At the Overseas Press Club office in New York, staff member Lucrecia (Boots) Duque is in charge of compiling news about the abuse of journalists around the world and sending dispatches to our Freedom of the Press Committee for possible action by the Club. The reports, from the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and other groups, are nothing if not global. In a recent two-week period we had journalists being intimidated, arrested, assaulted and murdered in Oman, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Vietnam, Belarus, Turkey, Egypt and Eritrea. In mid-March, Brazilian crime reporter Rodrigo Neto de Faria was shot dead execution-style in a killing possibly related to his reporting on police corruption.
Covering the world has never been more dangerous — and while we at the OPC complain that the band of reporters traveling beyond our shores is constantly shrinking, the number of people targeted by the authorities is rapidly expanding, as online journalists, bloggers and tweeters take up the task of afflicting the comfortable.
And then, of course, there is the continuing stream of journalist deaths, injuries and disappearances from the civil war in Syria. We honor one of them at tonight’s dinner: Jim Foley, a freelance writer, photographer and videographer who was kidnapped on November 22, 2012. We join his family’s appeal for whoever is holding him to send him home.
In my first half-year as president of the OPC we sponsored a series of programs that addressed some of the human rights issues that have gotten reporters into trouble with the law. None was more moving than our program featuring Danny Lee, a refugee from the North Korean gulag, who spent the first two decades of his life in a concentration camp — for the crime of being born to parents who were already there.
Stories that dig deep into such horrors were prominent in our awards for the best reporting and photography of 2012. Syria, of course, dominates the breaking news categories, with reporters and photographers taking home a half dozen prizes for their coverage of that dangerous conflict. There were also tales from more remote corners of the world. Especially noteworthy is a combination print, radio and video package by WBEZ and ProPublica that uncovers for the first time details of the military massacre that destroyed a village in Guatemala 30 years ago. Equally compelling are the winning reports on violence in Honduras and the “opium brides” of Afghanistan.
—Michael S. Serrill, President