For Immediate Release – May 25, 2018
Contact: Bernie Lunzer
Washington, DC – Unions representing 30,000 reporters, photographers, and broadcast employees are praising a bill filed in the Senate by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on Friday that would make it a federal crime to assault a journalist. A similar bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Eric Swalwell of California in February.
The Journalist Protection Act addresses a real need, said NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer.
“This is a dangerous time to be a journalist,” Lunzer said. “At least 44 reporters were physically attacked in the U.S. last year and angry rhetoric that demonizes reporters persists. The threatening atmosphere is palpable.
“Journalists put themselves in danger in order to keep Americans and the world informed,” he said. “The Journalist Protection Act deserves the support of everyone who believes our democracy depends on a free and vibrant press.”
The bill comes just days after several reporters were barred from a public meeting convened by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt addressing harmful water contaminants.
Security officers grabbed a reporter for the Associated Press by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building after she asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs representative, the AP reported.
Among other recent attacks:
- In February, a WPIX reporter and photographer were attacked by a bat-wielding man while working on a story in the Bronx, N.Y.
- In March 2017, an OC Weekly intern and two photographers were assaulted by at a Make America Great Again rally in Huntington Beach, Calif.
- In May, a Montana candidate for Congress body-slammed a Guardian reporter who was attempting to interview him.
- In August, a journalist for the Hill was punched in the face and thrown to the ground at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August.
- In 2015, a news reporter and a cameraman were shot dead on live TV in in Roanoke, Va.
In April, the international organization Reporters Without Borders cited President Trump’s rhetoric against journalists as a factor in lowering the United States’ ranking in its annual World Press Freedom Index.
Charlie Braico, president National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, said NABET’s members are “easy and tempting prey for anti-media extremists and thieves” because they often work in the field alone or with just one other person. They also carry equipment that’s expensive and cumbersome, he said.
“The Journalist Protection Act will permit the authorities to properly punish people who attempt to interfere with our members as they work in dynamic and challenging newsgathering situations,” Braico said.
The bill would make it a federal crime to intentionally cause bodily injury to a journalist engaged in reporting or with the intention of intimidating the journalist or impeding newsgathering. It calls for punishment of up to six years in prison.
The NewsGuild-CWA represents journalists and other communications in the
U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
NABET-CWA, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians,
represents broadcast workers.