Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) reintroduced legislation to better protect journalists and the free press. The JPA would make it a federal crime to intentionally intimidate or cause bodily harm to a journalist while newsgathering or reporting.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 29, 2021
News Media for Open Government Applauds Senator Blumenthal, Senator Menendez, and Representative Swalwell for the Introduction of the Journalist Protection Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The News Media for Open Government (NMOG) applauds Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) for introducing the Journalist Protection Act (JPA), which would provide journalists greater protection from physical acts or intimidation designed to interfere with the act of gathering and reporting the news. The JPA would make it a federal crime to intentionally intimidate or cause bodily harm to a journalist while newsgathering or reporting. Specifically, the bill would amend a part of existing U.S. Code allowing the Justice Department to prosecute those who intimidate or assault journalists when local prosecutors decline to do so.
Unfortunately, it has never been a more dangerous time to be a journalist in the modern history of the United States. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker recorded that from January 1, 2020 to July 15, 2021, 537 journalists have been assaulted while gathering and reporting the news.
Citizens across the country rely on journalists to stay informed of what is happening in their government and their communities. Fact-based, trusted information distributed to the public permits the unfettered public discourse that sets quality journalism apart from fake news and other mis- and disinformation found online and on social media platforms. Journalism – particularly local journalism – has never been more important than it is today.
NMOG looks forward to working with policymakers to move the legislation through the Congress and hopes that it will make journalists safer so that they can focus on their jobs of informing the public and enhancing the public discourse, which are critical to a functioning democracy.
Quotes from NMOG Members:
Brigitte Schmidt Gwyn, President and CEO of MPA – the Association of Magazine Media: “MPA commends Senator Blumenthal, Senator Menendez, and Representative Swalwell for recognizing that journalists and publishers serve a vital role by keeping the public informed, and must be protected. The Journalist Protection Act will uphold the rights of the press, who sometimes face arrests, intimidation, and even outright violence. MPA stands with the sponsors of this important legislation in our commitment to defend First Amendment rights whenever they are threatened.”
Gordon Smith, President and CEO, National Association of Broadcasters: “As first informers of the events impacting our communities, it is essential that broadcast journalists be afforded the ability to report the news without harassment, intimidation or assault. Alarmingly, there has been an increase in recent years in threats and violence against journalists that is counter to our nation’s commitment to a free press and threaten the very bedrock of our democracy. NAB thanks Sen. Blumenthal, Sen. Menendez and Rep. Swalwell for introducing the Journalist Protection Act that would help ensure journalists’ safety while reporting from the field.”
George Stanley, President, News Leaders Association: “In the past year and a half, reporters throughout our nation have been attacked for simply doing their constitutionally protected jobs to preserve our democratic republic. This is unprecedented and cannot stand in the United States, a beacon of freedom. NLA appreciates the efforts of Senator Blumenthal, Senator Menendez and Representative Swalwell in sponsoring the Journalist Protection Act, and we hope a bipartisan coalition in Congress moves quickly to approve it.”
David Chavern, President and CEO, News Media Alliance: “Reporters must be able to do their jobs safely and without fear of being attacked by those they are working to serve. We applaud Representative Swalwell and Senators Blumenthal and Menendez for introducing the Journalist Protection Act, and for their leadership and support of the essential role journalists play in preserving democracy. We look forward to journalists having a safer, more secure environment in which to continue the important work of reporting the news to their local communities.”
Dan Shelley, Executive Director and COO, Radio Television Digital News Association: “Any time journalists are physically attacked while doing their jobs, they are not the only victims. Also hurt are members of the public whom those journalists serve while seeking and reporting the truth. We’re grateful – on behalf of journalists and the viewers, listeners and readers they assist – to Sen. Blumenthal, Sen. Menendez, and Rep. Swalwell for introducing this important piece of legislation and urge Congress to pass it, and President Biden to sign it, without delay.”
Bruce Brown, Executive Director, Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press: “The Journalist Protection Act would bolster protections for reporters and give federal law enforcement the jurisdiction to bring those who target journalists to justice. Its introduction is very welcome after the hundreds of incidents over the last several years of journalists being attacked or harassed in the field.”
Matthew T. Hall, President, Society of Professional Journalists: “Verbal and physical attacks on journalists cannot be accepted in a civil society, and this legislation would go a long way to making sure we are able to our jobs on behalf of the American public more safely. We urge Congress to pass it and the president to sign it as quickly as possible.”
News Media for Open Government (NMOG) is a broad coalition of news media and journalism organizations that have been working since 2005 to ensure laws, policies, and practices that preserve the freedom of the press and the free flow of information in our democratic society. Members of the coalition include: Associated Press, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media, National Association of Broadcasters, National Newspaper Association, News Leaders Association, News Media Alliance, Online News Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Society of Professional Journalists.