WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secretary of State Madeleine Albright paid tribute to a free press Tuesday as she presided at the opening of a new State Department briefing room for reporters.

``You remind me every single day about the privilege that we all have to be living in a democracy, and also that democratic accountability is not easy,'' she said.

The room replaces one used since 1968 for daily questioning by reporters of officials and spokesmen.

The new facility was named for Carl Rowan, a columnist and television journalist who also served as a U.S. ambassador to Finland and director of the government's U.S. Information Agency.

Albright called Rowan, who died last September, a crusader for racial justice who was ``tough, fair and smart as hell.''