Statement by Vice President Joe Biden on World Press Freedom Day
Today is World Press Freedom Day — a day to recognize the vital importance of journalism to upholding free and open democracies, both here at home and around the world. It’s also a day to honor the journalists who dedicate their lives to advancing media freedom, at times braving immense pressure, sacrificing their livelihood or liberty, or even facing mortal danger to bring the truth to light.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that in 2019, at least 25 journalists around the world were killed while doing their jobs, at least 10 of whom were murdered for their work. Reporters Without Borders tells us that at least 360 people worldwide are currently imprisoned for their work in journalism.
We all stand in solidarity with these journalists for, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1786, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
A free press is essential to a free society. Tyrants know this all too well. That is why attacking the press and attempting to intimidate independent media is a standard part of the authoritarian playbook. And, it’s why Donald Trump’s repeated efforts to demonize the media put us on such a dangerous path. When he labels the press as the “ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE” or decries “FAKE NEWS,” he is eroding our essential, Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press in ways large and small.
Trump deflects legitimate questions with attacks. He bullies and berates individual members of the press, rather than take responsibility for his failures of leadership. His efforts to undermine public confidence in the integrity of fact-based reporting violate our core American values and threaten our very system of government. And, it is particularly offensive to see the White House seek to spread misinformation and bully reporters in the midst of a global pandemic.
Journalists hold those in positions of authority accountable, investigate and document abuses of power, and expose the truth for everyone to see. While many presidents have been unhappy with their media coverage, only Donald Trump has attacked the independence of journalists and launched an all-out assault on the media.
As President, I will restore a relationship with the independent press that is grounded in mutual respect, even — and especially when — they critique policies or positions of my administration. In a Biden White House, there will be no bullying of the media from the press room podium or by tweet. We will have regular, fact-based briefings across my Administration’s major departments and agencies. We must return to civility and transparency in America’s civic discourse.
On this World Press Freedom Day, in the face of rising authoritarianism overseas and previously unthinkable peril to our own democracy, support for media freedom matters more than ever. We must urgently reverse the trend of threats to the media at home and abroad, and once we have reversed it, we must assure that attacks on our free press are never again acceptable in any corner of society, and certainly not in the White House.