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July 8, 2020 - Updated on September 16, 2020

2020 US elections: Eight recommendations to protect press freedom

Angela Weiss / AFP
In response to attacks on the free press in the United States in recent years, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has introduced eight policy recommendations for the Democratic and Republican committees, presidential nominees and congressional candidates leading up to the US elections.

The founders of the United States recognized the free press as vital to US democracy and wrote what continue to be some of the world's strongest press protections in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Despite this, the press freedom climate in the United States has fluctuated in recent decades, with access denials, threats to the protection of whistleblowers and confidential sources, the decline of local news and most recently, verbal and physical attacks against journalists at the forefront of the American press' domestic concerns. Internationally, the United States has retreated from its role as a champion of press freedom, which has strengthened authoritarian impulses in other nations. 

“The press has come under unprecedented attack in the United States in recent years, as evidenced most starkly by a growing hostility toward the media and journalists across the country,” said Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General of RSF. “This upcoming election is an urgent opportunity to repair what's been damaged and fortify the Fourth Estate against future assault. As the United States approaches the national conventions in August and elections in November, it is critical that the major political parties and those running for public office commit to concrete policy measures that address the dynamic threats to press freedom.” 

RSF's recommendations call on the US president to publicly address the importance of the press in his first 100 days, for lawmakers to commission reports on issues related to assessing the state of US press freedom, and for the US government to pass a federal shield law protecting confidential journalistic sources and strengthen foreign policy to ensure the safety of journalists overseas, among other recommendations. 

RSF's full list of recommendations is available in the PDF document below.

The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.