Reporters Without Borders (RSF), RTDNA and 20 partner organizations launched a campaign today to encourage voters to ask their congressional candidates in the United States midterm elections where they stand on press freedom. The campaign seeks to galvanize the American public in protecting and defending the First Amendment.
As the US midterm elections approach, Reporters Without Borders and a coalition of partners, including RTDNA, are launching the #DefendPressFreedom campaign, which urges voters to contact their candidate through phone calls, letters, at town hall meetings, or on social media, and ask them where they stand on press freedom. By doing this, we hope to bring to light the critically important role that journalists play in the US, as well as the dire need to preserve press freedom in the midst of its concerningly steady decline. It is vital to remember the crucial role journalists play in empowering the community to make more informed decisions and to hold those in power accountable. This is why It’s time to remind those running for office of the importance of an independent and free media. It’s time to #DefendPressFreedom.
"Too often, today’s candidates and elected officials disparage, lash out at, obstruct and even attack journalists working to keep the public informed about how those officials are conducting the public’s business," says RTDNA Executive Director Dan Shelley. "RTDNA and our partners are encouraging voters to remind their congressional candidates that they are responsible to the people and that upholding press freedom is a crucial mechanism for accountability."
In the US, assaults against reporters, photojournalists, and media workers are becoming more and more commonplace. Physical, verbal, and online attacks against reporters undermine the media's role as a critical pillar of democracy, consequently creating opportunities for government overreach, the erosion of the First Amendment, and infringing on the public’s right to be informed.
On June 28th, 2018 one of the most horrific attacks on press freedom in the US unfolded when five employees, including four reporters, were killed at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. This shooting did not happen in a vacuum: open hostility against journalists is on the rise in the US. While covering the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, journalists were impersonated on social media, impeding their ability to accurately investigate the facts and disseminate information that could be vital for preventing similar tragedies.
In May 2017, then-congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on the eve of his special election to the US House of Representatives after Jacobs persistently asked him questions regarding healthcare reform – an issue that impacts every American. Jacobs is just one of 45 journalists to be physically attacked in 2017, along with at least 34 more this year. More and more journalists and media outlets have reported being the target of death threats in relation to the stories they cover.
To learn more about the campaign, visit the #DefendPressFreedom webpage.