Ed Markey
Ed Markey

Enough is enough. There have been more than 325 attacks, threats, arrests and instances of vandalism carried out by law enforcement authorities against journalists since the beginning of the George Floyd demonstrations.

That full-fledged assault on the First Amendment has spurred Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey to sponsor a resolution on June 15 condemning attacks against members of the media and re-affirming the centrality of a free and independent press and peaceful assembly to the health of democracy in the US.

We cannot protect our democracy if we do not protect our press,” said Markey. “Targeting the media and perpetrating violence against them or protestors is un-American and requires our full and vocal condemnation.

"This resolution is an unequivocal statement from the Senate that we support our journalists, recognize the critical value of their work, and will promote accountability for anyone interfering with their duties.”

The resolution condemns any local, state or federal authorities that limit, restrict or prevent the media from performing their duties, which is collecting information that promotes government accountability, defends democratic activity and strengthens civil society.

Markey's resolution recognizes the bravery and courage of journalists "who put their own safety at risk in order to cover the demonstrations associated with the death of George Floyd and bring information to the people of the United States and the world."

Voice of America director Amanda Bennett and her deputy Sandra Sugawara resigned on June 15 as Michael Pack takes over the US Agency for Global Media, parent of the VOA.

Congressman Eliot Engel, chair of the House Foreign Affairs committee, thanked Bennett and Sugawara for their service and fired a warning shot at Pack, a conservative filmmaker and friend of former White House strategist Steve Bannon.

He wants to know if Pack, who was confirmed by the Senate on June 4, stands for the independence of the VOA or is interested in turning it into a mouthpiece of the White House.

President Trump has been a critic of the VOA, especially for its coverage of China during the COVID-19 crisis. He said on May 15: "Voice of America is run in a terrible manner. They're not the Voice of America. They're the opposite of the Voice of America."

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University reported June 12 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a blank denial of all VOA information requests.

Bennett on June 14 called on the CDC to immediately end the boycott of the federally funded VOA.

Engel is "alarmed by the silence from leadership at the United States Agency for Global Media about the CDC situation." But ringing the alarm bell doesn’t cut it. Engel needs to back up his words with action to protect the integrity of the VOA.