PEN America: U.S. is Most in Need of Press Freedom

PEN America, which advocates for free speech and human rights, is for the first time focusing its World Press Freedom Day (May 3) efforts on the a specific part of the world--the U.S., which it calls "now on the list of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists."

“Press freedom is essential to our democracy, yet with attacks against reporters on the rise, and as we witness the U.S. being downgraded in global press freedom rankings, we must face the fact that we can no longer take press freedom for granted in this country,” said PEN America director of U.S. Free Expression Programs Nora Benavidez.

With the media "regularly denigrated by political leaders—even called the 'enemy of the American people' by the President—and many communities losing local news coverage, PEN America supporters are drawing attention to the growing risks to press freedom here at home."

In addition to hosting speeches, panel sessions and other events around the country, including one featuring CNN VP and assistant general counsel Johnita Due, the group is supporting resolutions by the Senate and House recognizing the growing threats to press freedom "around the world," and one introduced in the House last week more on topic with PEN America's focus on home front threats.

That is House Resolution 325, which "demands the Trump Administration and all future administrations permit press access to briefings and prohibit discrimination based on viewpoint."

It was prompted, says sponsor Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's exclusion of all non-faith based publications from a telephone press briefing, plus the discontinuation of daily press briefings with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

"I’m concerned that the general decline of open press briefings and sometimes exclusive and hostile treatment of the press in the current administration sets a dangerous precedent for future administrations," said Wild, and PEN agrees.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.