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New York, July 23, 2020— Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international anchor and a senior adviser to CPJ, today called on Congress to protect independent media and press freedom in the United States, saying, “Your democratic legitimacy depends on it.”
In prepared remarks for a hearing of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission, Amanpour said she was dismayed by the scale of attacks on journalists covering recent U.S. protests and that President Donald Trump’s denigration of the media is a significant backdrop.
“I cannot tell you how many world leaders use the words ‘fake news’ to justify their crackdowns. If it’s a good enough bludgeon for the President of the United States, it’s more than good enough for us, they reason,” Amanpour said, according to her prepared remarks. “Americans, as well as people and leaders around the world must know it will not be tolerated.”
CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch and David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, also testified. In addition to the unprecedented attacks on journalists covering Black Lives Matter protests, and anti-press rhetoric coming from the White House, the hearing covered recent politicized changes at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
“Covering civil unrest is already a challenge for journalists and, when coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists are presented with an extraordinarily risky situation in trying to protect both their health and safety,” Radsch testified, according to her prepared remarks. “Despite a less-than-stellar press freedom record at home, the world still looks to the U.S. for leadership on this issue. Given that the current administration has not been a forceful advocate for press freedom, the burden falls on Congress and the international community to increase their efforts.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is investigating more than 500 reported press freedom aggressions since May 26, an unprecedented surge. In response, CPJ and partner groups sent letters to Trump and to state authorities calling for action.
Full testimony from today’s hearing is available on the Helsinki Commission’s website and YouTube channel. CPJ’s reporting on press freedom in the U.S. includes the 2020 report, “The Trump Administration and the Media,” authored by former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie, Jr.