Washington, DC—PEN America welcomed introduction of the Journalist Protection Act, with support from both chambers of Congress, last week. As proposed, the bill would provide a federal avenue of penalty to charge those who assault and cause bodily harm to journalists in the course of their newsgathering. PEN America’s Washington Director, Thomas O. Melia, released the following statement to support attention to this critical issue of press freedom and safety in the United States:

“At a time when threats to journalists are on the rise in the United States, we welcome introduction of this legislation as a launching point for discussion around the role our government can play in elevating the risks to members of the media. Whether it is our own president’s attacks against the media which inspire assaults on journalists or revelations that federal agencies are violating journalists’ privacy rights, this new legislation is a shot across the bow, recasting our government’s view of the press as something worth protecting. We urge that hearings on this legislation be convened as soon as possible in both the House and Senate to review and refine the proposals.”

Amid the rising threats to press freedom in the U.S., PEN America filed a federal lawsuit against the president to hold him accountable for his retaliation against members of the media which has resulted in violations of their First Amendment rights. You can learn more about our lawsuit here. See The Guardian’s op-ed regarding our lawsuit and the critical importance of protecting the media in this country from attacks by the president.

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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: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org