New Club President Edney vows to protect press freedoms in inaugural address
February 12, 2018 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver | HeatherForsgrenWeaver@gmail.com
The National Press Club will continue to defend journalism from the dangers of a government that wants to dictate the news, Club President Andrea Edney told approximately 220 friends, family and colleagues at the Feb. 10 gala in the Club ballroom celebrating her inauguration.
“We are going to keep fighting to protect press freedoms in this country and throughout the world, because at the National Press Club, that’s just what we do,” said Edney, a Bloomberg News editor.
Edney officially took office Jan. 19. Less than two hours later, she was holding her first press conference to call for the release of Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez, who is being detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE believes Gutierrez would be a flight risk while his deportation is being appealed. ICE has rejected Gutierrez’s claims that he is a working journalist and that his life is threatened in Mexico. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports on its website that 43 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992.
The Club, Edney said, will "not rest until Emilio is released and granted asylum.”
Edney spoke at the end of the night after the gala attendees heard from keynote speaker Floyd Abrams, considered by many to be the nation’s top First Amendment lawyer.
While sounding the alarm about the dangers that journalism faces today, Abrams assured the audience that “press protections do remain strong, stronger in the United States as a matter of law, than any place else in the world.”
It is up to the press to “remain vigilant in using and defending its freedoms and that of all Americans,” Abrams added.
While Abrams spoke about the way President Donald J. Trump talks about the press, he reminded the audience that conflict between the press and the presidency is not a new phenomenon. John Adams was responsible for the Sedition Act of 1798, he said.
That act “made it a crime to speak falsely of the president, of the Congress, of the Supreme Court, just about everything in our government, except the vice president,” Abrams said. At a time when the vice president was not elected as part of the presidential ticket, Adams’ vice president was Thomas Jefferson. Adams was a Federalist and Jefferson was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party.
Abrams has visited the Club on numerous occasions including in 2013 to promote Friend of the Court: On the Front Lines with the First Amendment and in 2005 at a Club Book Rap in 2005 for his memoir Speaking Freely.
Edney was also feted by Hynek Kmoníček, the Czech Republic’s ambassador to the United States. Edney left the United States at the age of 17 to attend a language course in the Czech Republic. She did not return home for 16 years, becoming a Bloomberg reporter while based there.
Kmoníček told the gala that Edney was just following in her mother’s footsteps. Her mother came to the United States “for six weeks and stayed 50 years,” he said.