Archival Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Committee to Protect Journalists records, 1978-2009 

Committee to Protect Journalists,.
Phys. Desc: 
251 linear feet (202 record storage cartons and 1 video box)
Call Number: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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Biographical Note

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) was founded at a time when violence against journalists was escalating, particularly in Latin America. A particular case, involving Alcibiades Gonzalez Delvalle, inspired the founding of CPJ. In 1980, Gonzalez, a prominent Paraguayan newspaper columnist, was touring in the United States when he was informed that a warrant for his arrest had been issued in Asuncion, and his case was publicized prior to his return to Paraguay. The case continued to receive media attention upon Gonzalez's arrest, and the resulting pressure on the Paraguayan government led to his release. But in working on this case, journalists who had helped Gonzalez in the United States also realized that there was no organization of American journalists dedicated to assisting their colleagues working in foreign countries. This group approached other reporters, columnists, and editors who had demonstrated an interest in freedom of the press. The most prominent of these was Walter Cronkite, who agreed to serve as the honorary chairman for the newly formed CPJ. CPJ has grown tremendously since its founding in 1981. Its work has expanded to deal not only with freeing imprisoned journalists, but also working for their safety, and arranging safe conduct for those in immediate danger. The CPJ continues to work for freedom for journalists, the press, and other media outlets by documenting, publicizing, and protesting abuses of the press around the world.

Scope and Contents

The records of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) document the organization's work in promoting press freedom around the world and include clippings, correspondence, minutes, planning materials, publications, and research materials. The records of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) primarily document the Board of Directors, the International Press Freedom Awards Dinner, coverage of CPJ in the press, and actions, cases, programs, research, and publications related to the organization's work in documenting press conditions and promoting press freedom in individual countries and regions. The coverage of the collection extends through 2008, but is most comprehensive through the early 2000s for most series of records at this time. The Board of Directors' records include correspondence (1980-1994) and materials related to board meetings and minutes (1981-1995), as well as Executive Committee (1989-1997) and other committee records (1990, 1995-1997). The Board of Directors' records also include the organization's articles of incorporations and several versions of its bylaws. Records such as members' biographies and members' lists are included in this series, but are incomplete. The collection does not currently include any board records for 1998-present. The International Press Freedom Awards Dinner (IPFAD), which was started in 1991, is well-documented in the collection, particular for 1994-1999. The files include information on the awardees, event planning, and press coverage of the event. The coverage of other CPJ events is less comprehensive; most of these files can be found in Series IV: CPJ Office Files. The collection also contains good documentation of the press' coverage of CPJ. CPJ kept clippings of instances where CPJ's work was discussed in the press or where CPJ was cited as a source of information, and used a clippings service to assist in this documentation effort. The collection contains both chronological and topical clippings for 1981-2008. The collection's largest portion of records deals with actions, cases, programs, research, and publications related to the organization's work in documenting press conditions and promoting press freedom in individual countries and regions. There is a separate series of that documents only country actions and protest letters in Series V. The majority of the other records related to this work are filed in Series VI. Much of the documentation is Series VI consists of records related to CPJ's data-gathering activities, conducted for the purpose of investigating and documenting cases and press conditions. Many of these records consist of research materials gathered from secondary sources. Other records - correspondence, documentation of telephone calls, press releases, protest letters, etc. - tend to be mixed in with the research materials in the same files. CPJ publications that document CPJ's activities and press conditions in particular countries are filed in Series VII: Publications. Series VII: Publications contains published newsletters, serial publications, reports, and other publications issued by CPJ. The collection's coverage of these publications is best before the mid-1990s, when CPJ began to regularly distribute publications and reports through its website. There is a lack of certain types of records in the collection which would provide more comprehensive documentation of the organization as a whole. In particular, there is a lack of Executive Directors' records, financial records, membership records, policy documents, and press releases in the collection. There are few records from Executive Directors, and a small set of records related to William Orne is incomplete and was probably created and maintained by secretarial staff. There are no complete and identifiable sets of records kept by Executive Directors currently present in the collection. The collection includes a small amount of CPJ policy documents, procedural manuals, and informational materials outside of the Board of Directors records. Materials of this type were gathered together and placed in Series IV: CPJ Office Files. There are additional materials of this type found with Alice Chasan's files that were kept with her materials in Series VIII.1. The collection also lacks financial records, including annual financial statements, budgets, and tax documents. There are no annual reports in the collection. Existing financial records are included in Series IV: CPJ Office Files. These primarily include records from 1981-1984, although there are a few records from the mid-1990s. There are records related to development efforts and grants in Series IX: Development, but they are incomplete. There are few membership records in the collection; these are also filed in Series IV: CPJ Office Files. The few existing files date from 1989-1990 and 1999-2000. The documentation of activities related to communications and publicity is incomplete and the coverage is uneven. The majority of existing files date from the 1990s. Most problematic is the lack of a single series of press releases; these are scattered in files related to country and program work, events, and publicity throughout the collection. There is also little audiovisual material in the records. This is primarily because CPJ does not produce much of its own audiovisual material, and instead obtains material from news organizations such as the Associated Press for many of its publications. The collection does have some audiovisual material, particularly photographs, filed in Series VI, VIII, XI and XIII.