Group Seeks Federal Protection for Journalists

(Image credit: Capitol Hill)

The News Media for Open Government Coalition (opens in new tab) is renewing its call for passage of a bill to protect journalists. 

The Journalist Protection Act, which was introduced in a previous Congress,  (opens in new tab)would "make it a federal crime to intentionally cause bodily injury or threaten a journalist in a manner designed to intimidate him or her from gathering or reporting the news." 

The idea is to give the feds the ability to prosecute assaults on or intimidation of journalists if states or local prosecutors won't. 

The protests following the death of George Floyd have put a renewed spotlight on attacks on journalists in the line of duty. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker (opens in new tab) has identified more than 500 attacks this year, including more than 100 in a three-day-period during protests in May. 

"It is troubling that, during this time of incredible turmoil and crisis, journalists’ First Amendment rights have been disregarded and many have been assaulted and threatened while doing their jobs," the coalition said in letters to House (opens in new tab) and Senate (opens in new tab) leaders asking them to pass S.751, the Journalist Protection Act, introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

The coalition, formerly the Sunshine in Government Initiative, includes the American Society of News Editors, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, The Associated Press, National Newspaper Association, News Media Alliance, Online News Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Society of Professional Journalists. 

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.