Press freedom fundamentally depends on the ability of journalists to do the work of gathering and publishing the news without interference or intimidation from individuals, government or their employers.
The NewsGuild calls for the following legislative measures to protect the safety and independence of journalist on the job:
- A federal shield law for journalists, similar to “The Free Flow of Information Act” legislation introduced in 2017
- Designating journalists as “essential workers” during the pandemic, eligible for federally subsidized hazard pay
- Strengthening access to public records by strengthening FOIA provisions at the state and federal level
The physical danger journalists face as they do their work has never been more apparent than in recent months, when reporters and photographers have faced not just the hazards of exposing themselves to tear gas and gunshots during civil unrest, but the threat of infection with a deadly virus, and threats and violent rhetoric from members of the public— and public officials. Further, over multiple recent presidential administrations, the federal government has taken steps to harass journalists in a manner not seen since the days of Richard Nixon. Journalists need, as best possible, protections from prosecution and harassment for doing their job.
A free press depends on freedom of information. Journalists should not have to litigate or waste time appealing to toothless advisory agencies to gain access to information about their federal, state or local government. Public access laws need to be strengthened at every level.
Journalists have been forming unions in record numbers in recent years so that they can collectively fight the severe staffing cuts that have undermined their ability to do the high-quality work that the American people deserve. They also have stood up to their own employers to protest bias by their news organizations and to advocate greater diversity in hiring and promotions.
Unionization strengthens individual journalists’ ability to speak out about protecting their health and safety on the job, and to draw attention to management decisions that hurt news coverage and the communities journalists serve. The ability to act collectively, without fear of retribution from management, must be encouraged and protected. Union-busting should not be tolerated, nor should additional federal dollars be funneled to organizations that would divert any portion of those funds to support anti-union activity.