Last week U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell and two East Coast congressmen reintroduced a bill that would make certain attacks on news outlets a federal crime. The announcement came during Sunshine Week, an annual weeklong public campaign held this year from March 10 to 16, highlighting the importance of a transparent government and free media.
Under the Journalist Protection Act, Swalwell’s office said in a statement that it would be 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 news gathering for a media organization.”
The legislation is also intended to “ensure law enforcement is able to punish those who interfere with newsgathering.”
Swalwell originally introduced the bill last year but it failed to gather enough support in a then-Republican-controlled Congress.
“A healthy democracy depends on a free press unencumbered by threats of violence,” Swalwell said. “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.”
Last year, the United States’ ranking in the World Press Freedom Index -- released each year by the international organization Reporters Without Borders -- slipped to number 45, down two points from 2017. The bill has support from both the Communications Workers of America and News Media for Open Government, a coalition of news media and journalism organizations
Promoting preservation and protection of the press, public information and open government.