Not Our Mission  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Letters
From AJR,   December/January 2005

Not Our Mission   

By Unknown
     


In your piece "A 911 for Journalists" (The Beat, October/November), you suggest that the Committee to Protect Journalists told freelancer Vanessa Leggett that CPJ could not help her because she was not in a "life-or-death" situation. (Leggett was facing a jail sentence for refusing to hand over notes to a federal grand jury.)

The point does not accurately reflect CPJ's actions in the Leggett case, or the organization's mission.

On August 7, 2001, shortly after Leggett's imprisonment, CPJ protested the incarceration in a public letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft and urged a reversal of the contempt order that landed her in jail. Our letter noted that only three journalists were then imprisoned in the entire Western hemisphere: Vanessa Leggett and two Cubans. This shameful comparison with Cuba (where journalists are routinely imprisoned) underscored our argument that the U.S. was sending "exactly the wrong signal to authoritarian governments, who may now show even less restraint in using state power to restrict press freedom."

CPJ was established in 1981 because existing U.S.-based journalism organizations did not take up the cases of journalists outside the United States. CPJ's work was intended to fill the void, by responding to attacks on the press worldwide.

Because such a strong advocacy group exists in the United States, CPJ staff often urges U.S. journalists such as Vanessa Leggett to report their cases to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Ann Cooper
Executive director
Committee to Protect Journalists
New York, New York

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