The House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution recognizing growing threats to press freedom around the world in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day. House Resolution 345 is a powerful and much-needed reaffirmation of the importance of U.S. leadership in countering rising antagonism toward professional news gathering and violence against journalists across the globe, PEN America said today. 

“PEN America applauds the House for taking a stand in support of press freedom and journalists everywhere,” said PEN America Washington director Thomas O. Melia. “In this harrowing global climate of declining free expression, increasing violence against journalists, and ever more virulent denigration of the press, the House affirmed by passing this resolution that press freedom is a cornerstone of democracy that must not be taken for granted. The Trump Administration must take note of the message Congress is sending: The United States should fight against threats to free expression worldwide for the safety of journalists and the health of democratic society.”

Adopted Monday, H. Res. 345 brings attention to declining press freedom indicators reported by both Freedom House and Reporters without Borders. It also highlights the cases of Myanmar journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, as well as Saudi activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan. PEN America honored all five with its PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

In Myanmar, authorities targeted Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo for their reporting exposing a massacre of ten Rohingya Muslim men in the country’s Rakhine state. They were released in May on an amnesty, but they have not yet been exonerated of the spurious charges against them. In Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz, Al-Hathloul, and Al-Nafjan were detained as part of a wave of arrests of women’s rights activists that took place as the Saudi government was reversing the ban on women driving; the activists had all called for the ban to be revoked. All three remain in detention or under house arrest. 

The House resolution, introduced by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH), co-chairs of the Press Freedom Caucus, also calls on the executive branch to redouble its efforts to promote freedom of the press in American foreign policy.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected]