NEW York, November 3, 2017 – Four inspiring journalists from Cameroon, Mexico, Thailand, and Yemen will be honored with the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2017 International Press Freedom Awards, an annual recognition of courageous journalism.
The awardees have covered the news at great risk, including retribution from political leaders, and two have had to flee their homes because of death threats. One of the awardees has been in prison for over three years for reporting on attacks carried out by an extremist group; another was detained twice by military officials and charged with sedition.
CPJ will also present broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff, the managing editor of “PBS NewsHour,” with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award for her work in advancing press freedom and strengthening the role of women journalists worldwide. CPJ will present the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award annually to an individual who has shown extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom. Originally the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award, it was renamed in 2017 to honor the veteran journalist and former CPJ board member who died in late 2016.
· Ahmed Abba, a correspondent for Radio France Internationale’s Hausa service
· Patricia Mayorga, a correspondent for the Mexico City-based newsmagazine Proceso
· Pravit Rojanaphruk, a critical reporter and press freedom advocate in Thailand
· Afrah Nasser, a Yemeni independent reporter and blogger who lives in exile.
· Judy Woodruff will be honored with CPJ’s inaugural Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award
International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists
This edition of the impunity newsletter marks the fourth International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. In 2013, the U.N. General Assembly adopted November 2 as a day to call for justice in attacks against journalists, in recognition of the extreme threat to fundamental freedoms that impunity poses by curtailing the free-flow of information and allowing corruption, crime, conflict, and human rights abuses to thrive. Events take place around the world this month, along with social media campaigns, protests and stories of those gaining ground in the fight for justice.
Join CPJ and colleagues around the world in demanding action for justice.
Somalia is worst country for impunity for third consecutive year
On October 31, CPJ published “Getting away with Murder: 2017 Global Impunity Index.” The index lists countries with the worst rates of impunity in journalist murders around the world. This year, conflict was the backdrop for the list’s leaders: Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and South Sudan. But countries that bill themselves as comparatively stable democracies, including the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, and India also feature. This is the tenth year that CPJ has published the index.
Long-term trends show that states are not doing enough to break the cycle of violence and impunity. Seven countries on the 2017 index have been listed every year for the past decade, meaning that authorities there have failed to prosecute journalist killers and stop violence against the press. See the full report for more trends and report cards for each of the 12 countries on the 2017 index.
Calls for justice in murder of Malta journalist
On October 16, anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed when a bomb was detonated in the car she was driving. Her website, Running Commentary, reported on government corruption and the Panama Papers. Caruana Galizia’s assassination has been met with condemnation and calls for a full investigation from journalists, governments, diplomats, and activists around the world. Thousands have marched on Malta’s parliament to protest the killing and colleagues pledged to take up the mantle of her investigations. At least 11 journalists have been murdered this year in connection to their coverage of corruption, crime, politics, business, culture or human rights, CPJ research shows.
States show more accountability for impunity, UNESCO finds
Each year UNESCO requests that member states provide information on the status of judicial investigations into killed journalists. This year’s responses show improvement in the level of recognition by states of the importance of this reporting mechanism. In the past, less than 50 percent of states responded but, after efforts by UNESCO to increase engagement and concerted campaigning by freedom of expression groups, response rates began to rise in 2016 to 68 percent.
This year UNESCO’s 2017 edition of “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development” recorded a 74 percent response. Not all countries met their obligation to account for impunity. India, where 27 journalists have been killed with complete impunity since 1992, has not provided any case updates.
Mixed progress in Turkey, Burkina Faso murders
In June, a Turkish court sentenced a man to two life terms in prison for the murder of Syrian journalist Naji Jerf. Jerf, an editor and filmmaker, had fled to Gaziantep, in Turkey to escape threats by the extremist group, Islamist State, in Syria. His persecutors found and killed him in 2015. The court acquitted three other suspects for lack of evidence, according to reports.
Proceedings took place behind closed doors, raising questions from the journalist’s relatives about whether justice has truly been served. Meanwhile, relatives and colleagues of investigative journalist Norbert Zongo met with another frustration last month in their long wait for justice in Zongo’s 1998 murder. The brother of Burkina Faso’s ousted president Blaise Compaoré was arrested at a Paris airport, only to be released pending a French court’s review of an extradition request by Burkina Faso’s government. Both men are wanted in connection to the murders of Zongo and three companions, whose bodies were found in a burnt-out car.
●U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres issued a report on the safety of women journalists. The report identifies gender specific risks and challenges that women journalists face and calls for “unequivocal and sustained political will and effort” to tackle gender-based discrimination, including violence, and inequality and gender-based stereotypes.
This year, at least seven of the journalists killed in relation to their work were women, three of them were murdered. In addition to Caruana Galizia in Malta, Gauri Lankesh, a critic of right-wing extremism was shot outside her home in Bangalore India, in September, and in Mexico, Miroslava Breach Velducea, who reported on crime and politics in Chihuahua, was shot eight times in March.
●“Defending Journalism,” a report by the Danish group International Media Support, analyses government mechanisms and civil society-led programs aimed at protecting journalists and combating impunity in seven countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, Indonesia, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines. The study, released for the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, concludes that collaborative efforts are having an impact but that more needs to be done by governments to address impunity.
●In a Q&A with CPJ’s European Union Representative Tom Gibson, the new OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir said that impunity and safety are priorities for his tenure. “Désir.