WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, released the following statement Tuesday in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day:
“Across the globe, journalists take incredible risks to serve an essential function: holding governments and leaders accountable to their citizens. A free press preserves our ability to speak truth to power, and promotes the kind of open society where ideas flourish. Yet far too often reporters face intimidation and imprisonment, and we have witnessed this past year particularly brutal attacks on press freedom.
“Yesterday’s unprecedented raid by Egyptian police on a Cairo press-union building and the arrest of two well regarded journalists on charges of “attempting to destabilize the country” is just one example of the very real threats journalists are facing today. The brutal murders of and attacks against writers and bloggers in Bangladesh for expressing their views are another example, acts that have created a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Bangladeshi authorities must hold the perpetrators accountable and also work to foster a culture of tolerance for all Bangladeshis. These attempts to silence, intimidate and harass journalists are assaults on the principles of democracy.
“The most basic reason journalists are targeted, of course, is to limit and control the free flow of information and ideas. In our increasingly connected world today, repressive governments target the media in order to cover up their own corruption, brutality and incompetence. In Azerbaijan, for example, investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova remains jailed after her work exposing corruption within the country. Russia continues to shrink the space for media freedom by promoting blatant disinformation and revisionist history, harassing and jailing journalists, and increasing its control over all forms of media, including efforts to restrict Internet freedom.
“The United States cannot overlook these assaults on the press, nor can we ignore violations of our own sacred First Amendment rights here at home, such as when journalists are harassed, attacked or aggressively blocked from doing their job of informing the public by politicians, their staff or their supporters.
“Journalists, bloggers and other in the free media are central to good governance. They ensure transparency, accountability and the rule of law. The United States and governments around the world must recommit themselves to protecting press freedom and the vital role it plays in enabling democracy and good governance to prevail.”