Journalists relentlessly pursue the truth in order to provide citizens with the information they need to be self-governing. And yet, for journalists, doing that work can be risky, dangerous, and even cost lives.
Just 15 months ago, the deadliest attack on journalists in U.S. history took place at the office of the Capital Gazette, the local newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, where a gunman shot and killed five employees and wounded two others.
It is an all-too-frequent and unfortunate reality that reporters and photojournalists must face and even run toward danger when seeking the truth. That’s why so many have died while covering war and conflict — from Ernie Pyle in World War II, to Francois Sully, Larry Burrows and Dana Stone in the Vietnam War, to David Bloom, Michael Kelly, Elizabeth Neuffer and Daniel Pearl in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is also why so many have died around the world when the powerful wanted to silence them. Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Turkey just over one year ago. Anna Politskaya was killed after her reporting on the Russian war in Chechnya angered those in power.
Washington has many monuments honoring those who have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms. Yet, there is no memorial on public land to recognize the journalists who have made the same sacrifice. Such a memorial would demonstrate to our citizens and to visitors from around the world that our country values a free press, honors the sacrifices of journalists, and supports the family, friends and colleagues of the fallen.
To make this memorial a reality, federal legislation is needed, but federal funds will not be used. The Fallen Journalists Memorial Act of 2019 would authorize the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation to lead the effort to design, develop, construct and maintain a memorial on federal land in Washington. The memorial would be funded entirely by private donations, and without the use of any taxpayer funds.
Once completed, the Fallen Journalists Memorial will serve as a reminder of the sacrifices that have been made — and that will continue to be made — to preserve a free press. It also will be a source of education, awareness and pride for our entire nation.
This important effort is only the beginning. We need the help of newspaper readers and others who value the role that journalists play in our democratic society. We encourage you to contact your representatives and senators in Congress at (202) 224-3121, and ask that they co-sponsor the Fallen Journalists Memorial Act of 2019, and help us make this memorial a reality.
The author is president of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation.