Dana R. Bullen - June 25, 2007

Dana R. Bullen, 75, foreign editor of The Washington Star when it closed in 1981 and then executive director of the World Press Freedom Committee for 15 years, died June 25, 2007, of cancer at his home in Alexandria.

During 21 years at The Star, among other positions Bullen also was U.S. Supreme Court reporter, U.S. Senate reporter, covered the 1968 presidential campaign, wrote a weekly syndicated column on constitutional law and was an assistant news editor. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1966-67.

In 1980, on a year's leave as journalist-in-residence at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Bullen initially volunteered with the WPFC, representing the organization at four major international conferences, including a landmark UNESCO meeting in Paris considering licensing of journalists in the name of "protecting" them. After confrontational sessions, the restrictive proposal was set aside. "I was outraged at what some groups were trying to do, and it made me realize what needed to be done," Bullen later said.

As executive director of the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), he fought proposals to restrict news in many forums, especially at UNESCO where Soviet bloc and authoritarian Third World countries pushed, ultimately unsuccessfully, to establish a government-oriented "new world information and communication order." Under such a "new order," the Paris-based U.N. educational, scientific and cultural organization was to be given a mandate to chart major aspects of the news media's future course. The WPFC is a leading global press freedom monitoring, coordination and advocacy organization, with headquarters in Reston, Va., that joins 45 journalistic organizations on six continents.

"On any list of dedicated, articulate, persistent and effective defenders of freedom of the press across the world for the past several decades, Dana Bullen ranks among the very best," said Harold W. Andersen, retired publisher of the Omaha World-Herald, former chairman of the American Newspaper Publishers Association and chairman emeritus of WPFC. "The World Press Freedom Committee which he served so admirably for so long would simply not have been as effective without Dana carrying a principal share of the leadership load. Wherever men believe that a free press means a free people, Dana Bullen will be remembered."

Dana Ripley Bullen II was born in Boston, Mass., on August 6, 1931. He attended Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., and earned journalism and law degrees at the University of Florida. Following active duty as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, he came to the Washington area in 1958, joining The Star the next year after working for a suburban paper. During the time he covered the Supreme Court for The Star, he was believed to be the first reporter with this beat who also had been admitted to practice before the court.

In later years, as executive director of the World Press Freedom Committee, Bullen represented it at U.N., intergovernmental and related conferences, spoke and wrote widely, produced books, studies and other materials and organized or co-organized numerous international meetings on press freedom issues. These include one in 1981 in Talloires, France, at which news leaders from 21 countries including chiefs of the five leading Western news agencies took a united stand for the first time against restrictive "new world order" proposals. Others included a London conference in 1987 at which journalists from 34 countries approved what became the "Charter for a Free Press", and one in Washington following the collapse of the Soviet bloc at which representatives of 80 organizations met at WPFC's call to consider how best to aid emerging independent news media in Eastern Europe.

Books and studies that Bullen wrote or edited for WPFC included "Voices of Freedom", a 25-year view of press freedom challenges in international forums and WPFC's role in meeting them; "Hiding From the People", on use in many countries of "insult" laws to shield officials from press scrutiny, and "Killed, Wounded, Jailed, Expelled", a ground-breaking early world survey of abuses against journalists.

Problems at UNESCO finally abated in the late 1980s -- and it changed course to became a champion of a free press --after years of continuing activity by press groups in which WPFC played a leading role, changed UNESCO leadership, strong action by the United States, which left UNESCO temporarily, and erosion of press controllers' strength with the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Started during Bullen's tenure were full-time monitoring of UNESCO and other Europe-based bodies and other joint activities that WPFC administered for a global Press Freedom Coordinating Committee.

A cooperative Fund Against Censorship that Bullen conceived and developed was also launched that helps provide local legal representation for journalists in trouble.

Bullen retired as WPFC executive director in 1996, but remained an adviser to the group for a further 10 years during which press freedom on the Internet became a major concern. Among citations, Bullen twice received the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award for his coverage of the Supreme Court and the law, and in 2000 was awarded the Inter American Press Association's Chapultepec Grand Prize in recognition of his work for press freedom.

Survivors include his wife, Joyce Cornell Bullen of Alexandria; a brother, Pierce K. Bullen, of Washington, D.C., a niece and three nephews.

Attribution: Journalist, Press Freedom Advocate, Photo courtesy of: World Press Freedom Committee

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