Bipartisan Resolution Could Set Location of Fallen Journalist Memorial
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan resolution introduced late last week would authorize the placement of a national memorial commemorating fallen journalists on Independence Avenue, between the Voice of America building and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
The effort to establish a foundation and build the memorial was begun in June 2019 by former Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif.
Dreier, who went on to become chairman of the Tribune Publishing Company after his lengthy stint in Congress, was inspired by the mass shooting at the offices of the Capital Gazette, a Tribune paper based in Annapolis, Maryland, which was the deadliest attack against journalists in U.S. history.
In all, five people were gunned down on what had otherwise been a typical day in their office.
In December 2020, Congress specifically authorized the foundation to “establish a commemorative work on Federal land in the District of Columbia and its environs to commemorate America’s commitment to a free press by honoring journalists who sacrificed their lives in service to that cause.”
It also requires the foundation to follow a comprehensive regulatory process to ensure that the memorial is appropriately designed, constructed, and located, and that sufficient private funds are provided to the National Park Service to maintain the memorial.
The resolution introduced by Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is the last step in the process.
The memorial will honor journalists, photographers and broadcasters killed in the line of duty, and the resolution’s introduction came a week after the murder of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German, who was allegedly killed by Robert Richard Telles, the public administrator in Clark County, Nevada and a subject of one of his investigations.
“Enshrining our nation’s support for a free and vibrant press is essential to the health of our democracy. Thousands of journalists across the globe, our country, and right here at home have lost their lives while upholding the First Amendment, reporting the news, and bringing us the facts,” Van Hollen said in a written statement.
“This memorial will honor the lives of fallen journalists around the world and serve as a tribute to those who were killed here in Maryland at the Capital Gazette shooting — Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendi Winters.
“I will continue fighting to support a free press here and around the globe and to ensure we never forget the dedication of these fallen journalists,” he said.
Cardin observed that “Transparency and unbiased journalism are essential in a democracy and this new memorial will be a steadfast symbol of the sacrifice of those who take on this responsibility.
“The men and women who personify the First Amendment rights granted to every citizen have made our nation stronger,” he said.
The resolution approves a location for a commemorative work honoring fallen journalists on federal lands in “Area I” as determined by the secretary of the Interior, and states that its ongoing maintenance will reflect the nation’s continued commitment to a free press.
No decision has been made in regard to the design of the monument or even who will design it.
According to the foundation’s website, the foundation has only recently begun the process of identifying potential architects and designers and developing design goals for the memorial.
While no formal decisions have been made, the foundation is considering a modestly sized, non-intrusive memorial, without names, that represents the full breadth of journalism — past, present and future, the website said.
Funding for the National Park Service or General Services Administration to construct and maintain the memorial will be provided by the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation.
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