Dear Ambassador Kenneth A. Howery,
The Swedish Union of Journalists has noticed a grave lack of respect for press freedom during the protests in the U.S. following the tragical death of George Floyd. Assaults on journalists have been frequently reported. When protests like the ones we have seen in the U.S. lately take place journalists are often targeted. However, in a democracy, the police should be securing the safety of journalists, enabling them to carry out their work and report to the public. What we have witnessed during the past week in the U.S. is quite the opposite. Instead of protecting journalists, the police have repeatedly targeted them. The International Federation of Journalists has gathered some of the examples:
A week ago, the Swedish journalist Nina Svanberg was injured when she was reporting from the protests in Minneapolis. Even though it was obvious that Nina Svanberg and her colleagues were journalists the police started firing tear gas and rubber bullets at them. Nina Svanberg was hit by a rubber bullet and fell to the ground.
Press freedom is declining globally. It is with great regret that we find the U.S. among the countries that are now threatening press freedom. The latest development during the protests is not an isolated event. It must be seen in the light of the big and small actions carried out by the U.S. president Donald Trump.
His constant social media attacks on individual journalists and news outlets have undermined the respect for our profession, not only in the U.S. but globally. And the fact that the U.S. left UNESCO last year shows that this is not only words from the U.S. president. In leaving UNESCO, the UN organisation that promotes press freedom globally, the U.S. manifests the lack of interest in supporting press freedom.
With this letter the board of the Swedish Union of Journalists would like to express our concerns about the situation for safety of journalists right now in the U.S. We would also like to stress the importance of supporting press freedom since it is crucial in a democratic country such as the U.S.
President of the Swedish Union of Journalists
On behalf of the Union Board