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Cardin Statement on World Press Freedom Day

Senator offers respect to free press, condemns targeting of reporters, calls for justice for perpetrators of violence against media

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement Wednesday to commemorate World Press Freedom Day:

“On World Press Freedom Day, we pause to celebrate and take stock of the role that free media plays in a democratic society, to condemn the public demonization of the media both at home and abroad, and to honor those heroic journalists abroad who have lost their lives while reporting.

“A free, independent press plays a crucial role in promoting and protecting democracy. A free press enables citizens to hold their governments and leaders accountable and promotes the kind of open society where ideas and genuine freedom flourish. However, all too often governments seeking to cover up their own corruption, brutality, and incompetence target journalists through criminalization, harassment, and sometimes even imprisonment and murder to silence their crucial work.

“Corruption is one of the most dangerous beats for journalists, and one of the most essential to holding those in power accountable. Of the 1,236 journalists who have been killed since 1992, a staggering 249 have been killed while covering corruption.

“According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mexico is the deadliest country for journalists in the world today, with 30 percent of all journalists killed since 1992 while covering corruption.  I recently met with independent journalists and human rights activists in Mexico City, and was honored to hear their stories and learn more about their important work. In India, that corruption statistic jumps to 40 percent. We know that corruption is one of the biggest impediments to good governance, the rule of law and poverty reduction, and that the work of journalism as a public watchdog over official corruption is essential. However, these statistics are a stark reminder that threats against journalists remain real and lethal.

“Impunity following attacks on journalists is rampant. Governments must take action to investigate and hold accountable all responsible for attacks on journalists, with genuine investigations and prosecutions a priority. Anything less is unacceptable.

“Attempts to silence, harass, or intimidate the press must be condemned. On this World Press Freedom Day, we recommit ourselves to protecting journalists from censorship and violence, and honor their work.”