WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reintroduced legislation to promote press freedom and the protection of journalists worldwide. The Global Press Freedom Act would direct the U.S. State Department to establish an Ambassador-at-Large for press freedom and train Foreign Service Officers on how to help promote media independence and protect foreign journalists.
“The men and women who continue to report the news around the world despite the hardships and risks, are guardians of the truth and democracy,” said Senator Cardin. “The United States is not immune from efforts to limit open reporting and spread disinformation, even violence against members of the media. We must continue to support journalists as they carry out their work to report the truth here at home and around the world.”
“Our democracy depends on the ability of journalists to ask tough questions, dig for the truth, and report what they find — without fear of violence or persecution. Freedom of the press is a priority in our founding documents, and it must be a cornerstone of our domestic and foreign policy,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill reasserts our commitment to a free press at home and abroad, empowering the State Department to engage with these issues diplomatically on the world stage.”
“Freedom of the press is essential to democracy, good governance, and holding those in power accountable. This principle was enshrined in our founding documents for that reason. Our proposal will empower American diplomats to support a free press around the globe,” said Senator Young.
In the Senate, the Global Press Freedom Act is cosponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Colin Allred (D-Texas) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).
“Democracies across the world are at risk, and more than ever we need a robust and healthy free press,” said Representative Allred. “In 2022 alone, 363 journalists were detained in more than 30 countries, which is an undeniable attack on press freedom. America’s leadership on this front is as important as ever, and the continued success of independent journalists is dependent on protecting their rights as well as the right to freedom of expression. This bill advances that important goal by establishing an Office of Press Freedom to use diplomatic tools to coordinate efforts to defend press freedom abroad.”
“At this moment in our shared human history, we need journalists more than ever before,” said Representative Connolly. “Yet, right now, journalism itself is under unprecedented attack. From intimidation and persecution of individual reporters to broader crackdowns on freedom of the press, this is a perilous moment for truth-seekers across the globe. We must do all we can to support and expand freedom of the press – a foundational democratic ideal.”
Press freedom has faced a staggering global decline in recent years. According to Reporters Without Borders’ 2023 World Press Freedom Index, the environment for journalism is “satisfactory” or better in just 3 out of 10 countries.
The Global Press Freedom Act aims to institutionalize America’s commitment to advancing press freedom abroad. The legislation would create an Ambassador-at-Large for press freedom, who would be tasked with engaging with foreign governments and organizations, drawing attention to violations of press freedom and reporter safety, and ensuring each country’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices prioritizes press freedom in its “Free Expression” section. The bill would also establish a press freedom curriculum in the training of Foreign Service Officers, empowering them to assist in the protection of journalists and press freedom while stationed overseas.
The Schatz-Young legislation is supported by PEN America, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Freedom House.
The full text of the bill is available here.