The General Assembly voted unanimously to name June 28 “Freedom of the Press Day” in Maryland to honor the five victims who died in the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis on that date last year.
The joint resolution of the two chambers passed the House of Delegates 137-0 on Wednesday and the Senate 46-0 earlier this month.
The unanimous passage by both legislative chambers means “Freedom of the Press Day” will join more than a dozen other official commemorative days — including Thurgood Marshall Day and Maryland Emancipation Day — in the state.
The joint resolution was sponsored by Anne Arundel County lawmakers Sen. Sarah Elfreth and Del. Alice Cain.
On June 28, 2018, a gunman attacked The Capital newspaper office in Annapolis, killing editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; editor and sportswriter John McNamara, 56; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant.
Despite the unanimous vote to honor the fallen journalists, one delegate used the somber moment to air grievances he had with a column with which he disagreed, condemning it as “fake news” — a phrase widely seen as an insult to journalists.
Del. Mark Fisher, a Calvert County Republican, said he was agitated by a column on the Maryland Matters news site about the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.
“Freedom of the press is important, including even if as a journalist you want to put out fake news,” Fisher said. “I’m going to vote for this bill because I think you have the right to print fake news.”
Hearing that, Democratic lawmakers objected.
“Such comments going to the motives or aspirations of anyone are inappropriate on this floor, whether it’s the press or anyone else,” said Kathleen Dumais, the Montgomery County Democrat who is majority leader in the House.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 1,337 journalists have been killed since 1992, a policy note for the bill states.