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Threats to journalists topic of public talk


Threats to journalists topic of public talk 03/26/2003

NEW PALTZ -- On April 3, award-winning foreign correspondent Ann Cooper, who leads the nation's foremost press freedom advocacy group, will discuss global threats to journalists in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The talk will be in the Coykendall Science Building auditorium at 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Department of Communication and Media, the Journalism Program, and the 9/11 Response Planning Committee.

Cooper, a longtime foreign correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) and currently the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), is presently the third James H. Ottaway Sr. Professor of Journalism at the college. She is teaching a spring semester course on the dangers of reporting -- from assassination to imprisonment to harassment -- in an increasingly unstable world. Her talk is entitled "Risky Business: Threats to Journalists Since 9/11."

"We take for granted in America that reporters are not in physical danger when they do their jobs," commented Steven Poskanzer, the SUNY New Paltz interim president. "But in other countries that is not the case, as Ann Cooper knows better perhaps than anyone."

For 22 years, the Committee to Protect Journalists (, has worked to protect reporters and editors under siege because of their work. CPJ'S documentation of thousands of attacks on the press has exposed governments, armed militias, organized crime figures and others who attempt to silence the truth by threatening journalists with imprisonment, violence, or even death. CPJ'S advocacy often has forced a stop to abuses, or prevented further harassment.

Cooper's talk, focusing on press freedom trends in the wake of September 2001, comes at a key moment as reporters around the world face new risks from hostile governments, as well as terrorists. The execution last year of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan brought attention to the risks that even American journalists now face, pointed out Robert Miraldi, coordinator of the college's Journalism Program.

"Cooper's talk is timely and important, especially in light of the strife in the Middle East," Miraldi said. "Both Cooper and CPJ understand that unless reporters are able to freely report events to the public it will be difficult for freedom to take hold in fledgling democracies."

Before her work at CPJ, Cooper was a newspaper reporter and then an award-winning correspondent for NPR in Moscow and South Africa. Her voice was well known to listeners of NPR, reporting on the collapse of Soviet communism, the student uprising in Beijing's Tienanmen Square, the famine in Somalia, and South Africa's historic 1994 all-race elections.

In 1987, Cooper became NPR's first bureau chief in Moscow, where she reported for five years on the decline and ultimate collapse of the SovietUnion. She then served as NPR bureau chief in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 1992-95. Her coverage of South Africa's 1994 elections won the esteemed Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award in broadcast journalism, one of the highest honors in broadcasting.

In 1995 she was named Edward R. Murrow fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City where she studied refugee policy issues. When she returned to NPR she produced a series of broadcasts on international refugee issues, based on reporting in Kenya, Rwanda, Bosnia and Haiti. In 1998 Cooper was named executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Cooper has worked for more than 25 years as a journalist, reporting for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Capitol Hill News Service, the Congressional Quarterly and The Baltimore Sun.

The James H. Ottaway Sr. Professorship is named for the founder of Ottaway Newspapers Inc. of Campbell Hall, N.Y., a coast-to-coast group of 13 daily, 11 Sunday and more than 30 weekly newspapers. The donation to create the professorship was made by James Ottaway Jr., who succeeded his father as the company's chief executive officer in 1976.

Note to editors: Photographs of Ann Cooper may be downloaded from the SUNY New Paltz Web site at