Group Seeks Federal Protection for Journalists

Calls for passage of legislation to give feds power to prosecute attacks

The News Media for Open Government Coalition is renewing its call for passage of a bill to protect journalists. 

The Journalist Protection Act, which was introduced in a previous Congress, 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 has identified more than 500 attacks this year, including more than 100 in a three-day-period during protests in May. 

Related: Police Confrontations With Journalists are Growing More Intense (B+C) 

“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 and Senate 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.