Demanding justice and security for journalists in Mexico
CPJ staff were shocked and saddened by the murder of photographer Rubén Espinosa, who was found dead in an apartment in Mexico City along with four women. The victims were shot in the head. Espinosa had fled the state of Veracruz in June and sought refuge in Mexico City, where he thought he would be safe. CPJ condemned the murder and called on authorities to mount a thorough investigation. "It is time for federal and local authorities to take action to combat the serious press freedom crisis facing Mexico," said Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator for the Americas. Mexico ranks among the most deadly countries for journalists--with 34 journalists killed for their work since 1992, and another 42 cases in which the motive remains unconfirmed.
CPJ calls Kenya on its "Broken Promises"
As U.S. President Barack Obama headed to Kenya and Ethiopia in July, CPJ launched a special report in Nairobi on the climate for press freedom in Kenya. The report, called "Broken promises: How Kenya is failing to uphold its commitment to a free press," found that a combination of legal and physical harassment, as well as concentration in media ownership, is making it increasingly difficult for journalists to work freely in Kenya.
CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, and CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine met with Information and Communication Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiangi, who said President Uhuru Kenyatta was determined to create a culture and an environment that respected press freedom. The cabinet secretary pledged to ensure investigations into a brutal attack against two journalists in April and to further discuss the country's criminal defamation law.
But, as Simon observed at the press conference, if a commitment to delivering justice is to have meaning, it must bear results.
Pushing for press freedom at European Games
Azerbaijan, which ranks in fifth place on CPJ's list of 10 Most Censored Countries, hosted the first-ever European Games in its capital, Baku, this month. One of the country's most prominent journalists, Khadija Ismayilova, has been in jail there since December 2014 for reporting on sensitive issues, including corruption and human rights. Ismayilova, who features in CPJ's Press Uncuffed campaign, is one of eight journalists in prison during the Games. Using the attention focused on Azerbaijan in the run up to the Games, CPJ joined the Sports for Rights coalition to highlight human rights abuses and corruption to Baku 2015 sponsors, Olympic committees, and international institutions. The coalition even convinced Bono from Irish rock band U2 to speak out for freedom of expression on stage in Montreal.
Azerbaijan responded to these efforts by blocking international journalists from covering the event, which garnered attention from CPJ board member Christiane Amanpour as well as the host of satirical TV show "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver. But the campaign created the necessary pressure on Azerbaijan to allow leading media freedom defender Emin Huseynov to leave the country. Huseynov, who spent 10 months in hiding at the Swiss Embassy in Baku to avoid a politically motivated jail term, left Azerbaijan on a Swiss diplomatic plane the day the Games started.
On April 30, CPJ and Human Rights Watch met with the European Olympic Committees (EOC) leadership in Dublin to raise concerns about censorship and human rights issues. The meeting elicited a statement from the EOC that read: "It is not the EOC's place to challenge or pass judgment on the legal or political processes of a sovereign nation and, like all sports organizations, we must operate within existing political contexts." Although the EOC said it was "satisfied with the assurances" it received from Azerbaijani authorities that the fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter would be upheld, CPJ is not satisfied. Ismayilova and other journalists remain imprisoned there for their work. If you agree, send the EOC a message telling them you are not satisfied.
US cites CPJ in remarks on World Press Freedom Day
Each year, World Press Freedom Day provides an opportunity for press freedom organizations to put anti-press violations on the map. This year, CPJ did just that.
In U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's statement commemorating World Press Freedom Day, he cited CPJ research: "This is a critically important time to acknowledge the contributions of journalists. As the Committee to Protect Journalists recently reported, this is the 'most deadly and dangerous period for journalists in recent history.'"
Kerry's words echoed the theme found in CPJ's 2015 Attacks on the Press, that journalists are caught between terrorists and governments. The secretary of state said, "From violent extremists and criminal gangs who abduct and kill reporters to authoritarian governments that persecute them, press freedom is under attack."
CPJ staff also participated in a number of World Press Freedom Day initiatives. (See below for more details.)
CPJ launches annual publication Attacks on the Press
At a U.N. press conference on April 27 to launch CPJ's annual publication Attacks on the Press, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon called on the U.N. Security Council to include in its May 27 debate on Journalist Safety a warning to states that they should not use national security as an excuse to jail, harass, or censor journalists.
The last three years have been the most deadly for the press, according to CPJ research. One of the reasons is the developing "terror dynamic"--non-state actors targeting journalists with violence while governments restrict civil liberties and press freedom in response. This phenomenon was amply documented in essays published in this year's edition of Attacks on the Press.
The book, which emphasizes reporting and analysis by CPJ staff and outside experts, features essays on multiple threats facing the press: the conflict in Syria, where freelancers and local journalists must adapt to an environment in which they are targets; terror and criminal groups, in countries as Syria, Nigeria, and Mexico, which document their own atrocities and disseminate them through social media; and crackdowns on the press in Ethiopia and Egypt, where governments use the threat of terror to justify repression. Several essays in the book also look at the impact of surveillance in more democratic societies, including those in Europe. The book also includes CPJ's list of the 10 Most Censored Countries.
The print edition of Attacks on the Press is published by Bloomberg Press, an imprint of Wiley, and is available for purchase.
Press Uncuffed: Free the Press
On March 26, CPJ partnered with students at the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism and Knight chair and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Dana Priest to launch the Press Uncuffed: Free the Press campaign at the Newseum in Washington. The campaign aimed to raise awareness about nine journalists imprisoned around the world in relation to their work. At least 221 journalists were behind bars when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census.
The students and Priest developed the idea of selling bracelets bearing the names of nine jailed journalists. All proceeds are being donated CPJ.
First step toward better safety for freelancers
News agencies, press freedom organizations, and advocacy groups came together this month to address mounting concerns over the hiring and safety of freelance journalists. While dangers to freelancers have always been present, last year international journalists made up nearly a quarter of journalists killed, about double the proportion CPJ has documented in recent years. The murders of freelancers James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Kenji Goto by the militant group Islamic State prompted an unprecedented collaboration between stakeholders. CPJ is proud to have helped draft guidelines for a global standard that will protect freelancers whom outlets are increasingly dependent on for stories, especially from hostile environments.
Putting Charlie Hebdo in context
When masked gunmen raided the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7, killing 12 people including eight journalists, the media turned to the Committee to Protect Journalists to put the attack in context and comment on the repercussions for press freedom worldwide. CPJ's experts and directors gave comments to The New York Times, NPR, Reuters TV, Yahoo News with Katie Couric, BBC World Service, France 24, and The Associated Press, among others. CPJ responded as soon as details of the attack emerged, and its regional experts helped provide a global perspective on the issues surrounding the attack.
The past year has been a traumatic one for the press, with the high number of journalists killed and imprisoned underscoring the perils of a profession that requires being on the front line of history. Amid growing animosity by governments, and the threats posed by organized crime and militant groups such as the Islamic State, 2014 has been a difficult year for journalists. But the Committee to Protect Journalists has worked to help those in trouble and advise others.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.