CPJ’s Attacks on the Press Anthology Describes the Challenges Journalism Faces in 2017

On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists released its latest “Attacks on the Press” anthology. The theme this year: Repression 2.0. The compilation, which features nearly two dozen short pieces by prominent journalists and media figures, aims to be a comprehensive account of the challenges the free press faces worldwide. This year’s focus is on the new forms of censorship governments and non-state actors alike use to repress free expression.

According to Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director who supervised the project and wrote the introduction, the proliferation of information technology is creating new challenges for journalism—while also enabling repressive governments to deeply new systems of information control.

Increasingly, governments around the world have shown a willingness to be innovative in how they repress dissent. The anthology features several articles detailing such instances, including one about how regimes can use social media bots to disrupt online conversations or one that describes how China’s new credit scoring scheme could be used to punish journalists who are critical of the government.

But threats to press freedom are not just coming from repressive governments. One story recounts a journalist’s experience dealing with death threats while covering terrorism in West Africa. Another tells the story of how journalists in Mexico live in constant fear that their work chronicling the drug cartels will end in violence – or worse.  

Violence against journalists is also a common theme, as “Attacks on the Press” comes at a time when violence against journalists is increasing worldwide. According to CPJ’s own numbers, 78 journalists were killed last year in connection with their work, while another 259 were imprisoned. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which released a report on violence against journalists earlier this year, pegged those numbers at 74 and 348, respectively.

For a more in-depth look at the RSF’s report on journalist killings in 2016, see MediaFile’s story here.

“This is, in fact, the most dangerous and deadly time for journalists ever documented,” Simon told Radio Liberty. He noted that since CPJ started tracking journalist killings 28 years ago, more journalists have been killed in the last five years than any other five-year period since 1992.

Yet, despite the rising violence, repression, and disdain for the journalistic profession, “Attacks on the Press” ends on an optimistic note. In the closing piece, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour offers words of wisdom to aspiring journalists around the world. In order to fight back against the new censorship, she argues, journalists must “reveal lies for what they are, and fight for the truth. Because the future of the world depends on it.”

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