In the decades we’ve supported CPJ at this dinner, I never imagined I would be up here saying this:
There is a New War on Journalists.
Not just new battles, but an entirely new war … a 21st century war, with blurred geographic lines and intense digital media.
Terrorists are the shock troops in this new war.
They are not like the old censors. Today’s terrorists will kill a journalist not to stop a story, but to create one. They recruit in social media. They practice press release by execution.
This is a fundamental tactical shift.
Terrorists are the most visible part of the New War on Journalists, but not the only part.
A new boldness courses through closed governments, up and down many military chain of command, and in the minds of criminals and autocrats everywhere.
"CPJ International Press Freedom Awards 2014 " -- Press release on CPJ.org
They see traditional media struggle to adapt to the new digital age. They see the number of well-resourced international correspondents dwindle. They seek to exploit those weaknesses and they prey on the freelancer and the local reporter.
This new war is producing unprecedented casualties.
The years 2012 and 2013 amounted to the worst two-year period on record for the Committee to Protect Journalists: 144 journalists were killed and some 200 more were behind bars at any given time.
So far in Syria, 73 journalists have been killed. More than 90 have been abducted since 2011, of which, CPJ estimates, 20 are still missing.
Journalists have always faced danger. But this is a horrifying new story.
Around the world, reporters continue to go where the news leads them. Yet today, in too many nations, a press pass is a target.
That means it has never been more important to support CPJ than it is right now.
A new war requires a new response.
To begin that response, five foundations, Ford Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the New Venture Fund, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, have joined together to create a New Initiatives Fund at CPJ.
Tonight the five partners announce contributions in excess of $800,000 to start that fund, over and above tonight’s dinner proceeds.
The fund will help CPJ fight back in several ways. It will enable faster and better data and reports, and stronger analysis and advocacy. CPJ will increase work on safety issues, particularly for reporters without institutional support, such as freelancers and local journalists.
CPJ will build stronger alliances in support of free expression. It plans to do more with family members and news organizations on behalf of targeted journalists.
Finally – and perhaps most importantly – the New Initiatives Fund will help CPJ begin to build new and aggressive digital strategies, critical elements in the protection of today’s journalists.
As we in this room know, almost any journalist can become a target. I remember vividly being here in 1995 and meeting Veronica Guerin, a reporter at Ireland’s Sunday Independent and one of that year’s Press Freedom Award winners.
She said the rising power of drug- related crime in Ireland meant that a number of the Irish journalists writing about it, not just she, were threatened with death.
I met her husband, Graham, and her young son, Cathal. Seven months later, two men on a motorcycle pulled up next to Veronica Guerin’s car and shot her dead.
After her murder, Ireland began to crack down on drug dealing. But that didn’t erase the tragedy of her death, or the silencing of her voice.
In the war on journalists, truth is not the first casualty – people are – the people who seek truth. Tonight you will hear the stories of journalists who risk everything so we may see the world the way it really is.
We help them, and we help protect them, by helping CPJ.
So, as Dinner Chair, I thank you and your organizations for your support.
But there’s more you can do. When Christiane Amanpour makes her appeal later, be generous.
And, when you do, Knight Foundation will match every dollar you give tonight.
We will match your support because the courageous people you will meet tonight are our best hope in the New War on Journalists. Just as they are our best hope – we should be theirs.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.