Statement of Rick Blum, Director, News Media for Open Government
In these deeply polarized times, the demand for credible, reliable news and information about what the government is doing in the public’s name has never been higher. Telling important stories that help citizens make informed choices for our communities and our nation is more vital than ever. Journalists certainly have thick skin, but it is clear those who inform the public are under threat. Dozens of physical assaults on journalists doing their jobs were documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in 2017. Online harassment of journalists has included death threats and threats of sexual and other physical violence. Taken together, it is clear that not only is the role of the news media in our democracy under attack, but the safety of individual journalists is threatened.
It’s time to reverse course. Physical violence and intimidation should never get in the way of covering police, protesters, presidents and other public matters. Each one of us – those who took an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution and those of us who pledge allegiance to our country through our citizenship – have an obligation to defend, protect and strengthen our democracy and the free flow of information for an informed public.
We thank Representative Swalwell and the co-sponsors of the Journalist Protection Act for standing up to defend press freedoms in the United States. The safety of journalists is not a partisan issue, nor should it become one. We look forward to working with Members of Congress and other influential voices in society to defend and protect those who keep the public informed and the free flow of information in our democracy.