RTDNA and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force today expressed gratitude to Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) for standing up for a free press in light of a new report documenting a record number of journalists jailed in countries around the world.
In its annual report of journalists detained worldwide, the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that 262 journalists are being held behind bars in 2017 in retaliation for their work, up from last year’s record of 259. A majority of them, 134, are being held in three countries: Turkey, China and Egypt.
The report castigates President Trump for not pressuring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to uphold human rights, including the need for a free press in their countries. The CPJ notes that our president’s frequent use of the term “fake news” to describe responsible journalism he doesn’t like, or finds inconvenient, has emboldened such strongmen to repress journalists.
RTDNA is thanking Sen. McCain for tweeting out the CPJ report along with a message encouraging President Trump to stop his attacks on responsible journalism.
A CPJ interactive map referenced in its report shows no journalists currently detained in the United States, although, according to its U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which RTDNA is a founding partner, at least 32 reporters and photojournalists have been arrested so far in 2017 just for performing their Constitutionally-guaranteed duty to seek and report the truth.
Most of the journalists detained in the U.S. this year were released without charges, or were charged with crimes but later had the charges dropped. Notably, two independent journalists arrested in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day, January 20, still face more than a half dozen felony charges that could land each in prison for more than 70 years.
“RTDNA joins Sen. McCain in urging President Trump to tamp down his near-constant demonizing of responsible journalism. Not only has it empowered despots in other countries to crack down on press freedom, it has emboldened his supporters and others in the United States to lash out at journalists, often in very harsh ways,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Executive Director.
“Sadly, our president has weaponized the term ‘fake news’ at home and abroad,” Shelley added.
In addition to the 32 journalists arrested in the U.S. thus far this year, the Tracker documents that at least 36 reporters and photojournalists have been physically assaulted in 2017. Two of them were assaulted by politicians in May, Alaska State Sen. David Wilson (R-Wasilla) and Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte (R-Montana). Twenty-two were arrested while covering protests.
Wilson was not charged with a crime. Gianforte was arrested and charged with assault, and later pleaded guilty, but went on to win his election and is now serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Thank you, Sen. McCain. RTDNA greatly appreciates your advocacy for a free press and your many decades of service to our country,” Shelley said.
RTDNA formed the nonpartisan Voice of the First Amendment Task Force early this year to defend against threats to the First Amendment and news media access, and to help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. Reach out to the task force by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
RTDNA is the world’s largest professional organization devoted exclusively to advocating on behalf of broadcast and digital journalists. RTDNA members include local and network news executives, news directors, producers, reporters, photographers, editors, multimedia journalists and digital news professionals in broadcasting, cable and digital media, as well as journalism educators and students. Founded as a grassroots organization in 1946, RTDNA works to protect the rights of broadcast and digital journalists in the courts and legislatures throughout the country, promotes ethical standards in the industry, provides members with training and education and honors outstanding work in the profession through the Edward R. Murrow Awards.