Working groups were formed in several cities, including Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Ottawa. Each centre maintained files on violations of freedom of expression for different countries in the region, and a "Red Alert" network was set up to react to reports of attacks.
A few years later, the group changed its name to the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists and, with it, began to work in other parts of the world.
The past few years have seen another name change - this time to reflect the larger free expression mandate of the organization - as well as a significant expansion of activities of CJFE both in Canada and internationally. Throughout all of the changes that the organization has undergone, it has always been committed to watching over regions of the world where journalists are assaulted, threatened, kidnapped and killed for reporting the news.
One of the principal activities of CJFE is the management of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a global network of more than 80 non-governmental organisations that monitors free expression violations around the world and defends journalists, writers and others who are persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
The CJFE International Press Freedom Awards, which were launched in 1998, have become the signature event of the organization's press freedom awareness activities in Canada. The gala dinner brings together some of the biggest names in Canadian media to honour colleagues from Canada and around the world who have been persecuted because of their work.
The majority of the event's proceedings go to the Journalists in Distress Fund, which has given thousands of dollars to persecuted journalists around the world over the years.
Two awards are given each year to foreign journalists who overcome great odds to report the news. Past award winners include Tunisian journalist and human rights activist Sihem Bensedrine, Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, Kazakhstani journalist Lira Baysetova and Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji.
CJFE presents two other awards: the Tara Singh Hayer Press Freedom Award and the Vox Liberas Award.
The Tara Singh Hayer Press Freedom Award honours a Canadian journalist who, through his or her work, has made an important contribution to reinforcing and promoting the principle of freedom of the press in this country or elsewhere. The award is named after the Canadian journalist and editor of the Vancouver-based Indo-Canadian Times who was assassinated in November 1998.
The Vox Liberas Award is given to a non-journalist who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the principles of free expression and who has had made an important and sustained contribution - at home or abroad - to those same principles.
CJFE operates the Journalists in Distress Fund for the benefit of working journalists in defence of democracy, human rights, justice and freedom of expression. The fund exists primarily to encourage freedom of expression and the practice of journalism, and to provide humanitarian assistance to journalists whose lives and well-being are threatened.
The Fund provides financial assistance to journalists and their families whose lives are at risk or whose freedom of expression has been seriously infringed. Examples of fundable expenses are medical costs arising from imprisonment or physical mistreatment, legal costs arising from action taken in the courts against journalists because of their reporting as well as emergency travel costs so that journalists and their families can escape persecution.
Among other cases, the Journalists in Distress Fund has provided emergency assistance to a trio of persecuted Ethiopian journalists who fled to Kenya; a Thai journalist who, after recovering from a shooting, required money to continue publication of his newspaper; and the wife and child of a disappeared Belarusian journalist, who was said to have been abducted on orders of the government.