National Press Club

National Press Club, Journalism Institute deplore Saudi attempts to muzzle free press

June 23, 2017 | By Kathy Kiely |

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that Saudi Arabia is making the shutdown of the global news service al Jazeera a condition for lifting a trade and economic embargo that the Saudis and their allies have imposed on Qatar. Al Jazeera is headquartered in Qatar.

We urge the U.S. State Department, which is attempting to mediate this regional dispute, to reject this outrageous demand, now confirmed by multiple news outlets. It is antithetical to the human right of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution.

Newsmakers should not be in the business of picking which reporters cover them and governments should not be in the business of picking which news outlets are allowed to report. Otherwise, we head into an Orwellian dystopia where the powerful get to manufacture their own truth.

Al Jazeera English employs many respected U.S. journalists, including this year’s president of the National Press Club, Jeff Ballou.

“The demand is nothing short of a blatant call for censorship,” he said. “True diplomacy embraces among other things, freedom of expression which allows people to get information or even critique their government in order to make decisions on how to conduct their lives. Shuttering the work of journalists closes the door between people and those who govern them.”

Al Jazeera has served an important role giving a platform to previously unheard voices from around the globe. Its news reports and documentaries have won multiple awards, and this year, al Jazeera English was named the New York Festivals’ Broadcaster of the Year.

“Efforts to suppress journalism, and the voices it allows to be heard, are part of a disturbing global trend,” said John Donnelly, chair of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom team. “The world will be a better place if we listen to each other, rather than trying to silence what it hurts us to hear.”

The National Press Club is the one of the world’s leading organizations for journalists; its non-profit Journalism Institute works to advance the freedom of the press and provides professional training for reporters and communicators.

Contact: Kathy Kiely, National Press Journalism Institute Press Freedom Fellow: