First Annual TLN Conference on Freedom of the Media

Congressional Auditorium
Capitol Hill
Washington D.C.

“It’s our duty as journalists to shine light into the dark recesses of government secrecy.”

- Society of Professional Journalists


Around the world journalists in pursuit of the truth are being jailed, beaten and murdered with alarming frequency. Since 2016, according to Reporters Without Borders, 345 journalists have been killed and 1,798 have been jailed.

Authoritarian strongmen and their supporters who wish to silence the press accuse journalists of spreading “fake news” while they themselves pursue malicious social media disinformation campaigns to intentionally undermine the public’s trust in fact-based journalism.

This is a phenomenon not unique to the West. It is prevalent in countries from Eastern Europe and Russia, to the Middle East and to Asia.  TLN believes that this dangerous development must be confronted in a concerted and compelling way.

That is why we are launching the Freedom of the Media initiative this December 7 at the National Press Club. We want to give voice to those trying to defend the rule of law and to protect journalists, fight fake news, and better understand the role of social media in disseminating the news.  Our expert panelists will also discuss how unbiased news can still be published in countries with illiberal democratic political systems.

The world needs an unencumbered, legitimate press to hold the powerful accountable. But with that comes the responsibility to practice fair and accurate journalism.

Dr. Michael Haltzel

TLN Chairman

Dr. Daniel Hamilton

TLN President

Dr. Sasha Toperich

TLN Senior Executive Vice President

Gregory Vistica

CEO, Washington Media Group


Day 1

8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Registration & Light Breakfast

9:00 a.m.
Welcoming remarks

9:30 a.m.
Keynote addresses

10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
The Phenomenon of Fake News and its Ramifications in the Digital Age

The immediate and international availability of information in the digital age allows those that spread falsehoods and misinformation to have a far-reaching impact. Fabricated stories posing as credible information are unlikely to go away. Even as awareness of fake news and its negative impact increases, the public remains ill-equipped to separate fact from fiction. This panel will examine fake news from an international perspective, particularly how technology in the digital age allows its spread across national borders, and how best to identify and combat misinformation.

11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Social Media’s Role in Delivering News

According to the Pew Research Center, most Americans are highly concerned about the quality and fairness of news on social media platforms. 82% of U.S. adults say social media companies treat some news organizations differently than others, and 88% say these companies favor news organizations that produce attention-grabbing, sensational articles. At the same time, getting news from social media sites is becoming an increasingly common experience. This panel will cover social media’s role as a platform for time-critical and quickly shareable information, and the impartiality and fairness of news delivered through social media.

1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
Lunch Break

2:15 p.m.
Keynote address


2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
The State of the Media in the Middle East and Gulf

Since the Arab Spring, authoritarian elites in the Middle East have realized how independent media threaten their rule, and as such have repressed and persecuted the media under the guise of combatting misinformation and fake news. Armed conflicts, charges of terrorism against journalists and media, and growing online surveillance and censorship threaten the freedom and independence of journalists in the Middle East. The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 demonstrated the risks that journalists take in investigating and reporting on behalf of the public in the region. This panel will shed light on media repression in the Middle East and Gulf, and offer ways in which the U.S. and EU might respond.

4:00 p.m.
Keynote address

4:15 p.m.
Closing remarks


7:00 p.m.

8:00 p.m.
Award Ceremony
National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

Day 2

8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Registration & Breakfast

9:00 a.m.

9:30 a.m.
Keynote addresses

10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Memorial to Murdered Journalists

10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Rule of Law and the Media: How Best to Protect Journalists
In certain regions, the lack of proper follow-up by law enforcement and the judiciary has become a new normal. In 2018, there were 26 alerts in Europe where state authorities failed to identify, prosecute, or punish those responsible for crimes against journalists, including 17 individual cases involving murder. In addition to a lack of legal enforcement, laws that threaten to criminalize journalism as defamation continue to threaten journalistic integrity. This panel will look at the legal framework that allows would-be assailants to operate with impunity, and how a faulty rule of law can lead to repression of the media.

11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Illiberal Democracy: Editorial Independence and Europe
In the 1980s, the European Union began to observe issues of media concentration and pluralism as potentially affecting freedom of expression and media freedom. In spite of the media regulations that the European Union has put in place, governments of certain EU countries used repressive laws to influence media in the government’s favor. This panel will explore the challenges journalists and media face in these countries, and what can be done to protect the press in illiberal democracies.

1:15 p.m. 2:45 p.m.
Lunch break

2:45 p.m.
Luncheon Address


3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
The Role of the Media in the Arab Springs: What’s Next?
Though media played a key role in mobilizing protests during the Arab Spring, it also played a key role in the faltering transition processes that followed as conflicts sprang up in the ensuing power vacuums in parts of the region. Instead of supporting the crafting of new identities and institutions, or holding emergent regimes to account, the media contributed to social polarization, discontent, and the doubling-down of authoritarian forces. Transnational broadcasting, pervasive social media, and division over Islamist movements all contributed to the debilitating role of media in the environment after the Arab Spring.

4:30 p.m.
Keynote address

4:45 p.m.
Closing remarks



The Transatlantic Leadership Network is pleased to announce the creation of the TLN Freedom of the Media Awards for Distinguished Reporting that expose betrayals of the public trust and demonstrates the importance and impact of journalism that holds powerful people and organizations accountable.

The awards will be announced each September and will be presented each December at TLN’s Freedom of the Media Conference.

The TLN awards recognize superior enterprise reporting and production and place a premium on stories that impact society in the following categories.

Public Service

The TLN Gold Medal will be awarded to a U.S. news organization or individual for their extraordinary contribution and excellence in foreign affairs journalism.

Investigative Reporting

The TLN Gold Medal will be awarded to a foreign news organization or individual for a distinguished example of investigative reporting that exposes wrongdoing by government, corporate and public institutions.

Explanatory Reporting

 For a distinguished example of creative reporting and writing that explains a complex subject that impacts the public interest.

International Reporting

For a distinguished example of reporting that illuminates how decisions and actions of powerful institutions may negatively impact or undermine global peace and security.

Next Generation Journalism Reporting

For courageous accounting of international conflicts, misuse or corruption of governments, lack of governmental transparency, or violation of human rights.

Commentary and Criticism

 For incisive coverage of cultural and political issues with which societies grapple, including racism, religious prejudice, sexual abuse, and loss of public trust in institutions.


TLN’s Chairman Dr. Michael Haltzel is also a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins University SAIS.  Dr. Haltzel served as Democratic Staff Director, Subcommittee on European Affairs, Senate Foreign Relations Committee and European policy advisor to President (then-Senator) Joseph R. Biden, Jr.  and has headed U.S. Government delegations to three OSCE review conferences in Warsaw, Copenhagen, and Vienna. His previous positions include Chief of the European Division, Library of Congress; Director of West European Studies, Woodrow Wilson Center; Vice President for Academic Affairs, Longwood University (Virginia); and Deputy Director, Aspen Institute Berlin. Dr. Haltzel has been decorated by seven countries of the European Union.

TLN’s President Dr. Daniel S. Hamilton is the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Professor and directs the Foreign Policy Institute’s “The United States, Europe, and World Order” Program at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He has held a variety of senior diplomatic positions, including Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs; U.S. Special Coordinator for Southeast European Stabilization; Associate Director of the Policy Planning Staff for two U.S. Secretaries of State; and Director for Policy in the Bureau of European Affairs.

TLN’s Senior Executive Vice President, Ambassador Dr. Sasha Toperich was a Senior Fellow and Director of the Mediterranean Basin, Middle East, and Gulf initiative at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C. and has served as the U.S. Presidential Envoy to US from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dr. Toperich is a Nonresident Fellow at the Soran University Research Center in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Chairman of the Board at the Mediterranean Development Initiative (MDI) in Tunis, Tunisia.

TLN’s Vice President Mike Barbero, is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General. He has testified several times before Congress on security issues in the Middle East and has participated in numerous national and international media programs. He has four years of experience in the Middle East coordinating intricate political-military operations, advising senior government leaders and building capacities of foreign security ministries and forces while controlling a $13 Billion Foreign Military Sales program.

TLN’s Senior Fellow, Ambassador John Craig, served as the U.S. Ambassador to Oman. Just after Sept. 11, 2001, he was appointed by President George W. Bush as a Special Assistant to the President for Combatting Terrorism. He served on the staff of the National Security Council with Gen. Wayne Downing, Deputy National Security Advisor.  He was appointed as Boeing International Corporation’s regional vice president in the Middle East. Ambassador Craig has Ambassador-in-Residence in the Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

TLN’s Distinguished Energy Fellow Debra L. Cagan worked as a career State Department diplomat and Defense Department official from the Reagan to Trump administrations, including serving as Deputy Assistant secretary of Defense for Coalition, Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Disaster Relief; Senior Director for European, Russian and Eurasian security issues; Special Adviser for Strategic and Nuclear Policy for Europe; Senior Adviser to U.S. and NATO military officials. She led negotiations for the Highly Enriched Uranium Agreement with Russia and headed coalition operations for Iraq and Afghanistan.

TLN’s Senior Fellow, Dr. Ali Abusedra is the co-Founder of the London Foundation for International Law. He worked on the legal aspects of the Palm Island Project, the Jebel Ali Free Zone in Dubai, and the Arbitration Center in Ajman. Dr. Abusedra has participated in UAE negotiations with the White House on free trade agreements between the UAE and United States; and negotiations with the International Criminal Court on the case of lawyers detained in Libya who were sent by the ICC.

TLN’s Senior Fellow, Dr. Roudi Baroudi is the CEO of Energy & Environment Holding. He has 40 years of experience in the fields of oil and gas, petrochemicals, power, energy-sector reform, energy security, environment, carbon-trading mechanisms, privatization, and infrastructure and has worked in program development with the World Bank, the IMF, the European Commission, USAID, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, and the Italian Bilateral Protocols, as well as multilateral agency financing in the United States, the Middle East, Central Asia, Japan, and Europe.

Gregory Vistica is the Chairman and CEO of Washington Media Group, Inc., an award-winning communications, advocacy, advertising and research firm. He is an author and former award-winning investigative reporter for NewsweekThe New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and was a producer for 60 Minutes. The New York Times, in nominating Mr. Vistica for a Pulitzer Prize for exposing Senator Bob Kerrey’s role in a Vietnam massacre, called his work “enterprising reporting at its finest.” In addition to being selected as a Pulitzer Prize finalist in the national reporting category, he has won a Peabody, and a George Polk award for breaking the Tailhook scandal, which led to historic reforms in the military.

Awardees 2021

2021 Awardees Coming Soon

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