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USA: authorities must condemn violence against journalists and safeguard their right to work

Friday 5 June 2020 - 6:12pm

Journalist in America face risks in their reporting on riots

Update - 11 June 2020

'The PEN charter commits PEN members to "pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel all hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace and equality in one world." It is in this spirit that PEN International stands with those who courageously protest across the globe under the Black Lives Matter banner.

'Nelson Mandela said, "However hard the battle will be, we will not surrender. Whatever the time it will take, we will not tire. The very fact that racism degrades both the perpetrator and the victim commands that, if we are true to our commitment to protect human dignity, we fight on until victory is achieved." His words guide us in these times.'

-Jennifer Clement, PEN International President

Mass protests have broken out in every state following the killing of security guard George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May. During these protests, police forces have arrested more than a dozen journalists, and at least 140 attacks against journalists, perpetrated overwhelmingly by police forces, have been reported. We urge President Donald Trump to condemn these acts of violence and to support the rights of journalists to work without fear of repercussions.

The current crisis highlights the importance of press freedom and the courage of journalists across America, who continue to report despite facing considerable risks. However, President Trump has continued to denounce the role and value of America's independent press – as he has repeatedly throughout his Administration – generating an atmosphere of hostility towards media critical of his government.

The number of attacks and the degree of violence directed against journalists during the protests in at least 30 cities across the United States is unparalleled. This has created opportunities for countries with poor records on press freedom such as Turkey, China and Iran to highlight the ill-treatment of journalists in the United States as a means of shifting attention away from their well-documented violations of the right to free expression.

'As we commend the efforts of journalists who report on the protests at great personal risk, we condemn the rhetoric used by the highest levels of American government. By demeaning the valuable work of investigating, writing and publishing the news, the authorities not only threaten the safety of journalists, but also impede the free flow of information and fuel societal division,' said Carles Torner, PEN International Executive Director.

As a global organisation that defends freedom of expression and has representation in more than 120 countries, PEN International stands in solidarity with journalists in the United States who are reporting during this crisis, and urges the government of the United States to:

  • Support the right of journalists to report.
  • Issue guidelines and protocols of action for the police forces to avoid arrests and shootings against journalists.
  • Stop the stigmatisation of media and reporters critical of the current administration.
  • Respect its obligations under the American Constitution and international law to protect the right to free speech and the freedom of the press.