Donald Trump has a love-hate relationship with the press. He loves to see himself on television and in print. Probably one of his aides prints out copies of the online news articles about him. Yet, POTUS calls the media the “enemy of the people” and worse.
At a recent rally, the commander-in-chief incited his crowd into a frenzy then turned them onto the journalists at the back of the room. One of his followers attacked a BBC cameraman. During the presidential campaign, he called out MSNBC’s Katy Tur by name and pointed toward her. Tur was a media road warrior covering Trump, and Secret Service had to protect her as she left the event.
That was just wrong. The Constitution guarantees a free press, regardless of whether this president disagrees with them. Fortunately, the Democrats have been doing their jobs in Congress.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and the original author Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) announced the reintroduction of the Journalist Protection Act. It would make “certain attacks on those reporting the news” a federal crime. East County Today reported that the release stated:
‘ A free press is critical in helping to shine light on our government and illuminate the challenges facing our country.’
The act said assaults on the media were unacceptable and prosecutable — a federal crime:
‘…to intentionally cause bodily injury to a journalist affecting interstate or foreign commerce in the course of reporting or in a manner designed to intimidate him or her from newsgathering for a media organization.’
Trump has also called the mainstream media outlets “a stain on America.” He tweeted a video of himself “body-slamming a man”with the CNN logo superimposed on that person’s face. In addition, the president retweeted a “Trump Train” running over someone with a CNN logo on his or her head.
A year ago the international organization Reporters Without Borders dropped the United States’ World Press Freedom Index two points to 45 as a result of Trump’s actions.
Representative Swalwell said:
‘From tweeting #FakeNews to proclaiming his contempt for the media during campaign rallies, the President has created a hostile environment for members of the press. A healthy democracy depends on a free press unencumbered by threats of violence. We must protect journalists in every corner of our country if they are attacked physically while doing their job, and send a strong, clear message that such violence will not be tolerated. That is what my bill, the Journalist Protection Act, would do.’
Senator Blumenthal said:
‘The values celebrated during Sunshine Week – accountability through transparency, access to public information, and freedom of the press – are under attack like never before. Under this administration, reporters face a near-constant barrage of verbal threats, casting the media as enemies of the American people and possible targets of violence. This bill makes clear that engaging in any kind of violence against members of the media will simply not be tolerated.’
Senator Menendez added:
‘Over 200 years ago, our Founding Fathers had the foresight to recognize the importance of a free press to a fledgling democracy. Now, more than ever, their importance can’t be overstated. Despite the dangerous rhetoric coming from the Trump Administration, and yet another disturbing attack on a journalist covering a MAGA rally, the press is not the enemy of the people. A free, and independent press—a strong Fourth Estate—is essential to the American people and our democracy, ensuring an informed public and holding those in power accountable. We cannot condone any physical attacks on journalists or members of the media.’
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and News Media for Open Government support the bill. President of TheNewsGuild, which is a division of the CWA, Bernie Lunzer said:
‘American journalists are facing assaults, threats, intimidation and even murder simply for fulfilling their First Amendment duties by reporting the news. The Journalist Protection Act strengthens the free press that’s essential to our democracy.’
President of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, another division CWA, Charlie Braico added:
‘Now more than ever, our industry needs the Journalist Protection Act to ensure both our members and their equipment have an extra layer of defense from attacks. It’s also another way of saying in these turbulent times that yes, the First Amendment matters – and it’s worth protecting.’
Coalition Director for New Media for Open Government Melissa Wasser commented:
‘A journalist should not have to worry about threats of harassment or physical attacks solely for doing their jobs and informing the public. Forty-eight journalists faced physical attacks while gathering and reporting the news in 2018, as documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. More than two dozen newsrooms have received hoax bomb threats, disrupting their operations. Not only is the role of the news media in our democracy under attack, but the safety of individual journalists is threatened. The Journalist Protection Act would not elevate journalists to a special status, but rather would ensure they receive the same protections if attacked while gathering and reporting the news.’
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.