- As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, last evening delivered the following remarks on freedom of the press after being honored at the America Abroad Media Awards Dinner:
“As we’ve heard, Chairman Royce and I are both deeply committed to making sure that American voices are heard around the world. We see so many closed media spaces, so many areas blanketed with relentless propaganda, so many false and violent ideologies poisoning the minds of vulnerable people.
“There needs to be a counterbalance. There needs to be a window into these people’s lives that shows them what’s possible in an open democratic society. There needs to be an alternative when children grow up being taught that America is their enemy.
“I’m not talking about fighting propaganda with propaganda. Unbiased news and information is enough to do the job, and the challenge is reaching these closed off places. That’s why the Chairman and I support reforming our international broadcasting efforts, breathing new vitality into the tools that helped the United States win over hearts and minds during the Cold War.
“If we do this right, if we find the right partners and give those initiatives the resources they need, we know we can make a difference.
“But America’s role in the world is more than our foreign policy, more than our programs and partnerships. So much of what we can show the rest of the world is leadership by example. That’s why as we work to change hearts and minds, as we work to support open media spaces around the world, one of our greatest assets is our own free and open press in the United States.
“The press freedoms enshrined in our founding documents are a cornerstone of our democracy. We don’t throw journalists in jail for doing their job. We don’t take reporters to court because we don’t like what they have to say. When we’re being true to our values, we don’t harass or intimidate members of the press. That’s not who we are.
“So, we understand that our democracy couldn’t function without a free press any better than it could function without courts or Congress or city councils. I have been in Congress nearly 30 years, so I understand we have checks and balances in the government and that’s what helps us. This is what we need to push.
“So, I just want say: I want to thank everybody here for these awards. I want to thank the role the press and the media play in getting the truth out. As long as we have a vibrant and determined free press, we’re showing the rest of the world that our success as a nation is tied to our unshakable commitment to an open society.
“So, I want to thank everyone here who puts their freedom on display every day. I want to thank all the work that is being done. It keeps our democracy strong and it shines brightly for the whole world to see.
“So, I again want to thank AAM for this honor and thank all of you for being here. Thank you.”