US President Biden must prioritize press freedom during his visit to the Middle East
Freedom of the press must be at the center of American foreign policy
Global IPI Network urges US President Joe Biden to prioritize press freedom during diplomatic visits this week with leaders in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, all of which have witnessed recent egregious attacks against journalists and media freedom who remain mired in impunity.
We stand with our friends at Journalists Protection Committee by reminding the Biden administration and the US State Department of their stated positions regarding the importance of press freedom as an essential pillar of democracy. The United States in June joined other G7 members to affirm the group’s commitment to advancing press freedom, emphasizing the essential role a free and open press plays in ensuring that the global community can meet many of today’s most pressing challenges, including national security issues.
“After losing so much credibility under the previous Trump administration, Biden should seek to use this trip as an opportunity to restore American leadership in promoting press freedom and democracy in all regions of the world,” said IPI Advocacy Director Amy Brouillette. “Respect for press freedom and human rights should be at the center of American foreign policy and its bilateral relations with its allies in the Middle East.”
During his visit to the region, Biden plans to meet with the Israeli government, which has refused to open a criminal investigation into the murder of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a US citizen. A group of American senators is calling for a criminal investigation by the FBI and the US State Department — a position that the IPI also supports.
Biden also plans to meet Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who has presided over one of the most repressive eras for journalists since the country’s authoritarian leader, Mohammed Mubarak, was ousted in 2011. Al-Sissi security forces regularly arrest journalistsbloggers and political activists — and reports of torture and human rights abuses of these detainees in the country’s prisons are rife, according to the US State Department.
The US president is also expected to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who UN and US intelligence agencies were directly implicated in the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In line with our World Press Freedom Day 2022 recommendations to democracies around the world to strengthen press freedom at home and abroadwe urge Biden to put the promotion and protection of press freedom and the safety of journalists at the forefront of this week’s agenda.
As we stated in these recommendations: “The failure of Democratic governments to adopt a coherent foreign policy to uphold press freedom and other human rights does more than bolster authoritarian allies – it undermines the credibility of sincere efforts to support independent journalism elsewhere. Democracies must speak with a principled voice in defense of fundamental rights, seeking to hold all states, including friendly states, to account for attacks on the press.