Democrats introduce federal act to protect journalists

In response to President Donald Trump’s repeated assaults on journalists, Democratic congressmen introduced an act to make it a federal crime to cause bodily injury to a journalist. (My Record-Journal, March 14, 2019, by Mary Ellen Godin)

Just last month, as Trump incited his followers in the El Paso rally, a supporter yelled “F— the media” and shoved a BBC cameraman. The Saudi Arabia murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey last year, yet to be condemned by Trump, shows how regimes intimidate those who write about corruption. One of the act’s sponsors, Eric Swalwell of California says it is also needed to protect local reporters working on stories about city government or the police where local district attorney may feel pressure to bury an offense. (San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2019, by John Diaz)

Records show 44 physical attacks on journalists in 2017, most of them at demonstrations. In one third of the incidents, the attacker was hostile to the journalist’s reporting. Even so, Jonathan Peters in Columbia Journalism Review, February 9, 2019, thinks the legislation is unnecessary since states have been effective in prosecuting cases under state assault and battery laws. But more important, Peters regrets that the bill concentrates efforts on an effort less important than passing a federal shield law.

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