Senators Press State Department on Policies to Protect Journalists

Oregon’s Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined with sixteen of their Congressional colleagues on Wednesday to demand answers from the State Department.

A release from the senators said the group asked about practices and policies in place to assist journalists who face threats to their personal safety while reporting overseas. They encouraged the State Department to “actively protect reporters from retaliation they may experience in the countries where they work”.

In a letter the group sent, they shared their concern for the growing danger to journalists worldwide, noting that “journalists play a crucial role in informing and expanding public discourse, as well as holding governments accountable”. They said in doing so, journalists face “potentially life-threatening risks from multiple sources including conflict, disease, kidnapping, imprisonment, injury, repression and harassment”.

The release said that although the State Department does provide some guidance tailored to journalists traveling overseas, the policies do not specifically address or reference Department of State processes or prescribed best practices pertaining to journalist protection and “it is unclear whether embassies globally have standard operating procedures regarding diplomatic interventions into the potential detention or harassment of a journalist”.

The senators asked for a briefing on the State Department’s current policies by early December.