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SPJ condemns restrictions on impeachment coverage


1/15/2020


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 believes the planned restrictions in coverage of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump are unacceptable and an outrageous breach of press freedom.

“SPJ supports the Standing Committee of Correspondents in its stance against the ridiculous restrictions being placed on reporters, photographers and videographers while trying to document this historical event for the American public,” said SPJ National President Patricia Gallagher Newberry.

SPJ joins with the Standing Committee of Correspondents and calls upon the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration to reconsider these requirements and provide journalists the same level of open access they have been given at similar events in the past.

The Standing Committee of Correspondents represents journalists credentialed in the daily press galleries in the House and Senate. The group came out forcefully on Tuesday against the planned restrictions that it says rejected every suggestion made by the correspondents “without an explanation of how the restrictions contribute to safety rather than simply limit coverage of the trial.”

“The photograph of the delivery of the articles of impeachment against president Bill Clinton in 1998 — and the related news coverage — documents an important moment in the history of this country,” Newberry said. “To deny journalists their Constitutional right to document the historical events occurring now is a gross injustice to the American people.

“The press is charged with holding the government accountable. It is through its access that the public is informed. When the public is informed, it can make better decisions. The American public should also be outraged about these restrictions,” Newberry added.

In addition to restrictions on photography and recordings, Roll Call reported Tuesday that the Senate sergeant-at-arms and Capitol Police are confining journalists to a single press pen on the second floor of the Senate. Reporters and photographers will be escorted to and from the pen, eliminating the time-honored tradition of senators walking and talking with reporters to and from the Senate chambers.

“The new security measures are unnecessary and will do nothing but harm the coverage and documentation of this historic moment,” Newberry said.

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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