Calling on Congress to Strengthen America’s Right to a Free Press

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Journalists serve the public by seeking and reporting the truth. Over just the past year, our world has changed dramatically and journalists are helping us understand it. The pandemic, the call for racial justice and rapidly changing political dynamics are all seen through the lens and keyboard of journalists across the country. 

To put it simply, journalists bring clarity to the chaos of our world. 

But, it has never been a more dangerous time to be a journalist in America. Years of anti-journalist rhetoric amplified by some of those in power has caused a dramatic and disturbing increase in attacks on the media. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker recorded 386 attacks on the media in 2020 alone - up more than 1000% from the previous year. 

We must act now.

RTDNA is urging Congress to prioritize passage of the Journalist Protection Act and the Right to Record Police Act. 

The Journalist Protection Act

Initially introduced by Representative Eric Swalwell in 2018, The Journalist Protection Act (JPA) would make it a federal crime to intentionally intimidate or cause bodily harm to a journalist during the course of 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. The JPA didn’t gain enough support when previously introduced to Congress. However, following a year of continued, disturbing attacks on the media, we find the passage of the JPA imperative. Read the full text of The Journalist Protection Act here

Right To Record Police Act

Journalists have been arrested and assaulted for recording police in public spaces. In the protests following the death of George Floyd, and during violent demonstrations following the 2020 elections, these ongoing violations became particularly troubling - especially among journalists. Some, but not all, federal appeals courts have upheld the right to record police, but considerable ambiguity remains. It is essential that the federal government reform and remove any vagueness about journalists’ right to record and photograph police in public spaces, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.

Take Action

Democracy depends on a free press. These pieces of legislation are necessary, powerful statements in support of journalists and the media, and the public’s need to know, and Congress must make them a priority. Join RTDNA in our campaign to pass the Journalist Protection Act and the Right to Record Police Act. 

Start with these action steps: 

Sign the petition 

Add your name to the petition to let Congress know that the safety of journalists who work on behalf of the public should be a priority. 

Share your story 

If your work has been impacted by violence against journalists, share your story with us. Email us at PressFreedom@RTDNA.org or share your story on Facebook (@RTDNA.RTDNF), Instagram (@rtdna.rtdnf) and Twitter (@RTDNA) with the hashtag #JournalistProtectionAct and #RightToRecordPolice. Every story shared will allow us to better educate Congress on the importance of this issue, and will bring us one step closer to passing these pieces of legislation. 

Tell your friends 

Once you have signed the petition, share it with your friends, family and colleagues. Post about it on social, and tag us on Facebook (@RTDNA.RTDNF), Instagram (@rtdna.rtdnf) and Twitter (@RTDNA) with the hashtag #JournalistProtectionAct and #RightToRecordPolice. 

About RTDNA

The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) has engaged in advocacy to preserve and protect a free press since 1946. Today, our engagement in advocacy is more important than ever. In 2020, RTDNA introduced its Five-Point Policy Framework, designed to strengthen the role journalists and journalism play in a healthy democracy. In line with this framework, RTDNA has identified The Journalist Protection Act and the Right to Record Police Act as our 2021 legislative priorities. These pieces of legislation will ensure journalists can continue to seek and report the truth on behalf of the public safely.



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