200 organizations sign joint statement condemning mass murder at the Capital Gazette, negative environment for journalists

SPJ official logoWashington, D.C. – In the wake of the deadly shootings at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland on Thursday, 200-plus organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, and individuals have signed a strong statement spearheaded by the Student Press Law Center calling for an end to the environment which threatens journalists. As a Washington Post story noted, Thursday’s mass shooting, which killed five, was the deadliest day for U.S. media since 9/11.

“Thursday’s mass shooting, which killed five, was the deadliest day for U.S. media since 9/11.” – Washington Post

SPLC logo“As an organization that defends and supports the rights of student journalists, we deeply believe in the importance and integrity of journalism as a social good. Where journalists are killed because of their work, we must stand together to condemn the environment that allows such violence to happen. We are gratified that so many organizations and individuals joined us to make a strong statement of support. We send our condolences to the families and colleagues of the victims but pledge to honor their memories by standing up for free, independent and safe news media,”  said Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

Here is the full statement:

We condemn, in the strongest terms, the deadly targeting of journalists Thursday at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and to all those affected by Thursday’s events.

In fact, we are all affected by these events. The recent anti-media rhetoric creates an enabling environment for violence against journalists and that, in turn, creates a new challenge to the key tenets of objectivity, independence and fairness which underpin the profession.

As this country debates the place of civility, truth and accountability in our public life, journalists are on the front line, working every day to tell the stories of our communities and to shore up our democracy by helping to create an informed and discerning citizenry. And yet, as they do their work with fewer and fewer resources, they are increasingly villainized (whether student journalists or veteran professionals.)  This act may have been perpetrated by a lone gunman, but the social environment which has demonized journalists gave license to his actions. 

On Thursday night, hours after their colleagues were killed and injured, reporters from the Capital Gazette were at a news conference discussing the events. They were not there as speakers – they were back at work, covering the story of which their fallen colleagues and their paper were the subject. 

This is what journalists do. Journalists are not the enemy of the people.  They should be raised up and protected. Their important role in defending and affirming the First Amendment, informing an engaged public, and protecting democracy should be honored instead of ridiculed. And at no point, should they be the subject of calls to violence or targeting.

We commit to living up to the legacy of the committed journalists who were gunned down, because a free, independent and safe media is essential to maintaining democracy.

Student Press Law Center
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
Boston Magazine
Broadband Legal
California Scholastic Journalism Initiative
Canadian Anti-Hate Network 
Cape Cod Chronicle
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Scholastic Journalism
Central Arizona National Lawyers Guild
Collegian Media Group-Kansas State
Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association
Connecticut Society for Professional Journalists
Democracy Fund
Equal Justice Society
Express Newspapers
Free Speech Coalition
Freedom of the Press Foundation 
Global Witness
Government Information Watch
Harvard-Westlake Chronicle
Henderson State University
Hudson Litchfield News
Indiana Collegiate Press Association
Influence Consulting
Journalism Education Association
Kansas Press Association
Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists
Los Angeles Loyolan
MDDC Press Foundation 
Milton Times
Minnesota Newspaper Association
NAACP, Washington Bureau
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Press Club
New York Press Association
Palo Alto High Media Arts Center
Peace Brigades International – USA
PEN America
Record-Journal & The Westerly Sun
Seven Days
Society of Professional Journalists
South Carolina Press Association
Stowe Reporter
The Daily Free Press
The Day (New London, Conn.)
The Deerfield Valley News
The Keene Sentinel
The Newtown Bee
The Torch – Ferris State University
Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression
Tiger Broadcast
Vermont Independent Media/The Commons
VHS Riptide 
Woodhull Freedom Foundation
Youth Journalism International
Zenger Consulting