EDITORIAL: Sad that the Journalist Protection Act is needed

EDITORIAL: Sad that the Journalist Protection Act is needed



Thursday afternoon, newsrooms around the world — the Record-Journal included — observed a moment of silence for the five employees of the Capital Gazette who were killed June 28 in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history.

The moment of silence began at 2:33 p.m., the same time that a gunman attacked the Annapolis newspaper with a shotgun a week prior.

Incredibly, even after the newsroom assault in Maryland, President Donald Trump continues to deride the media. In a campaign-style rally in Montana Thursday night, the President told the crowd, “I see the way they write. They’re so damn dishonest.”

And while Trump added the caveat that not all journalists are unethical, he estimated that 75 percent “are downright dishonest.”

This kind of talk from the President is nothing new. Trump has referred to the nation’s news media as “the enemy of the American people” and often brands unflattering stories “fake news.”

Sadly, there are signs that this type of media bashing may be fomenting real anger towards reporters.

“This is a dangerous time to be a journalist,” said Bernie Lunzer, president of the NewsGuild, a division of the Communications Workers of America. “At least 44 reporters were physically attacked in the U.S. last year and angry rhetoric that demonizes reporters persists. The threatening atmosphere is palpable.”

Things have gotten so heated that lawmakers are pushing a bill — the Journalist Protection Act — that would make it a federal crime to intentionally cause bodily injury to a journalist during the course of newsgathering, publishing and broadcasting.

The bill was introduced in May, a month before the shooting in the Capital Gazette newsroom. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is among the bill’s backers. 

“The horrific tragedy in Annapolis costing five precious lives simply reinforces our argument that the press may be targets for violence and threats that interfere with their invaluable work for our democracy,” the Connecticut Democrat said. “The quest for our democracy is more critical than before and more threatened than ever, even before this terrible massacre.”

“A free unfettered press has always been a hallmark of our democracy,” Blumenthal said. “Reporters face a near-daily barrage of verbal attacks from this administration, which has the very real consequences of casting the media as enemies of the American people and possible targets of violence.”

It is sad that a bill such as the Journalist Protection Act even needs to be considered. But these are the times we live in.

 


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