NJ senator Bob Menendez introduced the Journalist Protection Act, which would codify the intentional assault of a journalist as a federal crime. The proposed legislation comes amid President Donald Trump’s criticism of the press.
According to newsmax.com, there was a similar act introduced in 2018, but the effort failed in the Republican-controlled Congress. Govtrack.com states the act would amend title 18 of the United States Code and “provide a penalty for assault against journalists.”
Junior journalism major Payton Seda believes the legislation would provide positive support for journalists.
She wrote in an email that although this act would make journalists’ jobs easier, it would not decrease the overall hostility expressed towards journalists.
“I think there has always been and will always continue to be a negative perception of journalists because it’s our job not to appease to people’s feelings or beliefs but to challenge them and point out the flaws in our government and society,” Seda said. “We are an easy scapegoat.”
However, Seda conveyed that it’s troubling that violence targeted at journalists is abundant. She finds it “unsettling” that individuals must be told by the government “that harming another person, even if that person is a journalist, is wrong.”
National Public Radio reported on a Reporters Without Borders on an international report which claimed violence towards journalists “has reached unprecedented levels.”
The report tallies deaths as investigated and confirmed with “a great deal of confidence” as reported by npr.org. RSF’s report detailed that six journalists died on the job in the United States, including four journalists and a staffer who were murdered by a gunman at the Capital Gazzette newsroom in Annapolis, Md, according to npr.org.
A Finance and journalism minor, William O’Connell said he likes that the JPA lists specific legal protections for journalists.
“Journalists are the 4th check,” O’Connell said. “They do the public a favor by holding politicians accountable, but when people no longer want their leaders held accountable, what in the world am I supposed to do? Write puff pieces about the president?”
Thomas Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.