Washington, D.C. — Leave the press alone. Don’t threaten them and don’t try to intimidate them.
That was the message here recently from a distinguished panel of journalists, most but not all from outside the United States, detailing actions taken against them and the human right of free expression.
Sacramento Valley Mirror Editor and Publisher Tim Crews (right in picture) whose paper and staff have been repeatedly threatened and attacked over the years, reported that he had received the gift of a traditional 13-coil rope hangman’s noose, a symbol of the alt-right.
Mr, Crews, president of Californians Aware, was joined by:
* Newseum Chief Operating Officer Gene Policinski (left in picture);
* Simegnish “Lily” Y. Mengesha (center in picture), an Ethiopian journalist seeking asylum here as a result of threats over her reporting, particularly on harassment and government action against journalists in her own nation.
* Abdülhamit Bilici, former Turkish newspaper executive and former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Zaman. In March 2015, Mr. Bilici was removed as editor-in-chief and replaced by state trustees at the request of Istanbul’s Chief Public Prosecutor’s office.
* North America Advocacy and Communications Director Margaux Ewen of Reporters without Borders, one of the most active international groups working to protect journalists worldwide and seeking the release of those wrongly imprisoned or being held by terrorists or criminal gangs.
The forces against press freedom extend to Martin Mendez, who is seeking asylum in the United States after fleeing death threats in the Mexican state of Guerrero, where he worked for the Novedades de Acapulco newspaper. Despite months of advance notices and a letter of support from an El Paso Congressman, the Department of Homeland Security denied Mr. Mendez entry to the U.S., even with a guarantee he would return to Mexico. Mr. Policinski asked for letters of protest.
Ms. Ewen of Reporters without Borders, which had come to The Mirror’s aid in coordinating letter from a score of major press rights groups, was not happy to hear the Willows Police Department and the City of Willows had ignored the groups’ request for
an investigation of the leaving of the noose at The Valley Mirror’s door in broad daylight. The Glenn County Sheriff’s Office made inquiries recently regarding the April noose threat.
Ms. Mengesha detailed suppression of he press in her country. And Mr. Bilici, who was removed from his livelihood for doing his job, spoke of the impact in Turkey on the press. In both countries many journalists have been jailed, beaten or killed.
Asked if things had gotten better or worse in recent months, Mr. Crews, the publisher of one of the last independent papers in the country, said that support among loyal readers had grown stronger. But attacks on the paper by ignorant people seemed emboldened by
President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the First Amendment. In the end he quoted Bob Dylan, saying, “Without Freedom of Speech I’d be in the swamp.” And so, he said, “Here we are.”
The program was co-presented by Digital Content Next and the Newseum Institute.