Category Archives: Media

CPJ asks DC District Court to force release of intelligence community Khashoggi files

The Central Intelligence Agency building is seen in Langley, Virginia, on January 21, 2017. CPJ recently filed a brief requesting the U.S. intelligence community release documents relating to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

The Committee to Protect Journalists filed a brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia yesterday asking the court to release documents regarding Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, which the U.S. government claimed in court documents are exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests.

Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018, according to CPJ research. A report released by the CIA in November found that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the journalist’s murder, according to The Washington Post.

The brief stems from Freedom of Information Act requests that CPJ filed along with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in late 2018. The brief seeks the disclosure of documents concerning the U.S. intelligence community’s “duty to warn” obligations, which require U.S. officials to notify individuals who they believe may be in imminent danger. The Trump administration previously issued court documents to CPJ declining to disclose any such documents relating to Khashoggi’s case, saying it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of such files for national security reasons.

The brief argues that the national security rationale is inadequate because it fails to satisfy the public’s right to know information about the Khashoggi case and because such a rationale may be used to hide embarrassing or incriminating behavior by U.S. state actors. The brief also argues that U.S. State Department officials have already publicly claimed that they had no advance knowledge of Khashoggi’s killing, as reported by news outlets, which contradicts the government’s position that confirming or denying the existence of such knowledge would harm national security.

In the brief, CPJ notes that it respects the Intelligence Community’s right to protect national security and to guard its sources and methods; the brief requests that the Washington, D.C., District Court consider reviewing any such documents in private, to judge if the national security arguments are valid.

The brief can be read here.

Avi Asher-Schapiro
North America Research Associate
+1 (212) 300-9009

RSF: Media freedom suffers drastic decline globally



Media freedom across the globe suffered a “drastic decline” in 2014 caused by wars, violence during protests and economic crises, Reporters Without Borders has said.

In its 2015 World Press Freedom Index released Thursday, Reporters Without Borders state there were 3,719 violations of freedom of information in 180 countries in 2014 – an eight percent increase compared to a year earlier.

Press freedom in European Union-Balkan countries has been declining in absolute terms according to the Paris-based NGO.

“This disturbing trend reflects a two-fold phenomenon: the excesses of some member countries on the one hand and the inability of EU mechanisms to contain them on the other,” it added.

However, some European countries ranked highest on the press freedom list such as: Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.

“Government interference in the media is a reality in many European Union countries,” the NGO said. “It is facilitated by the concentration of media ownership in ever fewer hands and a lack of transparency about ownership.”

Examples of “troubled” countries are Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg.

Luxembourg was in the spotlight after an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in early November 2014, accusing hundreds of big-name corporations like Pepsi, IKEA and FedEx of securing secret tax deals with the tiny EU member state.

Reporters Without Borders stated: “The close links between government, business sector and media increasingly obstruct journalists’ work.”

“There has been an overall deterioration linked to very different factors, with information wars, and action by non-state groups acting like news despots,” the head of the Paris-based group, Christophe Deloire, told AFP.
The Reporters Without Borders 2015 World Press Freedom Index stated that there were 3,719 violations of freedom of information in 180 countries in 2014 – eight percent more than a year earlier.
All parties in conflicts raging in the Middle East and Ukraine were waging “a fearsome information war” where media personnel were directly targeted to be killed, captured or pressured to relay propaganda, it said.
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) group active in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and Cameroon, and criminal organisations in Italy and Latin America all used “fear and reprisals to silence journalists and bloggers who dare to investigate or refuse to act as their mouthpieces,” said the watchdog, known by its French initials RSF.
North Africa and the Middle East contained notable “black holes” in which “entire regions are controlled by non-state groups in which independent information simply does not exist,” the group said.
“The criminalization of blasphemy endangers freedom of information in around half of the world’s countries,” the report said, noting that religious extremists sometimes also go after journalists or bloggers they believe do not sufficiently respect their god or prophet.
RSF’s ranking put Iran, China, Syria and North Korea among the countries with the very worst levels of press freedom out of the 180 evaluated.
“Police misconduct” during the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong earned that territory a slide to 70th position.
The best-rated nations were northern European states such as Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden, with New Zealand, Canada and Jamaica also making the top 10.

The United States ranked 49, three spots lower than in the previous report, in part because of what RSF said was the US government’s “war on information” against WikiLeaks and others.

In South America, Venezuela stood out with a 20-notch fall to a ranking of 137 due to the National Bolivarian Guard opening fire on clearly identified journalists during demonstrations.
Libya dropped 17 places to 154 because of the national chaos that has seen seven journalists murdered and 37 kidnapped.
Russia slipped to the 152nd spot after introducing “another string of draconian laws,” website blocking and the extinction of independent media.
“Press freedom… is in retreat on all five continents,” RSF declared, claiming its indicators were “incontestable”.