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Hong Kong and beyond: Committee to Protect Journalists' blogging makes an impact

CPJ's Bob Dietz was on the ground in Hong Kong when John Ray, a reporter for ITV in England was hauled off by Chinese police while covering a peaceful protest in Beijing. He posted on the CPJ Blog about China's “tough talk” the next day, as officials denounced the arrest of Ray and admitted he was working within the rules afforded him as a journalist. Though positive, Dietz wrote that it was “too little too late” and kept the pressure on Chinese and Olympic officials to respect media freedom.

The introduction of our blog in August was a natural extension of CPJ's desire to remain current with the global move toward digital journalism. As an organisation of journalists who work on behalf of journalists, we must continually evolve in order to accommodate the shifting media landscape. Our blog is quickly becoming one of the most effective ways to spread information for CPJ, and has become the second most popular page on our site outside of the main homepage.

Beyond our usual means of distributing information - alerts that go out to media, letters to governments, short statements made to respond to breaking news - the blog gives us a method to share personal stories of journalists who have been jailed, censored, or attacked; post news roundups on press freedom issues; and issue reports instantaneously from staffers and journalists in the field. The blog allows staff to expand their work to cover cases closely and quickly alert our readers to unfolding events. It permits us as an organisation to have dynamic visuals such as embedded video to enhance our message.

The decision to send CPJ staff to blog from Hong Kong during the Olympics was part of our adaptation to the way journalism works now. Having staff on the ground meant that we were able to react in a timely matter to any media issues that would arise, but it also allowed CPJ to pick up on stories that might have passed us by otherwise. Blogging allowed us the flexibility to be in the middle of the action and also report in nearly real time as events unfolded.

While the impact is difficult to measure, especially in a media-repressed country such as China, the mere fact that CPJ was able stay on top of the story and call out the government on abuses is a victory. China had hoped to shape their own story of the Olympics by quieting dissenting voices, but the work of CPJ staffers like Bob Dietz and Kristin Jones ensured that others had a chance to speak out about the 2008 Olympic Games.

We have recently used the blog as a forum for spreading information about the arrest of American filmmaker Andrew Berends, who was detained in Nigeria for 10 days. We posted updates on the situation and letters urging his release from New York Senators Hilary Clinton and Charles Schumer. We've written about the case of Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident journalist killed 30 years ago in London with a poison-tipped umbrella and how the case relates to the current-day persecution of journalists in Eastern Europe, as well as how the DRC has spent more time considering the plight of goats in its jails than that of imprisoned journalists.

The blog has become a forum for our readers around the world to discuss press freedom and open a dialogue with our staff. The more voices we can encourage to speak about freedom of expression issues, the more awareness we can generate—and that is a significant key to our advocacy's success.

Visit the blog at http://www.cpj.org/blog


By Andrew Levinson, Communications Assistant, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

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