“The right to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, faces profound challenges in our own hemisphere and around the world,” declared Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Media Summit of Americas in Los Angeles. He highlighted three common challenges in media and what the United States is doing to tackle them.
In order to combat disinformation, the State Department has launched the first hub of the Digital Communication Network of the Americas, a network of journalists, civil society, and government officials who collectively can address and counter state-sponsored propaganda. They will also address journalist safety.
Another challenge is the ongoing threats, harassment, and violence faced by members of the press across the hemisphere, said Secretary Blinken:
“At least 17 journalists have been killed in this hemisphere in this year, according to the UNESCO observatory of killed journalists, including – most recently – Yesenia Mollinedo and Sheila Johana Garcia, the director and a reporter of the news website El Veraz, in Veracruz, Mexico, shot to death on May the 9th. No region in the world is more dangerous for journalists.”
Governments are using legislation to quash free expression, as seen in the recent slate of restrictions adopted by El Salvador in the spring.
In Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, the simple act of carrying out investigative journalism is a crime.
In response, the United States is working across the region to strengthen the rule of law and train judges and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute such attacks.
USAID will provide up to $9 million to support a global Defamation Defense Fund for Journalists, which will offer liability coverage for reporters and news organizations targeted with unjust litigation. And the State Department is investing up to $3.5 million to launch a Journalism Protection Platform that will protect and train journalists under threat.
Third, the U.S. is working to make independent media more sustainable, said Secretary Blinken:
“We committed $30 million to the International Fund for Public Interest Media, which will focus on assisting media in resource-poor and unstable settings, and $5 million to improve the financial viability of independent media outlets.”
A free, independent press across the Western hemisphere is more important now than ever, said Secretary Blinken, “for the well-being of our people, for the well-being of our communities, [and] for the well-being of our democracies.”