The press is under siege. Last year, Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed after last being seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. In Myanmar, authorities arrested three journalists for a story that they said caused “fear or alarm to the public,” a month after sentencing two Reuters journalists to seven-year prison terms. And in late September 2018, a local crime reporter was gunned down outside his home in Mexico.
Meanwhile, the United States itself is experiencing a crisis in press freedom. According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, at least 43 journalists have been arrested since CPJ co-launched the website in 2017. Another 31 have been subjected to physical assault in 2019 alone. In 2018, the murders of four journalists and one media worker at the Capital Gazette in Maryland led to the U.S. becoming the third deadliest country for journalists, behind Afghanistan and Syria, at the time.
At least 1,323 journalists have been killed in relation to their work around the world since the early 1990s, when the Committee to Protect Journalists first began keeping records. Two-thirds of the total, or 848, were directly targeted for murder. In late 2017, CPJ documented at least 262 journalists behind bars globally, a record high for the organization.
A free press is vital to democracy, and citizens everywhere deserve to hear the truth. Every day, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) fights for the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal.
CPJ, which has its headquarters in New York and correspondents in 15 global cities, has confronted threats to journalists for nearly four decades. We meet with government leaders and secure their commitments to improve the media environment.
We conduct advocacy, publicly and privately, calling for authorities to release imprisoned journalists and convict the killers of journalists. And we provide proactive and reactive safety assistance to journalists all over the world who are under threat.
Although the changes that CPJ hopes to make in the world take time, they do happen. By October 2018, CPJ and other groups had helped win the early release from prison of more than 70 journalists. Our joint advocacy has helped secure convictions in the murders of six journalists. And our Emergencies team has provided financial and non-financial assistance to nearly 100 journalists in exile or in prison. Meanwhile, we continue working with partner groups to call on governments, including the Trump administration, to stand up for and defend the rights of journalists in their countries and use their influence to uphold press freedom in other ones.
CPJ exists to defend the basic principle that journalists should be free to report the news so that you, the people, can hold your government accountable and make informed decisions about your lives. We will continue standing up for vulnerable journalists and fighting the repression that seeks to censor the truth. The principle that guides us remains the same: Governments around the world are more effective when they are held accountable by a press that is free and independent.
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How you can help:
Learn. From CPJ’s global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go free, to CPJ’s annual prison census that provides a snapshot of journalists behind bars on December 1, to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a database that documents anti-press incidents in the U.S. using information from more than two dozen press freedom groups including CPJ, there are plenty of resources to stay informed and vigilant.
Take action. World Press Freedom Day happens every May, but you can generate #FreeThePress awareness all year. Show your support for imprisoned journalists today by writing digital postcards to them. Find some materials to get started and organize a gathering in your community. You can also help defend press freedom by donating to CPJ.
Original contribution by Shazdeh Omari, Deputy Development Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
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