Honoring the memory of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, legislation would ensure governments that commit human rights abuses against journalists are held accountable by the United States 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced legislation to ensure governments that commit human rights against journalists abuses are held accountable by the United States. It is widely believed that Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and resident of the U.S., was murdered in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul under orders from the Saudi government because of his writings in opposition to Saudi government policies. 

To help protect journalists across the world, the Jamal Khashoggi Press Freedom Accountability Act would place targeted sanctions, restrict foreign aid, and increase reporting on human rights abuses committed against journalists by foreign governments. 

“We must ensure that journalists in the United States and around the world are able to do their jobs without fear of harm,” Klobuchar said. “It is unacceptable to suppress, imprison, and violently target the press, and the Jamal Khashoggi Act would ensure that the United States holds foreign governments who attempt to do so accountable.” 

”It is shocking that journalists today in many countries are increasingly the targets of harassment, threats, wrongful imprisonment, and assassination,” Leahy said. “Jamal Khashoggi’s gruesome murder shined a spotlight on the peril journalists face every day. It is why the United States, where a free press is the cornerstone of our democracy, should do everything possible to defend the rights and safety of journalists and ensure that those who seek to intimidate and silence the press are held accountable.”

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) leads companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“This legislation, named in honor of the late Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, would build upon the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act to strengthen the United States’ commitment to hold to account those who would target journalists for violence and persecution,” said Rep. Adam Schiff. “A free and independent media is essential for a free society, and the United States must stand with journalists around the world who risk their lives to expose corruption, to give expression to independent and critical voices, and to tell the difficult stories that must be told. I thank Senator Klobuchar for leading this important effort in the Senate.”

“Senator Klobuchar’s bill is an important step to expand accountability for those who commit violence against journalists worldwide, providing a measure of protection for the reporters who risk imprisonment, torture, and even death for the work they do every day discerning and reporting the facts,” said Thomas O. Melia, Washington Director of PEN America. “Enacting this bill will not only shore up the free press as a bulwark of global security and democracy; it will enhance accountability for those responsible for gross human rights violations against journalists."  

The Jamal Khashoggi Press Freedom Accountability Act is endorsed by Reporters Without Borders; PEN America; Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), Freedom House and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Jamal Khashoggi Press Freedom Accountability Act will: 

  1. Build upon the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act by requiring the Department of State to document electronic surveillance and online harassment against journalists in its annual human rights reports.
  2. Require the US government to place targeted sanctions against a foreign person if they commit a gross violation of human rights against a journalist. 
  3. Restrict foreign aid to government entities in the event that a senior official commits a gross violation of human rights against a journalist. 

In October, Klobuchar and Leahy led a group of 10 senators in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the Administration to increase its efforts to protect journalists around the world and hold foreign leaders accountable for suppressing freedom of the press.