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How Rare Are Attacks On Journalists?


Violent attacks against journalists are rare in the U.S. Until yesterday, just seven had been killed since 1992.

JOEL SIMON: This is unprecedented.

KELLY: That's Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. That's an organization dedicated to press freedom and the safety of journalists.

SIMON: This is the most deadly attack ever that we've ever recorded. That's not to say there haven't been incidents of violence but never on this scale.

KELLY: Joel Simon says historically, the most vulnerable group of journalists in the U.S. has been immigrant journalists covering their own communities.

SIMON: One of those journalists, for example, Manuel de Dios - was a journalist who wrote about the Cali cartel for a Spanish-language newspaper in Queens, and he was killed in the U.S. by members of the Cali cartel as a result. I think the connection between what happened in Annapolis and those journalists is that they were journalists covering their own communities and were attacked from people within those communities.

KELLY: This shooting comes at a time when there is a lot of hostility directed at the media, oftentimes stoked by President Trump himself. And I want to pause and point out very clearly there is no evidence that the suspect in yesterday's shooting who it appears had a longstanding grievance with the paper - no evidence that he was in any way motivated by anything that the president or any other politician has said. But it does bring me to this awkward question. Do you believe that rhetoric that depicts journalists as the enemy - does this risk putting journalists in danger?

SIMON: I think this is really a good moment to reset. I think this is a time to reaffirm the values at the heart of the First Amendment, values of tolerance and free speech. And I think it's time for our political leaders, including the president, to reaffirm those values. He made a very important statement lamenting the violence against these journalists, and of course that's welcome.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief. Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.

KELLY: It is a strikingly different tone than we have heard from the president in past in his remarks to and about the media.

SIMON: And I think it's obviously welcome and I think important. I think the next step, though, is, because the president has disparaged in the past and - the work of the media - and I think this is the time to really change that tone, recognizing that journalists have a critical role. And he may not like being criticized. No president does. But the value and importance of the work that journalists do is fundamental, and it would certainly be important for the president to reaffirm that.

KELLY: Joel Simon - he is executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Mr. Simon, thank you.

SIMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.