(Washington D.C.) — Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) today introduced the Global Press Freedom Act of 2021, which would elevate as a matter of U.S. foreign policy the protection of journalists worldwide. PEN America thanks Senator Schatz for his leadership in this important initiative to reinvigorate press freedom worldwide at a time when assaults on journalism and journalists are proliferating.

“Senator Schatz’s initiative is an important step forward in reaffirming our nation’s commitment to a global free press—a fundamental safeguard and building block of any democracy,” said Thomas O. Melia, director of PEN America’s Washington D.C. office. “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated an already disturbing trend of assaults by too many governments on journalists and free expression more broadly. The bill, when enacted, will not only bring these injustices to light, but will serve as a global accountability measure to ensure our continued support for journalists, reporters, and the broader news and media community. Heightened efforts by the State Department to address these challenges could come at no better time, and PEN America wholeheartedly supports Sen. Schatz’s efforts to reinvigorate America’s role as a defender of the free press worldwide.”

The bill would institutionalize the United States’ commitment to a global free press by creating an ambassador-at-large for press freedom, integrated into the State Department’s bureau for democracy, human rights, and labor with a mandate to engage allies and adversaries in defense of independent journalism. It would also mandate the creation of a press freedom curriculum for foreign service officers, civil service personnel, and others working in the State Department. The bill would also require a report to Congress on the implementation of the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act of 2009, which heightened the attention paid to press freedom in the State Department’s annual human rights reports.