Senator presses Kerry on safety of journalists abroad

The senator said reporters were often kidnapped, tortured and targeted “because of their ability to speak truth to power”

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Journalists risk their lives to provide information that shapes U.S. policy, says a Democratic senator who is pressing Secretary of State John Kerry on ensuring the safety of foreign reporters and determining the fate of U.S. freelancers missing and believe kidnapped in Syria.

Sen. Bob Casey sent a letter to Kerry on Tuesday, days ahead of World Press Freedom day, praising the work of two Associated Press journalists and expressing concern about the dangers faced by reporters worldwide. Casey urged Kerry to speak out on the issue as well as detail what the State Department is doing to locate and secure the release of missing journalists.

“Earlier this month, a brutal and senseless attack on AP journalists Anja Niedringhaus and Kathy Gannon, on the eve of Afghan elections, reminded us of their bravery and sacrifice,” Casey wrote. “More recently, VICE journalist Simon Ostrovsky was taken by pro-Russian militia in eastern Ukraine while reporting on the crisis there.”

On April 4, an Afghan police officer shot the two AP journalists working in the eastern province of Khost, killing photographer Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Gannon.

The senator said reporters often are kidnapped, tortured and targeted “because of their ability to speak truth to power,” and he cited figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Casey said the group reported that in 2013, 211 journalists were jailed worldwide.

He asked the secretary for his help in ensuring that attacks are investigated and perpetrators punished.

Casey also asked what the State Department was doing to find U.S. freelancers Austin Tice and James Foley and secure their release. Tice has been missing since August 2012; Foley disappeared in November 2012. Tice, who was one of few journalists reporting from Damascus when he vanished, is suspected of being held by the Syrian government, although his family has said they are uncertain who is holding their son.

“While journalists understand that their craft carries inherent risks, ensuring the safety and security of American overseas should be our top priority,” Casey wrote.

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