Today, Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the Journalist Protection Act, which would penalize individuals who intentionally harm journalists while they are doing their jobs. Unfortunately, attacks on journalists while gathering and reporting the news have become increasingly common and rose sharply in 2020. According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, 537 journalists were assaulted between January 1, 2020 and July 15, 2021.
While the right to a free press is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, journalists’ physical safety has increasingly come under threat as they have been targeted by public figures, including former president Donald Trump.
Alliance President & CEO, David Chavern, stated, “We rely on journalists, now more than ever, to provide us with critical news and information that helps ensure a safe, informed democracy. Reporters must be able to do their jobs safely and without fear of being attacked by those they are working to serve. We applaud Representative Swalwell and Senators Blumenthal and Menendez for their leadership in introducing the Journalist Protection Act, and we look forward to our journalists having a safer, more secure environment to continue the important work of reporting the news to their local communities.”
Some of the most recent attacks on U.S. journalists have targeted broadcast journalists, but many newspaper reporters have also experienced unwarranted attacks while on the job.
Recent attacks on U.S. journalists include:
- Andy Mannix, a reporter for the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, was struck while covering the protests in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota on April 13, 2021.
- At least 20 journalists were arrested, detained or assaulted while covering demonstrations near Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles, CA, including a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and a reporter for the digital site L.A. Taco, on March 25, 2021.
- Erin Schaff, a reporter for The New York Times, was assaulted by rioters as they stormed the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021.
- Two journalists from Graham Media Group’s KSAT-TV in San Antonio, TX were shot at while reporting at the scene of a house fire on July 5, 2021.
- A news crew from Capitol Broadcasting’s WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC had their vehicle stolen by a man, who then crashed it into a state trooper’s car, following a live shot on July 3, 2021.
- Two armed men attempted to steal the camera and equipment from a news crew from NBCU’s KNTV-TV in San Jose, CA while they were conducting an interview outside Oakland City Hall on June 30, 2021.
Members of the News/Media Alliance staff have contributed to this post.