November 17, 2016
Vice-President-elect Mike Pence
President-elect Transition Team
1800 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
Via facsimile: (317) 232-3443
Dear Vice-President-elect Pence,
We, the Committee to Protect Journalists–an independent, non-profit organization that advocates for press freedom worldwide–are concerned about the incoming administration’s commitment to upholding freedom of the press in the United States and around the world.
As you lead the transition team for the White House, we seek a meeting with you to discuss our concerns and recommendations for guaranteeing First Amendment values under the Trump Administration. We would also like to remind incoming officials of the danger that harassment of the press in the United States will be used as a pretext by repressive leaders around the world to persecute their critics.
CPJ documents attacks on the press, including physical attacks, threats, and censorship, and advocates for policies that facilitate the free flow of information. Under the Obama Administration, CPJ found that journalists struggled to get crucial information from sources amid aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information; decisions by the Department of Justice to seize journalists’ phone records and emails; and broad electronic surveillance programs. We also found, in our 2013 special report, “The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America,” that routine disclosure of information fell fall short of promises to run an open and transparent White House.
During the presidential campaign and since its conclusion, the climate for journalists has deteriorated sharply. President-elect Trump has obstructed major news organizations, attacked reporters by name, and contributed to a threatening climate for journalists covering the election.
These actions in the United States set a terrible example for the rest of the world, where governments routinely justify intervention in the media by citing national security, and where vilification of the press by public figures creates a divisive environment ripe for attacks on press freedom.
CPJ is committed to documenting serious violations of freedom of the press. Traditionally, such violations have been few and far between in the United States, and we want to work with the new administration to ensure that remains so.
Mr. Vice-President-elect, you have a strong record of supporting First Amendment values. As a founding member of the Congressional Caucus for the Freedom of the Press, you have hosted events highlighting the issue, called for the release of journalists jailed because of their work in countries including Iran and North Korea, and introduced legislation supportive of the cause. “As a conservative who believes in limited government, I believe the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press,” you said on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2009.
We look forward to working with you to support this mutual goal, and appreciate your prompt response.
Committee to Protect Journalists
Hope Hicks, National Press Secretary, President-Elect’s Transition Team