NewsGuild of New York Executive Committee Opposes Proposed Laws Addressing Assaults on Journalists
For Immediate Release | March 26, 2019
Press Inquiries: Josh Austin, 484.269.0158
New York, NY — New York state lawmakers are considering whether to make the crime of assaulting journalists in the course of their work a felony, and members of Congress have proposed legislation that would make similar assaults on journalists a federal crime. In response, the governing body of the NewsGuild of New York, the union that represents nearly 3,000 media professionals in the greater New York City area, says it opposes those measures and urges elected officials to consider other avenues for protecting and supporting media workers.
“The NewsGuild of New York firmly believes in protecting our press,” said Grant Glickson, President of the NewsGuild of New York. “Journalists are a critical component to our democracy, and the current political rhetoric continues to threaten our members of the media who are serving the common good. Our union fights every day for strong protections for journalists. But our leadership believes there are better ways to bolster protections for journalists and our democracy.”
The Guild’s Executive Committee, which comprises 46 media professionals across Guild-represented publications such as The New York Times, Reuters, The New Yorker, Law360, and The Nation, among others, has penned the following letter:
The Executive Committee of The NewsGuild of New York opposes proposed federal and New York state legislation that would increase the criminal penalties for assaulting journalists in the line of work.
While we appreciate the desire to protect journalists, we think it is better to demand that the same laws that already protect everyone be enforced against people who attack journalists. Summarizing current research, the U.S. Department of Justice has said, “the certainty of being caught is a vastly more powerful deterrent than the punishment.”
Journalism is an inherently democratic endeavor, and anyone can be a journalist. Politicians, law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges should not be able to decide who is a journalist and who isn't.
These proposed assault laws could also put the press in potentially compromising situations, as prosecutors considering charges under such laws may weigh how it would play with local media outlets.
For these reasons, we believe there are other journalism-related reforms that would be more meaningful to pursue, including:
- A federal shield law to protect journalists and their sources.
- Enforcing existing laws that require police departments and local, state and federal agencies to provide journalists with information vital to their work and the public good.
- Enforcing existing laws when journalists are assaulted.
- Stronger labor regulations that would require news organizations to train staff before sending them to violent protests or conflict situations.
The NewsGuild of New York will continue to advocate for stronger labor protections for our members in potentially violent situations—we ask now that lawmakers do the same without creating a separate category for crimes against journalists.
About the NewsGuild of New York
The NewsGuild, Local 31003 of the Communications Workers of America is a labor union representing nearly 3,000 media professionals and other employees at New York area news organizations, including The New York Times, Thomson Reuters, The Nation, The New Republic and The Daily Beast.
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