SPJ and 25 other journalism groups urge nation’s law enforcement agencies to let them work
Matthew T. Hall, SPJ National President, 619-987-7786, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, email@example.com
Editor's note: The New York Press Club signed the letter on Nov. 2 and National Press Photographers Association signed the letter on Nov. 3, bringing the total number of signers to 26.
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists and 23 other journalism groups sent a letter today to law enforcement organizations nationwide to remind them journalists have a constitutional right to cover protests and news events without fear of harassment or arrest.
The letter to 28 law enforcement agencies reads, “We understand and respect the difficult job you are required to do every day. We see it up close. The scenes and situations that demand so much of your attention are often the same as ours. We both have obligations, through our professions, to the American public: Yours is to protect. Ours is to inform.
“Yet our profession is the only one explicitly named and protected in the U.S. Constitution. Despite the time-tested First Amendment, law enforcement authorities nationwide have been targeting and arresting journalists with alarming frequency in recent years, and especially during this year’s protests.”
While the letter is not politically motivated, it was sent before next week’s election as a reminder that IF there are protests, regardless of the election outcome, journalists will be covering them and sharing stories, images and videos to keep the public informed. Journalists must be free to do their jobs without fear of harassment, assault or arrest.
The journalism groups sent the letter to law enforcement membership groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police and National Sheriff’s Association in an effort to reach peer groups that can influence their members by passing along important information and training opportunities.
“We urge you to speak out against the arrests of journalists in the field and to encourage better officer training. We would be happy to discuss all of these issues with you in further detail or take part in any training or discussions about best practices,” the letter says.
The signers of the letter represent thousands of print, broadcast and online journalists, photojournalists, editors, directors and managers.
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.