Twenty-eight Leading Press Organizations Sign an Open Letter to U.S. Law Enforcement To Stop Attacks on Journalists

A meeting at the National Press Club photograph courtesy of Terissa Schor from Washington, DC under CC BY 2.0

“The nation’s leading journalism and press freedom organizations today called on law enforcement, mayors and governors across the country to halt the unprecedented assault against journalists in the field covering the protests for social justice.” National Press Club

On Monday an open letter to law enforcement officials nationwide was signed by twenty-eight press freedom organizations calling on police officers to cease their attacks on journalists providing coverage of the nation’s recent protests.

The signatories include:

PEN America reports that in addition to indiscriminate use by the police of pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear gas, and riot gear against unarmed civilians at protests, the targeted arrests of and attacks on journalists covering these events marks a potentially devastating departure from the American tradition at a critical national moment.

“These violent attacks against the working press are an affront to our Constitutional values, namely the First Amendment and the protections it provides to the free press,” said PEN America’s Washington director Thomas O. Melia. “By trying to silence journalists, law enforcement officers are seeking apparently to prevent reporters from fulfilling their invaluable mission of informing the public, holding our leaders accountable, and providing vital information to citizens across the country. As an organization whose mission focuses on fostering dialogue across differences and amplifying lesser-heard voices, we at PEN America thank the National Press Club for leading on this timely letter reminding our nation’s police that their duty remains the protection of all law-abiding citizens, including journalists. In order for reporters to effectively bear witness to this movement at a decisive moment for our nation, these assaults must immediately cease.” 

This post is courtesy of the National Press Club and PEN America.

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“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton


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PEN America announced that it is embarking on an ambitious expansion of its programming centered on bolstering defense of press freedom across the country. Writers, journalists, readers and other members of PEN America and their allies interested in defending press freedom, sparking informed debate, and elevating less-heard voices can apply for grants and support as part of the new PEN Across America initiative and its cornerstone Press Freedom Incentive Fund.

PEN Across America responds to mounting threats to a free press and other free expression rights that are the foundation of our democracy. As an organization working at the intersection of literature and free expression, PEN America and its over 7,000 members across the country have a vital role to play in deepening their communities’ understanding of the role of a robust media in empowered civic life and mobilizing to defend news outlets, journalism, and the very concept of an independent press.

The Press Freedom Incentive Fund, first opened in 2017 and already active with PEN America communities in more than 20 cities, is open again to will provide resources, research, and expertise for a vibrant array of press freedom actions, including incisive public forums on how responsible journalism is done to research on “news deserts” and campaigns for news literacy. These efforts are set in the enlarged PEN Across America initiative to bring the full range of PEN America’s literary events with prominent and emerging writers, provocative Conversations of Consequence, campaigns for writers under threat, an upcoming series celebrating censored and challenged works as part of Banned Books Week starting September 23, and other programming to more communities across the country.

“At a time when our shared values are being questioned and threatened, our Members and allies are rising to the challenge and engaging their local communities to defend the pillars of our democracy,” said Katie Zanecchia, PEN America National Outreach Program Director. “In a difficult, even directly hostile, landscape for press freedom, PEN America’s constituents are shaping the conversation in regions across the country and we’re proud to be able to offer support for their visions.”

In its pilot year starting in 2017, the Press Freedom Incentive Fund supported initiatives by members, writers, and activists in more than 20 cities and regions and across divisions of ideology and experience to galvanize communities ready to defend press freedom, helping to strengthen the national constituency behind this critical cause. Using grants from the fund coupled with research, expert speakers, and support from PEN America’s New York City headquarters and offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., long-standing and newly joined members are mobilizing to demand and defend an independent and robust press as a foundation of democracy.

“During the first year of the program, PEN America Members hosted discussions, organized public actions, forged partnerships with local media, and so much more,” said Rebecca Stump, PEN America Director of Membership. “Our Members are front and center of activism to defend free expression, and we can’t wait to see what next year’s roster of engaging, enthusiastic, and impactful activities will bring.”

This initiative is undertaken with the generous support of the Democracy Fund, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Compton Foundation. PEN America is currently accepting proposals for projects and activities scheduled between now and March 31, 2019. More information. Application. (Grants are from $1,000 – $4,000)

Thomas Jefferson 1786 by Mather Brown / public domain

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” Thomas Jefferson

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.

My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman.

Critical Minds, Critical Times: UNESCO World Press Freedom Day

Critical Minds for Critical Times: The media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies is the theme of UNESCO’s main celebration of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd. The event will take place in Jakarta, Indonesia, from May 1-4.

The program of the four-day conference has been designed to raise awareness of the importance of free and fact based journalism in promoting peace and justice, and supporting the efficiency, accountability and inclusiveness of institutions, in line with the Sixteenth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. The event is organized with the Government of Indonesia and the Indonesian Press Council.

“SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL 16:Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division of Sustainable Development MORE

The May 3 celebration will be opened by Jusuf Kalla, Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. It will feature a plenary session on Quality journalism: a public good for just, peaceful and inclusive societies and six parallel sessions on subjects spanning media and information as a bulwark against hate speech, inclusiveness and gender equality, and violent extremism. A specific session will be dedicated to Press Freedom in Southeast Asia.

In the evening of May 3 Ms Bokova will award the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to Dawit Isaak, the imprisoned Eritrean-born journalist who will be represented by his daughter, Bethelem Isaak, during a ceremony that will be hosted by Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia.

“Dawit Isaak (born 28 October 1964) is a Swedish-Eritrean playwright, journalist and writer, who has been held in prison in Eritrea since 2001 without trial and is considered a traitor by the Eritrean government. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and has called for his immediate and unconditional release. For years, he was the only Swedish citizen held as a prisoner of conscience. He is now joined by the Swedish citizen and publicist Gui Minhai who was abducted by Chinese agents from Thailand in October 2015 and has been held prisoner in China since that time.” Wikipedia MORE

Dawit Isaak story, Free Dawit

The morning of May 4 will be dedicated to a second plenary session entitled Spotlight on investigative journalism: Perspectives from Southeast Asia and beyond. It will be followed by six parallel sessions on subjects including the impact of fake news on journalism, journalists’ safety and internet universality.

Artistic freedom, a principle enshrined in UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, will be the focus of three sessions on May 2 and 4.

Notable speakers to address the conference will include José Ramos-Horta, Former President of Timor-Leste and 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Richard Gingras, Vice President of News at Google, and Oscar Cantu Murguia, editor of Norte, the Mexican newspaper that had to close down operations this month following the killing of one of its journalists.

The main concerns and principles expressed during the four-day conference will be reflected in a declaration, the Jakarta Declaration, that participants are expected to adopt at the close of the event.

Also in Jakarta on May 3 and 4, Hong Kong Baptist University will host a conference about academic research into issues pertaining to the safety of journalists with participants from many countries.

Some thirty partners are contributing to World Press Freedom Day 2017 in Jakarta with events that will feature training sessions, workshops and roundtable discussions and are expected to draw more than 1,200 participants.

Approximately eighty other Press Freedom events are being organized around the world this year and leading news organizations including Al Jazeera, El Pais and Rappler will host dedicated blogs and feature special content for World Press Freedom Day. An awareness-campaign has been launched with the Cartooning for Peace Network( link is external) to raise visibility on the importance of freedom of expression through a series of press cartoons.

– except where indicated, post is courtesy of UNESCO