Next week marks the first anniversary of the deadliest assault against journalists in U.S. history. On June 28, 2018, a gunman opened fire at the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, killing five and injuring two. We will always remember Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara and Rebecca Smith, as well as the brave women and men who survived the attack and immediately went back to work serving their community.
These deaths are not isolated. Every year, hundreds of journalists are attacked, imprisoned and murdered around the world. Some are killed because of what they do. The Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi and the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl are among the victims. Sadly, as we saw last year at the Capital Gazette, American journalists are vulnerable to reprisals for their work on U.S. soil. Other tragedies have included the 2015 fatal shooting of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of Roanoke, Virginia’s WDBJ TV and the 2001 anthrax death of photo-journalist Robert Stevens of The Sun newspaper in Boca Raton, Florida.
Others have perished because of where they are. Throughout history, journalists have been on the front lines of conflicts from World War II to Iraq. Ernie Pyle, Michael Kelly and David Bloom are among the journalists who perished in the quest to keep the public informed about the movements and actions of our military.
No matter the circumstances of their deaths, these journalists and their sacrifices deserve to be remembered. In a free society, a free press is a basic tenet. The fourth estate acts as both an expression and a guardian of liberty. That’s why we are beginning a campaign to erect a monument to fallen journalists in our nation’s capital.
The Tribune Publishing family is grateful to Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and Representatives Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and Tom Cole (R-OK), who will introduce legislation to establish the Fallen Journalists Memorial in Washington, DC. The memorial will pay tribute to the journalists who have sacrificed their lives in the name of a free press.
We are establishing the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation under the auspices of the non-profit National Press Club Journalism Institute. The Foundation will build support and plan for the design, construction, operation, maintenance and preservation of the memorial. Initial funding is being provided by the Annenberg Foundation and the Michael and Jacky Ferro Foundation.
The safety of journalists in the U.S. and around the world must be a priority because bigger values are at stake.
“Murder is a form of brutal censorship that is disrupting the flow of information,” said Joel Simon of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “People around the world are increasingly recognizing what’s at stake. Political leaders must stand up, speak out, and deliver justice on behalf of the journalists who gave their lives to bring us the news.”
This is a call to action. We must honor the memories of the journalists who have perished so that they can serve as a reminder of the essential value of journalism to our democracy.
David Dreier is Chairman of the Tribune Publishing Company and of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation.