CPJ raises press freedom concerns in meeting with U.S. Vice President Pence

Washington, D.C., November 18, 2019—The Committee to Protect Journalists met today at the White House with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, along with the 2019 International Press Freedom Award recipients, to raise concerns about threats to press freedom around the globe.

The meeting included awardees Patrícia Campos Mello of Brazil, Neha Dixit of India, Maxence Melo Mubiyazi of Tanzania, and Lucía Pineda Ubau and Miguel Mora of Nicaragua, as well as Gwen Ifill Awardee Zaffar Abbas of Pakistan. CPJ Board Chair Kathleen Carroll, Executive Director Joel Simon, and Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch attended on behalf of CPJ.

The CPJ award winners expressed deep concern about the ways that President Donald Trump’s treatment of the press is being emulated by leaders in their own countries to crack down on the media and justify repression. Several awardees spoke to the vice president of their concerns about laws criminalizing “fake news,” while Campos Mello and Dixit told Pence about the onslaught of harassment they had endured after publishing critical stories. According to Campos Mello, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro even cancelled the government’s subscription to Folha de S. Paulo–the news outlet where she works as a reporter and columnist–after Trump cancelled the White House subscription to The New York Times and The Washington Post. Abbas asked the vice president to speak out publicly about press freedom violations and fight for the rights of journalists in emerging democracies.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to meet with Vice President Pence to raise our concerns about growing threats to press freedom,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Journalists around the world who are working to report the news in dangerous and difficult conditions need the U.S. as an essential ally. It is important that the administration hear firsthand about the ways in which President Trump’s hostile rhetoric is emboldening autocratic leaders in many parts of the world.”

The CPJ delegation noted Pence’s history of press freedom defense, including his record in Congress, where he served as co-chair of the press freedom caucus and co-sponsored a federal shield law. Pineda and Mora thanked the vice president for speaking out about press freedom conditions in Nicaragua, and credited pressure from the U.S. with helping to win their release from prison in June, after they were jailed for nearly six months.

The meeting was the latest in a series of high-level meetings for the delegation of journalists, who met earlier today with officials from the U.S. Department of State. In the coming days they will meet with Assistant Secretary of State Robert Destro and the EU Deputy Head of Delegation, Ambassador Silvio Gonzato, in New York.

The International Press Freedom Awards will be held at the Grand Hyatt New York in New York City on November 21, 2019. The event will also be livestreamed.