World Press Freedom Day 2010: Bloggers Behind Bars: Increasing Number of Online Journalists in Jail Limits Freedom of Expression

In honor of World Press Freedom Day 2010, CIMA organized a discussion about threats to the safety of bloggers. For the first time, the number of online journalists in prison almost surpasses the number of jailed traditional print and broadcast journalists. At least 68 bloggers, Web-based reporters, and online editors are under arrest worldwide, constituting half of all journalists now in jail, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported in its 2009 prison census.

China, Egypt, and Iran are considered the most dangerous countries for journalism on the Internet. As online reporting gains influence in countries with repressive regimes, governments are increasing harassment and violence. Bloggers are more vulnerable than journalists in many ways. Many are not attached to media companies and often do not have legal resources or political connections to help them fight for their freedom once in jail. Unlike traditional journalists, bloggers often work from home or in a solitary location making it easy for government officials or thugs to abduct them. The rise in arrests and intimidation of online journalists threatens freedom of expression worldwide.

Honorary Co-Hosts

Senator Richard Lugar                    Representative Adam Schiff
Senator Christopher Dodd               Representative Mike Pence

Congressional Caucus for the Freedom of the Press Co-Chairs

Remarks by

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
U.S. House of Representatives
18th District, Florida
Click Here to Watch Video of Remarks 

Congressman Adam Schiff
U.S. House of Representatives
29th District, California
Click Here to Watch Video of Remarks

Carl Gershman
National Endowment for Democracy
Click Here to Watch Video of Remarks

Featured Speakers:   

Rob Faris
Research Director, Berkman Center for Internet and Society
Harvard University
Click Here to Watch Video of Remarks

Robert Mahoney
Deputy Director
Committee to Protect Journalists
Click Here to Watch Video of Remarks

Tienchi Martin-Liao
Independent Chinese PEN Center
Click Here to Watch Video of Remarks

Omid Memarian
Freelance Writer
Inter Press Service News Agency Rooz Online
Click Here to Watch Video of Remarks

About the Participants

Robert Faris is research director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. His research focuses on the interaction of online speech, government regulation of the Internet and political processes. He is a contributor to the OpenNet Initiative, studying Internet censoring policy and practice around the world. Faris’s recent publications include Reading Twitter in Tehran, Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere: Politics, Culture and Dissent, and Madison and the Smart Mob: The Promise and Limitations of the Internet for Democracy. He holds an M.A. and PhD in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Robert Mahoney is an experienced international journalist and press freedom advocate. He has been deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) since January 2007. He has spearhead CPJ’s move into the defense of online journalism and a free and open Internet. He helped CPJ become a founding member of the Global Network Initiative, a partnership of Internet companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, and leading nongovernmental groups and academics, which fights for freedom of expression and user privacy online. Mahoney sits on the Global Network Initiative board. At CPJ, Mahoney covers a broad swath of press freedom issues including the harassment and jailing of journalists. Before joining CPJ, he worked for Reuters in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. In 2004, Mahoney taught journalism for the Reuters Foundation in the Middle East, and he has worked as a consultant for Human Rights Watch.

Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners and other human rights books. She regularly writes analytical articles and commentaries about political, social, and cultural issues in China. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.

Omid Memarian is an Iranian journalist and blogger. He works as a freelance writer for the Inter Press Service News Agency and regularly blogs for the Huffington Post. After the June 12 elections in Iran, he worked as a researcher for Human Rights Watch to document the post-election violence and has daily contact with bloggers and online journalists in Iran. The Iranian government jailed Memarian for his work as a journalist in October 2004, releasing him that December. He is well known for his news analysis, regular columns and blogs in English and Persian and has had op-ed pieces published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and He was chief researcher for Reese Erlich’s book entitled Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and The Middle East Crisis. In 2005, he received the Human Rights Defender Award from Human Rights Watch. He was a World Peace Fellow at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in 2007 to 2009.

Congressman Adam Schiff represents California’s 29th Congressional District and is a co-chair of the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Caucus for the Freedom of the Press. He is a member of the Judiciary Committee, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Appropriations Committee, as well as the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. Representative Schiff was elected to Congress in 2000, having served in the California State Senate for four years and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Los Angeles office for six years.


The Center for International Media Assistance, an initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy, brings together a broad range of media experts with the goal of strengthening the support for and improving the effectiveness of media assistance programs by providing information, building networks, and conducting research on the indispensable role independent media play in creating sustainable democracies around the world.
The Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press was organized in May 2006.  The bipartisan, bicameral caucus is co-chaired by Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Michael Pence (R-IN), and Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Lugar (R-IN).  It aims to advance press freedom by creating a forum to combat and condemn media censorship and the persecution of journalists worldwide.