Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee that oversees human rights, together with their fellow senate constituents, introduced a bipartisan resolution on May 20th to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. Senators Menendez and Rubio led a bipartisan coalition of 13 senators to create the resolution, which gives prominence to the sacrifices that journalists worldwide have had to bear while in pursuit of truth and accountability. This resolution also recognizes the increasing international threats to freedoms of the press and expression during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Resolution highlights data and research from press freedom organizations, including Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom House, that demonstrate the extent to which freedom of the press have been threatened and intimidated. The resolution highlights the countries in which the press has been the target of threats and intimidation, murder, unlawful imprisonment, censorship and terrorism throughout the world. It also underlines how foreign governments are using laws that were mandated to confront the COVID-19 pandemic to restrict the reporting of information regarding the Coronavirus.
Additionally the resolution cites China, the Philippines, Mexico, Egypt, Iran, Cuba, Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, Iran, Equatorial Guinea, Belarus, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia and Saudi Arabia, as being among those nations where journalists are suffering the worst attacks regarding freedom of the press, including imprisonment, physical attacks, kidnapping, censorship, and murder. It also cites the ongoing detention of American journalist Austin Tice, who has been held in Syria since August 2012, and confirms the US Senate’s conclusion surrounding the October 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi as a murder by a team of Saudi operatives at the behest of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Turkey remains in first place, at the top of the list of jailers of independent journalists around the world. During 2019, the Turkish government shut down more than 100 news outlets.
The resolution concludes by calling upon the United States President and the Secretary of State to recognize and to promote the respect and protection of freedom of the press around the world, to preserve and build upon the leadership of the United States on issues relating to freedom of the press based upon the First Amendment of the US Constitution, to improve the rapid identification, publication, and response by the US government to threats against freedom of the press around the world, and to urge foreign governments to protect these same freedoms of the press and to transparently investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of attacks against journalists.
The United States is currently ranked at #45 out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2020 World Press Freedom Index. World Press Freedom Day is celebrated on May 3rd.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s press release introducing this Resolution can be found here.
Click here to read the full Resolution.