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 Press has important role in democracy

Editor’s note: U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar addressed members of the Minnesota Newspapers Association at their convention Thursday, Jan. 26. In her remarks, she spoke about preserving our democracy and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press and free and fair elections. Klobuchar, the daughter of former Star Tribune reporter Jim Klobuchar, has been a leading voice on freedom of the press. She said the press cannot “keep its mouth shut,” as a White House official suggested.
“I think we know, and you know, the important role the press and the First Amendment play in our democracy. Thomas Jefferson said that our first objective should be to leave open ‘all avenues to truth.’ And the most effective way of doing that is through ‘the freedom of the press.’ That rings especially true today when people are claiming ‘alternative facts.’ There are just facts; there are not alternative facts. It is your job to find them and I think it is the job of elected officials to use them and cite them,” Klobuchar said. “And the press cannot ‘keep its mouth shut,’ as another White House official suggested yesterday. The American people deserve the truth and we are all relying on you to keep digging for it. As a child of a journalist, I take this personally and seriously. Our democracy depends on you having the freedom to do your job and to do it well.”
Klobuchar continued, “I have faith in all of you. I have been out there and have seen you every time we come to your communities. I have faith because of the long history we have in brave and independent journalists and writers – from Deborah Howell, who oversaw the Pioneer Press’ first Pulitzer Prize to Frank Premack, the legendary reporter and editor of the Minneapolis Tribune to Mark Kellogg, the first Associated Press reporter to die in the line of duty. You’re carrying on their legacy and newspapers and journalists in Minnesota can go toe to toe with any in the country. And I know we can count on you to live up to Jefferson’s words and open all avenues of truth, no matter what people say in Washington.”
Earlier in her remarks she discussed Sen. Sessions’ confirmation hearing for attorney general, in which she questioned the senator on his commitment to uphold Justice Department regulations not to put reporters in jail for doing their jobs.
“I was the senator that asked about freedom of the press,” Klobuchar said. “And I asked if he would continue some of the Justice Department regulations that had been put in effect. And, so far, he said that he had not yet studied those regulations. I followed up with a written question asking him if he would commit to not putting reporters in jail for doing their jobs, and again he responded he had not yet had time to review the regulations.
“Given some of the comments we’ve seen,” Klobuchar joked, “I will continue to focus on that issue or my dad would get really mad at me if I did not.”
Klobuchar also discussed free and fair elections. Klobuchar has joined with other senators to introduce legislation to create an independent, nonpartisan commission to comprehensively investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. Klobuchar was recently in Ukraine, the Baltic states, and Georgia to reinforce support for  Eastern European allies and to focus on mounting international cybersecurity threats.
“As you probably know, I went to Ukraine and Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia with Senators McCain and Graham. The whole purpose of our visit was to talk about our support for NATO, but also how we stand up for democracies everywhere,” Klobuchar said. “These people see this every single day. And so this idea of cyber attacks and influencing elections is not unique to one candidate or one party, as Marco Rubio so eloquently pointed out. It could happen to either political party. It’s not unique to one country. It’s something that’s going on all around our world. And once we allow the influence of outside countries in our election, we don’t have a free democracy anymore.”
 Klobuchar continued: “We have countries that have a reason to influence American elections exercising that influence. That’s why I’m so supportive of the Intelligence Committee investigation work and the work that Sen. Graham wants to do on Judiciary, as well as setting up a select committee and getting … expanded sanctions on Russia. I was an original sponsor of that bill.”