Congress has approved the building of a national memorial to fallen journalists on federal land in the nation’s capital, two years after a gunman killed five people in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette, in Annapolis, Maryland.
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the House version of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Act, co-sponsored by Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, which authorizes the development and construction of a national monument to journalists.
June 28, 2020 marked the two-year anniversary of the attack, in which Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters were killed.
“A free press has fought for transparency and freedom since the founding of our republic,” said Cardin, in a news release.
“Those who personify the First Amendment rights granted to every citizen have made our nation stronger. Too many, including five innocent souls lost in the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, gave everything they had in defense of democracy,” he said.
The bill authorizes the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation, chaired by former congressman David Dreier, to begin a multi-year project which includes choosing a location, and raising the millions of dollars needed to build and maintain the memorial.
“No taxpayer funds are authorized for the project, and the legislation precludes the building of the memorial on what is known as the ‘Reserve,’ the area of the Mall in Washington, D.C. where new commemorative works are prohibited,” according to a release from the foundation.
The bill now heads to the desk of President Donald Trump. Dreier told the Capital Gazette he expects Trump will sign the bill, despite his adversarial relationship with the press, which has included calling journalists “the enemy of the people.” The White House did not immediately respond to the Gazette’s request for comment.
“Every year, journalists are attacked, imprisoned and murdered around the world,” Dreier said, in a statement. “No matter the circumstances of their deaths, these journalists and their sacrifices deserve to be remembered by a free society that values a free press.”