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Biden Under Pressure To Address Attacks On Press Freedom Globally, Including Azerbaijan

A series of blows to press freedom globally, including in Azerbaijan, has put more pressure on the Biden administration during the past few weeks to defend journalism as a part of its foreign policy platform, TURAN’s Washington correspondent reports.

A group of top U.S. Senators led by Ben Cardin, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Thursday introduced a Senate resolution recognizing widening threats to freedom of the press around the world and reaffirming the vital role of free and independent press in promoting democracy, human rights, and good governance.

The move comes as the White House announced early this month that President Joe Biden will soon declare crackdown on press freedom “a grave threat to national security” and will authorize measures, including sanctions and visa bans, against those who take abusive actions to silence the press.

The Senate Resolution S. RES. 688 highlights the latest attacks on free media globally, including in Azerbaijan.

It reads: “in Azerbaijan, the Government of Ilham Aliyev, who secured a fifth term in an uncompetitive early presidential election in February 2024, mounted a renewed assault on independent media in recent months by detaining 10 journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, from outlets Abzas Media, Kanal 13, and Toplum TV; namely Ulvi Hasanli, Sevinj Vagifgizi, Mahammad Kekalov, Hafiz Babali, Elnara Gasimova, Nargiz Absalamova, Aziz Orujov, Shamo Eminov, Alasgar Mammadli, and Mushfig Jabbar, constituting a crackdown on journalists that was in part retaliation for their reporting on official corruption.”

The resolution also highlights that approximately 320 journalists were imprisoned globally during 2023.

The Senators call upon the President Biden and the Secretary of State to preserve and build upon the leadership of the U.S. on issues relating to press freedom, including to transparently investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of attacks against American journalists, to support transparent investigations and efforts to ensure accountability for attacks against journalists of other nationalities, and to promote the respect and protection of press freedom around the world.

“A free press is essential to upholding democratic societies, to exposing corruption, and to providing transparency to the public,” Senator Cardin said. “It is no coincidence that efforts to undermine freedom of expression have accompanied declines in global press freedom in recent decades.. This resolution pays tribute to their tremendous sacrifices in the pursuit of truth and justice and reaffirms U.S. commitment to promote the respect and protection of press freedom around the world.”

Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee added that the growing attacks on credible, independent journalism are alarming, particularly given the many crises and conflicts happening globally.

“People rely on journalists to understand what’s happening in their own communities and make sense of the world. In turn, journalists go to extraordinary lengths, often at great personal risk, to report the truth. Unfortunately, we continue to see countless journalists – in Gaza, Russia, and elsewhere – lose their lives or be thrown in jail just for doing their jobs. Suppressing press freedom and targeting journalists is the oldest trick in the authoritarian playbook. Anyone who believes in democracy and freedom ought to be unreserved and unequivocal in our support for the free press,” he concluded.

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