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SPJ asks Congress to reintroduce and pass Journalist Protection Act


3/22/2023


CONTACT:
Claire Regan, SPJ National President, cregan@spj.org
Zoë Berg, SPJ Communications Specialist, 317-920-4785, zberg@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to members of Congress today requesting reintroduction of the Journalist Protection Act and increased support in passing it this congressional term.

The Journalist Protection Act was introduced five years ago by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Eric Swalwell and, if passed, would make it a federal crime to knowingly assault a reporter engaging in the act of newsgathering.

“Journalists risk their lives every minute of every day when reporting in the field,” SPJ National President Claire Regan said. “SPJ has issued safety guidelines, but there is only so much newsroom leaders can do to protect their staff from harm in vulnerable situations. Passing the Journalist Protection Act would enhance the guidelines set forth by SPJ by going even further to make it a federal offense to knowingly assault journalists. It is time for Congress to finally pass this critical legislation."

In recent years, journalists have been assaulted at protests, rallies, crime scenes and while reporting in their communities, and most recently two journalists were shot in Florida in February. In 2022, there were 40 assaults on journalists in the United States, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, and even more journalists were — and continue to be — threatened and harassed each day both in person and online.

SPJ has asked for this legislation to be passed in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Each year, it has become even more clear why journalists must be federally protected when newsgathering. Now, SPJ joins other journalism organizations, including the Radio Television Digital News Association, in asking for the Journalist Protection Act to be reintroduced and passed in the 118th Congress.

This letter was sent to House Committee on the Judiciary, Chairman Jim Jordan and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler; House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security; Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Chairman Dick Durbin and Ranking Member Lindsey Graham; Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio; Florida Representatives Matt Gaetz, Neal Dunn, Kat Cammack, Aaron Bean, John Rutherford, Michael Waltz, Cory Mills, Bill Posey, Darren Soto, Maxwell Frost, Daniel Webster, Gus M. Bilirakis, Anna Paulina Luna, Kathy Castor, Laurel Lee, Vern Buchanan, Greg Steube, Scott Franklin, Byron Donalds, Sheila Cherfilus McCormick, Brian Mast, Lois Frankel, Jared Moskowitz, Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Mario Diaz-Balart, María Elvira Salazar and Carlos Gimenez; and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Eric Swalwell.

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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