PLANNING AHEAD: Taking a look at the Committee to Protect Journalists [Column]

With all of the reporting on horrific circumstances visited on Ukraine in the past weeks a thought came to mind — how are journalists covering these stories supported and protected?

At least four journalists are reported as having been killed covering the Russia-Ukraine War. A Ukrainian journalist who was reported missing was released after an eight day disappearance. Another is still missing.

I was able to obtain this information at least in part from a source I never realized existed, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), https://cpj.org.

Without reporting we would be unable to learn what is going on literally around the world. Some reporters/journalists have the support of huge organizations. Others, independent, not so much.  How do we know when a journalist goes missing and what can be done? This is an area, honestly, that I never seriously considered so I was both fascinated and concerned to learn more.

While my work never causes me to venture into dangerous territory, after more than 20 years as a regular newspaper columnist I cannot help but feel affinity with people who literally risk their lives every day to report what is going on around the world and especially now, in Ukraine.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, according to its website, is “an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide.  We defend the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal.” How they do it is described in greater detail on their website.

The organization, with headquarters in New York City reports it has about 40 experts around the world. Its map shows offices for representatives and correspondents in Bangkok, Nairobi, Abuja, Beirut, Istanbul, Brussels, London, Bogota, Sao Paulo, Bogota, Mexico City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York City.

The website reports that “When press freedom violations occur, CPJ mobilizes a network of correspondents who report and take action on behalf of those targeted…”

Here are a few of the recent posts.

• “Ukrainian journalist Oleh Baturyn released 8 days after going missing…

• Ukrainian journalist Viktoria Roshchina missing since March 11…

• Mali suspends RFI and France 24, bars local outlets from distributing their content…

• Brazilian journalists injured by explosive devices at police protest

• Two Ugandan journalists charged with cyberstalking the president, remanded to prison…”

These are all March, 2022 posts — so recent.

In the section “How We Protect Journalists,” the organization indicates “CPJ’s work is based on its research, which provides a global snapshot of obstructions to a free press worldwide. CPJ’s research staff documents hundreds of attacks on the press each year. In <their> quest for a free media, CPJ denounces press freedom violations, meets with heads of state and high-ranking officials, spearheads or advises on diplomatic effects, and works with other organizations to ensure that justice prevails when journalists are imprisoned or killed.”

The section goes on to note that “CPJ also provides comprehensive, life-saving support to journalists and media support staff working around the world through up-to-date safety and security information and rapid response assistance.” So they provide information to journalists to try to avoid dangers.

The website includes Frequently Asked Questions and News.

In answer to the question “how does CPJ investigate and classify attacks on the press?” the site indicates that each case is corroborated by more than one source for factual accuracy, confirmation that the victims were journalists or news organizations, and verification that intimidation was the probable motive.

Interestingly, journalists are described broadly to include people who cover news or comment on public affairs in print, photographs, radio, television or online. They include writers, editors, publishers, producers, technicians, photographers, camera operators, and directors of news organizations.

There are detailed annual reports online. For 2021 the Annual Report described experiences in areas including among others Afghanistan, Russia, Haiti, Myanmar, Algeria and the U.S.

One article titled “‘Hard, emotional and painful’: Journalists in Ukraine on covering Russia’s invasion” by Natalie Gryvnyak/CPJ Ukraine consultant on March 14, 2022 included several interviews with journalists and their personal experiences and difficulties understandably obtaining the trust of their sources. It noted the shooting death of U.S. reporter Brent Renaud in Irpin, outside Kyiv, on Sunday, March 13, underscored the extraordinary dangers facing journalists covering Russia’s war in Ukraine.

CPJ reports it is funded entirely by contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations and does not accept government funding. A list of donors is referenced in its online annual report.

Janet Colliton, Esq., Colliton Elder Law Assocs., PC is a Certified Elder Law Attorney and limits her practice to elder law, retirement, life care, special needs, and estate planning and administration with offices at 790 East Market St., Suite 250, West Chester, 610-436-6674, [email protected] She is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and, with Jeffrey Jones, CSA, co-founder of Life Transition Services LLC, a service for families with long term care needs.

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