In a report released Friday, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press outlines key findings and insights from the Inter American Press Association’s mission to the United States in light of U.S. politicians’ onslaught of verbal attacks and hostility toward journalists in recent years.
Such incidents in the U.S. — the home of the First Amendment, and historically a beacon of free speech and free press rights for the rest of the hemisphere, if not the world — raised alarm bells for IAPA, a Miami-based nonprofit dedicated to press freedom and free expression in the Americas. At a conference last fall, IAPA resolved to send a delegation of prominent journalists from Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and the U.S. to Washington, D.C., to express concerns with U.S. authorities about the state of press freedoms in the country.
The Reporters Committee hosted the delegation in early February 2018 and facilitated the journalists’ meetings with members of Congress and their staff, current and former members of the executive branch, a federal appeals court judge, and several academics and journalists. During the meetings, the delegation sought to learn about the state of press freedom in the U.S. Throughout their meetings in D.C., the IAPA delegates also offered their perspectives on and lessons to be learned from the dangers of anti-press rhetoric and government retaliation based on their experiences with press censorship in Latin America, which are outlined in the report.
Six of the delegation’s eight key findings outline recent threats to press freedom in the U.S., including unprecedented verbal attacks from prominent politicians; creeping authoritarianism driven by anti-press rhetoric and declining public trust in the news media; government surveillance of journalists and an increased number of investigations into leaks to the media; rising risks to journalists’ physical safety; financial woes, especially among local news outlets; and government opposition to a select media company merger.
Despite this adversity, however, the report notes that the First Amendment — safeguarded by the judiciary — continues to create a powerful check on any attempts to regulate or limit the free press, and that a robust, diverse and independent news media has continued to fulfill its duty of informing the public about government misconduct.
Based on these findings, the Reporters Committee and IAPA call upon the American public and policymakers to denounce recent attacks designed to undermine press freedom in the U.S., and urge government officials to serve as a beacon of freedom of speech and the press abroad.
Read the full report here.