PRESS RELEASE: America’s Leading Journalism, Free-Speech Groups Urge Student-Rights Focus for World Press Freedom Day 2011


Contact: Frank D. LoMonte, Executive Director
703.807.1904 /

The Student Press Law Center (“SPLC”) and 38 other leadingjournalism and free-speech organizations joined forces today to call upon theObama administration to use the May 3 celebration of World Press Freedom Day inWashington, D.C., to assert a global leadership role in liberating studentjournalists from censorship.

The organizations sent a joint letter to President Obama andSecretary of State Clinton today – published in a half-page advertisement intoday’s The Washington Post – thaturges the administration to make the First Amendment rights of studentjournalists a priority in order to maintain the United States’ credibility as abeacon of free expression rights.

“American’s most vulnerable journalists need those who havespoken out so persuasively against censorship abroad to speak with that sameforcefulness at home,” the joint letter states. “We urge your administration topublicly acknowledge the unfinished work of press freedom in our own nation, todenounce the shameful practice of stifling candid discussion of school issues,and to ensure that this World Press Freedom Day concludes with a globalcommitment to protect the rights of all journalists, even the youngest.”

Attorney Frank D. LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center, said, “Young people areconsistently at the forefront of social and political change, in this countryand around the world. The obstruction of students’ ability to meaningfullyparticipate in discussing matters of public concern is a fundamentalcivil-rights issue. It’s time that our country recognized censorship as acancerous educational practice and committed to eradicating it.”

The SPLC’s attorney hotline fields approximately 800censorship complaints from college and high school journalists nationwide eachyear, including the recent case of two high-school students in Aurora, Colo.,whose principal ordered their newspaper shut down and their faculty adviserremoved in retaliation for the students’ truthful reporting on a student deaththat the school sought to downplay. The sanctions were reversed under the glareof media scrutiny and the threat of a First Amendment lawsuit.

World Press Freedom Day was designated in 1993 by the UnitedNations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to bringtogether the nation’s leading authorities on press freedom to discuss the stateof free expression globally and to agree on guiding principles for reform.World Press Freedom Day traditionally ends with the adoption of a declarationof shared principles, and the 39 signers of the open letter encouraged thedelegates to World Press Freedom Day 2011 to remember student rights as theyformulate the Washington Declaration.

In addition to the SPLC, those signing the open letterinclude: