- As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following opening remarks at the hearing "The Dangers of Reporting on Human Rights":
"I’ll be brief and start with two short words.
"And that’s: Fake. News.
"We’ve all heard it.
"How does it make you feel? How are your lives and your safety affected when the President of the United States calls what you do phony, paints members of the press as a menace, brands you the enemies of the people?
"As Chairman of this Committee, I feel strongly that politics should stop at the water’s edge. We run this committee in a bipartisan, collegial manner. But I cannot sit here and discuss the dangers faced by journalists without mentioning what all of you have to put up with.
"The United States often sets the tone for the rest of the world. Plain and simple: When the President calls the press phony and tries to turn people against it, it’s really not helpful at all.
"It erodes American moral leadership on this critical issue, attacking a founding principle of our great nation. And we need to do better—for ourselves and for the international community. America’s role in the world cannot just be about advancing our strategic and material interests. It’s essential that our values lie at the core of our foreign policy that they underpin everything we do overseas. Democracy. Human rights. The rule of law. The things that make governments more transparent and responsive, that make societies more inclusive and prosperous, that build stronger friends and partners for our own country.
"And there is nothing that shines a light on corruption and impunity better than the free press. There is nothing that reveals the plight of oppressed and marginalized populations better than a free press. A free press has on its side the greatest tool to drive progress and change and help advance those values. That tool is the truth.
"That’s why journalism can be such dangerous work. When journalists seek and tell the truth, they become the targets of those who reject these values. That’s true of Mr. Khashoggi. In far too many places around the world, journalists are harassed, detained, jailed, and killed for doing their jobs. Those of you here today know this all too well. So, thank you, to all our witnesses, for the bravery you demonstrate every day and by coming to testify today.
"I also want to take a moment and convey my deepest sympathies to you, Ms. Cengiz. Thank you for your strength in coming to speak to us today. Your story must be heard. And we will help you in making sure that its heard. There needs to be accountability for your fiancé, Jamal Khashoggi’s, murder. His loved ones deserve justice. And we lawmakers have an obligation to push for that justice. And frankly, I’m worried. I wish that the people responsible had learned more from the international outcry over his murder, but instead it doesn’t seem like people have learned anything. Journalists and bloggers remain languishing in prison.
"In March, PBS reported that Saudi dissidents in the United States remain at risk. Just this week, we’ve learned that the Norwegian security services have contacted a political asylee in Norway about a possible threat against him from Saudi Arabia.
"But, frankly, we’re seeing efforts to restrict a free press all over the globe. It’s happening in the Philippines. It’s happening in Venezuela. It’s happening in Hungary, President Trump just recently met with Hungarian President Orban, who is a very serious abuser of press freedoms. So what does that mean for us?
"Congress is not finished. The longer we go without seeing real accountability and real change, the tougher the path forward will be.
"So, let me make it clear, right here and now—we will not rest until there is true accountability. Congress is not done on this issue. And we will continue to fight to protect the free press."