By Ben Barber
U.S. lawmakers and media executives announced plans this week to build a Fallen Journalists Memorial in the heart of the nation’s capital, to sit near monuments to Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and other American defenders of freedom.
The memorial on the Mall in the center of Washington, DC, will honor U.S. and foreign journalists who lost their lives while practicing their profession.
Washington has monuments to honor the dead from World War One, World War Two, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. But this will be the first to pay tribute to civilian journalists who can share the risks and casualties of the soldiers they cover.
Former Washington Post publisher Donald Graham said that he covered the Vietnam War and some of his journalist friends lost their lives there. But when he takes visitors to the Vietnam Wall monument, his friends’ names are not there.
The launch of the monument project came within days of the first anniversary of the murder of five journalists in Annapolis, Maryland, possibly the bloodiest single attack on reporters in U.S. history.
The memorial could play a role in diminishing division.
At a press conference on June 26 at the National Press Club Journalism Institute, which will host the monument project, former Congressman David Dreier, currently chairman of the board of the giant Tribune media group, said the monument would be built with private donations because federal law bars use of government funding.
“The memorial will pay tribute to heroes who have sacrificed their lives in the name of a free press,” said Dreier.
This week bills were introduced in the House and Senate to permit what will be a seven-year process of pinpointing an approved site and raising possibly tens of millions of dollars.
The bills introduced in Congress are backed by both Republicans and Democrats.
But given the hostility of President Donald Trump to what he calls “the fake press,” it is unclear if he would sign the bills needed to build the monument.
Monument supporters noted that 1,300 journalists were killed around the world in the past 25 years.
In a brief interview with News-Decoder, Dreier said that there are “huge divisions in our society and around the world” over the objectivity and role of the press. Republicans and Democrats largely “see each other as a threat to the future.”
“The memorial would play a role in diminishing that kind of division,” Dreier said.