President Bill Clinton has made press freedom a focus of U.S. foreign policy during his second term, raising the issue during a White House visit with Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz in December, and during a three-country tour of Latin America in October. During his October visit to Argentina, Clinton discussed his concerns during a private meeting with Argentine President Carlos Saúl Menem. Clinton aides also met with a group of Argentine journalists and assured them of the president's commitment to press freedom. The U.S. president's message seemed to have an immediate and dramatic effect. Attacks on the press in Argentina dropped off after the Clinton visit, and President Menem refrained from making menacing statements about the media.
Since its founding in 1981, the Committee to Protect Journalists has, as a matter of strategy and policy, concentrated on press freedom violations and attacks on journalists outside the United States. We do not systematically monitor problems facing journalists in any of the developed industrial democracies. Our resources are limited, and we devote most of our efforts to those countries where journalists are most in need of international support and protection.
While CPJ recognizes that press freedom requires constant vigilance and aggressive defense at home as well as abroad, we are able to rely within the United States on the thorough, professional efforts of organizations with a primarily domestic focus, such as the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Association of Broadcasters, among others. We recommend to journalists and other researchers the bulletins and annual reports of these and similar organizations, as well as the ongoing coverage of First Amendment issues provided by the American Journalism Review, the Columbia Journalism Review, Editor & Publisher, and other specialized publications.
On U.S. policy issues directly affecting the ability of U.S. reporters to work safely and legally abroad, CPJ works with U.S. journalism organizations to effect constructive change.
CPJ's overriding concern in the United States continues to be the cases of journalists who are murdered for reasons related directly to their profession. As a U.S. organization that forcefully urges governments around the world to investigate and prosecute the assassinations of local journalists, we believe that it is essential to hold our own government equally accountable when similar crimes are committed at home.
Since the widely publicized 1976 murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles, at least 11 other American journalists have been murdered because of their work. In all but one case, the victims were immigrant journalists working in languages other than English. Seven of those 10 homicides remain unsolved. Most received little or no national media attention. Limited local police investigations were carried out with only minimal federal law-enforcement assistance – despite strong indications in several cases of possible interstate and even international criminal conspiracies.
In December 1993, CPJ released a 60-page report on these murders titled Silenced: The Unsolved Murders of Immigrant Journalists in the United States. The report prompted the Justice Department to reopen investigations into five of the cases, all involving Vietnamese-American journalists. Officials working with a California-based task force of federal prosecutors and FBI agents said one year later that they were not yet able to report publicly on any progress in the investigation, however.
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