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President Trump Approves Journalist Memorial

Donald Trump
(Image credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Stop the presses! President Trump has taken action to honor journalists.

Actually it was only putting his signature on a bill, though with his refusal to sign the defense authorization and COVID-19 and omnibus spending bills, perhaps that was a heavy lift in the current climate.

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The President has signed into law the Fallen Journalists Memorial Act, which authorizes the building of a national memorial in D.C. honoring journalists who have died in the line of duty, that duty being keeping the world informed.

“Since our nation’s founding, a free press has played an integral role in reporting the facts, informing the public and holding our democratic institutions to account," said National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith. "Sadly, too often, journalists have made the ultimate sacrifice at home and abroad in service to the First Amendment. America’s broadcasters commend Congress for passing and President Trump for signing into law the Fallen Journalists Memorial Act to commemorate those who have lost their lives reporting the news.”

One of those that hit particularly close to home for reporters covering the communications beat was the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002 while covering Islamic extremists in Pakistan. Pearl had covered telecommunications in D.C. the late 1990s before becoming the paper's South Asia bureau chief. 

Also Read: President Signs Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act

The bill does not fund the memorial. In fact it says federal funds can't be used for that purpose.*  But it does establish the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation, which is authorized to create a memorial on federal land commemorating "America's commitment to a free press as represented by journalists who sacrificed their lives in service to that cause." The foundation is "solely responsible for acceptance of contributions and payment of the expenses for the establishment of the commemorative work."

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President Trump has been, inarguably, the harshest critic of journalists and mainstream media of any modern President, mocking their appearance, calling them corrupt and enemies and criminals and purveyors of fake news. He has himself been branded (while a presidential candidate) by the Committee to Protect Journalists as a threat to press freedom “unknown in modern history,” as well as an ongoing threat to journalist safety.

*The 1986 Commemorative Works Act generally prohibits the use of federal funds for memorial design and construction, but Congress has made exceptions, including in 2005 appropriating $10 million for the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, but only as a matching grant.