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June 09, 2020

Scanlon, Schiff Introduce Resolution Denouncing Violence Against Press in the U.S.

In Wake of Protests, Members Reaffirm Journalists’ Right to Report

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced their resolution to protect journalists and reaffirm the centrality of press freedom in light of violations committed during recent protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

“A free press is the lifeblood of democracy and the media’s role in covering recent protests calling for racial justice has been critical to holding the government, at all levels, accountable,” said Rep. Scanlon. "Assaults on members of the press or attempts to limit their ability to report on government actions are unacceptable in a free society. Additionally, the press must be exempt from curfew restrictions so that journalists can report freely and our resolution addresses both of these issues.” 

“Journalists are being assaulted, tear-gassed, detained, and arrested on American soil, and black reporters are even more at risk. A free press is essential to any democracy, and reporters need to do their jobs safely. The press are not the enemy – unless you fear the truth,” said Rep. Schiff.

Over the last few weeks, millions of Americans have participated in predominantly peaceful demonstrations across the country against police brutality. These protests have been covered extensively by local, national, and international media, an activity which is protected by the First Amendment and which is critical to promote accountability, transparency, and democratic values.

In the course of covering demonstrations, many journalists have been harassed, injured, detained, or arrested. As of June 4, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has received more than 300 reports of press freedom violations. Law enforcement officers have targeted journalists with tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets—in many cases even as press credentials were displayed or after they identified themselves as press. 

This resolution reaffirms Congress’s support for the First Amendment right of journalists to do their job and inform the public, and to do so without fear of physical harm or arrest. 

“We at PEN America applaud Congresswoman Scanlon, Congressman Schiff and their colleagues for reaffirming the central role of the press in safeguarding democracy, protecting civil rights, and holding our leaders and law enforcement accountable,” said PEN America’s Washington Director Thomas O. Melia. “The attacks we’ve been seeing, aimed at silencing journalists and protestors alike, infringe on the right to report, the right to assemble--and the public’s right to know. There has never been a more critical moment for Congress to condemn this violence and support our nation’s reporters.”  

“Journalists perform an indispensable role in informing local community members about the events happening around them. The First Amendment protects journalists’ freedom to gather and report the news wherever it takes place publicly. Therefore, it was deeply troubling to see attacks on journalists across the country – including by law enforcement – while they were on the ground reporting on the protests following the death of George Floyd,” said News Media Alliance President & CEO David Chavern. “Freedom of the press is central to a strong democratic society. We applaud the introduction of this Resolution today by Reps. Scanlon (D-PA) and Schiff (D-CA), which reaffirms journalists’ Constitutional rights and calls for the protection of these journalists, who are risking their lives to do their jobs and bring critical news and information to the public. We are grateful to our country’s journalists for their continued commitment to delivering the truth.”

“NAB thanks Reps. Scanlon and Rep. Schiff for the resolution affirming the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free and open press,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. “Broadcast journalists are playing a vital role providing the public a front row seat by documenting the first draft of history. NAB believes law enforcement must ensure the rights of journalists to safely and freely report the news. We support congressional efforts that recognize the fundamental importance of a free press.”

"Attacks on the press covering protests across the country violate journalists' First Amendment rights, and undermine U.S. foreign policy," said Michael De Dora, Washington Advocacy Manager for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "We welcome swift action in the House of Representatives to reaffirm the rights of journalists and the importance of a free press to democracy and human rights. At this critical time, members of Congress must ensure that the U.S. remains committed to freedom of the press both domestically and internationally."

“The Society of Professional Journalists strongly supports this resolution, which reaffirms the constitutional rights of the press. Journalists not only have a right to film, photograph, report and write the news – they have an obligation to keep the public informed. We thank Reps. Scanlon and Schiff for recognizing the importance of journalism and the pursuit of truth, and working to ensure they remain a cornerstone of democracy.”

A copy of the resolution can be found here.