The president on Dec. 23, 2020 signed into law a companion bill to legislation written by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that authorizes the development and construction of a national monument to fallen journalists.

According to an announcement by Sen. Cardin, the new, privately funded memorial will be constructed on federal lands within the District of Columbia and will honor journalists, photographers, and broadcasters killed in the line of duty. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is an original cosponsor of the Senate bill (S. 1969). Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.-32) and Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.-04) introduced the legislation (H.R. 3465) in the House of Representatives.

The Act was passed by the House of Representatives on September 21, 2020, which was followed by the Senate’s unanimous vote on December 3.

The Capital Gazette lost five of its reporters in a violent attack on June 28, 2018. Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, and Rob Hiaasen were shot and killed by a man while in the newspaper’s Annapolis newsroom. The incident has been dubbed the deadliest attack on journalists in U.S. history.

“The free media, one of the pillars of our nation, is under attack figuratively and literally across America. Too many, including five innocent souls lost in the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, gave everything they had in defense of democracy, transparency and freedom,” said Senator Cardin. “This new memorial will honor the lives of those who died reporting the news and supporting the media on behalf of the American people. It will be a steadfast symbol of their sacrifice and the fragility of our democracy. Those who personify the First Amendment rights granted to every citizen have made our nation stronger.”

“A free and open press is essential to our democracy, and I applaud President Trump for signing into law our bipartisan legislation to establish the National Memorial to Fallen Journalists,” said Senator Portman. “This memorial will serve as a fitting tribute to the men and women in journalism, including those from the Capital Gazette, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of the First Amendment.”

The legislation authorizes the Fallen Journalists Memorial (FJM) Foundation to establish a commemorative work (memorial) in the District of Columbia. Eligible federal land would be in “Area I” or “Area II,”, but not in the area designated as “Reserve.” The FJM Foundation must provide the funding necessary for the National Park Service or General Services Administration to maintain the memorial. The Annenberg Foundation and the Ferro Foundation have provided a total of $300,000 in initial funding to launch the FJM Foundation, which will operate under the auspices of the National Press Club Journalism Institute (NPCJI), the non-profit affiliate of the National Press Club.

Photo: Tribune Chair David Dreier announces the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation at the National Press Club on June 26, 2019 with Sen. Portman, left, and Sen. Cardin, right.

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