain uprising in 2011.
Journalists released in Egypt
CPJ's consistent advocacy in Egypt paid off this month as
authorities released three journalists from prison. We have consistently
covered the jailing of reporters in the country and have repeatedly
called for their release.
Mohamed Aamer, a reporter for the Muslim Brotherhood's daily Freedom and Justice newspaper, was released on March 21 after being held in pretrial detention since November 26 on accusations of publishing false information. After his release, Aamer called CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Shaimaa Abu Elkhir and thanked her for CPJ's assistance in his case.
On March 4, Karim el-Behiri, a reporter for the independent daily El-Badil, was released on bail of 1,000 Egyptian pounds. He was arrested on January 25 while covering protests in Cairo and was held on accusations of throwing Molotov cocktails at the police. No charges were filed against him.
The same day, a Cairo prosecutor ordered the release without bail of Firas al-Shamsan, a Yemeni freelance journalist who has been jailed since February 2. Al-Shamsan was charged with "possessing recordings that included false news and rumors that would disturb public peace and security." He had been interviewing an attendee of a book fair when an unidentified woman objected to the interviewee's comments. No court date has been set for his trial.
CPJ's debut on Tumblr
This month, CPJ debuted its Tumblr page, a new platform for the large amount of content that we produce. In just a short time, the page accumulated a diverse following, from news sources such as the Atlantic. Tumblr also chose to showcase our blog on its main news page.
Follow CPJ's Tumblr page here.
CPJ's Distress Fund provides emergency grants to journalists facing persecution for their work. Support our work and make a gift today.
CPJ and Bloomberg News are hosting a free public panel discussion on the threats to press freedom posed by the Obama administration's aggressive war on leaks and the National Security Agency's mass surveillance.
The panelists include former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Cronkite School, and Geoffrey King, CPJ's Internet advocacy coordinator. The event is moderated by Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Oldham.
The discussion will take place at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University on April 8, 2014, at 7 p.m. Click here for further details.
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