The U.S. Capitol dome is seen in Washington, D.C., on December 8, 2020. CPJ presented testimony today about the U.S. role in global press freedom issues. (Reuters/Erin Scott)

CPJ testifies to US Congress, calls for more effort to fight restrictions on press

Journalists working around the world continue to face a wide variety of challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the U.S. government must redouble its efforts to defend press freedom, CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch said during testimony to the U.S. Congress today.

Addressing the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, Radsch highlighted the threats members of the press face relating to the criminalization of journalism, laws and rhetoric about “fake news,” and the increased use of surveillance technology. She also explained how governments have used the COVID-19 pandemic to further their crackdowns on news organizations and journalists.

“Humans have a right to engage in journalism, and a right to access and exchange news and information, a right that has life and death consequences during a global health pandemic,” Radsch said at the hearing. “We’re grateful that so many members of Congress are active on press freedom, but given the severity of the threats against the press, more must be done.”

The testimony also provided suggestions to U.S. policymakers to support press freedom both domestically and globally, and CPJ submitted a report on COVID-19’s consequences for press freedom for the Congressional record.

Last month, CPJ published a proposal to the incoming Biden administration on how to restore U.S. press freedom leadership. In May 2019, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon also testified before this subcommittee as a witness on the dangers of human rights reporting, alongside Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

On December 15, CPJ will release its annual census of journalists imprisoned worldwide.

CPJ’s full written testimony can be read here.