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SPJ asks debate moderators to question presidential candidates about First Amendment rights of journalists


3/13/2020


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Patricia Gallagher Newberry, SPJ National President, 513-702-4065, pattinewberryspj@gmail.com
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists today sent a request to moderators of Sunday night’s presidential debate to ask candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders about their commitment to the First Amendment rights of journalists.

The letter, in part, says, “As the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, the Society of Professional Journalists urges you to ask questions about press freedom and specifically the restraints built up over years on journalists talking to federal employees without reporting to ‘censors,’ called PIOs (or public information officers).

SPJ suggests moderators ask the following question:

“Under the Trump administration, the Obama administration and administrations before that, many federal agencies have banned staff members from speaking directly to the press or required them to speak only with or through public information officers. At a time when it's essential that the American public hear directly from scientists and disease specialists, will you stop this across-the-board information control and support the First Amendment rights of journalists?”

The Sunday night Democratic debate has been moved from Arizona to CNN studios in Washington, D.C. Univision anchor Jorge Ramos decided not to moderate the debate because he was in proximity with someone who was in direct contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus.

Univision’s Illa Calderon will take Ramos’ place alongside CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.

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