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Democratic Senators Stand with Journalists

Looking to protect journalists from threats/attacks by members of law enforcement or others, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has joined with other Democratic colleagues to introduce the Press Freedom Resolution, which praises their work in dangerous times, seeks government accountability for restrictions or attacks, and urges better protection for media. 

Such resolutions don't have the force of law, but do express the will of Congress, as it were, that something should or should not happen. 

The President has branded coverage of the protests fake news and attempts by the media to undercut his presidency yet again. In fact, as if on cue, early Monday (June 15), President Trump tweeted the following: 


The resolution, among other things, "recognizes the bravery and courage of the journalists of the United States, foreign journalists, and members of the media who put their own safety at risk in order to cover the demonstrations associated with the death of George Floyd and bring information to the people of the United States and the world."

Also signing on to the resolution were Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). who caucuses with the Dems. 

Related: CPJ Board Demands Police Stand Down

Journalists have been harassed, pepper sprayed and injured in the line of duty during the current civil unrest. 

The Senate resolution at its heart "reaffirms its commitment to the freedom of the press and peaceful assembly as pillars of democracy." 

In buttressing the need for such a statement, the resolution cites, among other things, the 300-plus press freedom violations during coverage of the protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody and the letter from more than 100 media outlets demanding law enforcement stop attacking "credentialed and clearly identifiable journalists." 

The resolution condemns the violence against all those exercising their free speech rights, including members of the media, whether by police or others--some angry protesters have harassed and attacked journalists, including a CNN news crew over the weekend in Atlanta following the shooting of a Black man there by police. 

It also condemns any federal, state or local action to limit or restrict the media from their reporting, which "promotes government accountability, defends democratic activity, and strengthens civil society." 

It calls on authorities to better protect journalists and asks them to explicitly exempt them from curfews, something the journalists organizations have been calling for. It also calls for investigations into any government or police restrictions on media access and any violence against them. 

Related: News Outlets Ask Minnesota Governor to Protect Journalists

Sen. Ed Markey

Sen. Ed Markey

“We cannot protect our democracy if we do not protect our press,” said Markey in a statement. “Targeting the media and perpetrating violence against them or protesters is un-American and requires our full and vocal condemnation. This resolution is an unequivocal statement from the Senate that we support our journalists, recognize the critical value of their work, and will promote accountability for anyone interfering with their duties.” 

“This important resolution sends a strong message that targeted attacks on journalists covering protests across the United States are unacceptable and inconsistent with U.S. laws and values,” said Michael De Dora of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “The ability of journalists to work freely and safely is a fundamental component of democracy, and we welcome the Senate's urgent action to condemn these attacks, reaffirm the importance of the press, and call for the protection of journalists. It is critical that this resolution be accompanied by meaningful action to hold those responsible to account.” 

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.