June 25, 2019

Cardin, Portman Call for National Memorial to Fallen Journalists

New monument in nation’s capital would celebrate contributions of journalists who sacrificed everything in pursuit of truth and freedom of the press

WASHINGTON – In advance of the one-year anniversary of the fatal Capital Gazette shooting, the most deadly newsroom shooting in American history, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have introduced legislation that would authorize a national memorial to fallen journalists. The privately funded memorial would be constructed on federal lands within the District of Columbia and would honor journalists, photographers, and broadcasters killed in the line of duty. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is an original cosponsor of the Senate bill. Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (Calif.-32) and Congressman Tom Cole (Okla.-04) have introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Across the National Capital Region, we are privileged to have monuments and memorials to honor those who have helped make our nation and our democracy stronger since its founding days. Currently missing from that honor roll are reporters who have sacrificed everything to report the news in the spirit of the free, open, and transparent societies and governments that Americans — and all people — deserve,” said Senator Cardin. “This new memorial will honor the brave souls lost in the shooting at the Capital Gazette and others who lost their lives doing their job in defense of our freedoms. It will be a visible symbol of their sacrifice and the fragility of our democracy.”

“A free and open press is essential to our democracy, and I’m honored to join Senator Cardin in introducing legislation to establish the National Memorial to Fallen Journalists,” said Senator Portman. “This memorial will serve as a fitting tribute to the men and women in journalism, including those from the Capital Gazette, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of the First Amendment.”

This Friday, June 28, will mark the first anniversary of the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., a newspaper with roots that stretch before the American Revolution. The tragedy left five employees – Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters – dead and two wounded.

“It's a great honor to be involved in the effort to build a memorial to fallen journalists on the National Mall. It is a sacred space and the location that will serve as a reminder of the importance to our democracy of the work for which Rob, Wendi, John, Gerald -- and Rebecca, though she wasn't a journalist -- ultimately sacrificed their lives,” said Capital Gazette Editor Rick Hutzell. “Their names will live on in Annapolis and in the hearts and minds of their loved ones and colleagues. We lucky few who worked with them know the significance of their work to our community. When this memorial is built, we believe seeing their names in the company of such men and women will help others understand it as well.”

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists:

  • at least 1,337 journalists have been killed in the line of duty since 1992
  • each year, hundreds of journalists are attacked, imprisoned, and tortured
  • the majority of the journalists killed are murdered in direct relation to their work as journalists
  • in 9 out of 10 cases, the killers of the journalists go free

In the United States, journalists have been vulnerable to attack or reprisal for their work, including:

  • a freelance photojournalist was killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center
  • in October 2001, a photo editor with the Sun newspaper in Boca Raton, Florida, died from inhaling anthrax, a substance that was mailed to a number of journalists across the United States
  • in August 2007, a masked gunman shot and killed the editor-in-chief of the Oakland Post, a prominent African-American newspaper
  • in August 2015, a reporter and cameraman for television station WDBJ7 were shot dead during a live broadcast in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
  • in June 2018, a gunman killed people, including 4 reporters, at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland
  • at least 59 journalists have been murdered or killed in the United States throughout the history of the United States while reporting; while covering a military conflict; or because of the status of the individual as a journalist.

The Cardin-Portman bill authorizes the Fallen Journalists Memorial (FJM) Foundation to establish a commemorative work (memorial) in the District of Columbia. Eligible federal land would be in “Area I” or “Area II,”, but not in the area designated as “Reserve.” The FJM Foundation must provide the funding necessary for the National Park Service or General Services Administration to maintain the memorial. The Annenberg Foundation and the Ferro Foundation have provided a total of $300,000 in initial funding to launch the FJM Foundation, which will operate under the auspices of the National Press Club Journalism Institute (NPCJI), the non-profit affiliate of the National Press Club. 

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