Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 72 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

camera, White House logo

Democratic sponsors of the Journalism Protection Act are denouncing President Donald Trump for creating a "climate of extreme hostility to the press." (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Countering Trump's 'Hostility' Toward Media, Bill Would Protect Journalists From Intimidation and Assault

"It is clear that not only is the role of the news media in our democracy under attack, but the safety of individual journalists is threatened."

Jessica Corbett

Condemning President Donald Trump for creating a "climate of extreme hostility to the press," more than a dozen Democrats in the U.S. House, with support from the largest communications labor union in the country, have proposed the Journalism Protection Act, which would make it a federal crime to attack or intimidate reporters on the job.

"This is a dangerous time to be a journalist. The threatening atmosphere is palpable."
—Bernie Lunzer,
The NewsGuild

"President Donald Trump's campaign and administration have created a toxic atmosphere," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), the bill's lead sponsor.

"It's not just about labeling reports of his constant falsehoods as #FakeNews," Swalwell added, "it's his casting of media personalities and outlets as anti-American targets, and encouraging people to engage in violence."

Since Trump took office, journalists and free press advocates have decried stunts that have underscored his hostility toward the news outlets and journalists who dare to report critically on his dishonesty and policies. Such stunts have included last month's #FakeNewsAwards as well as Trump tweeting a video of him punching a wrestling promoter with the CNN logo edited over the promoter's face.

"This is a dangerous time to be a journalist," noted Bernie Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild, a division of the Communications Workers of America, the nation's biggest labor union for media workers.

"The threatening atmosphere is palpable," Lunzer added. "The Journalist Protection Act deserves the support of everyone who believes our democracy depends on a free and vibrant press."

The bill would make it "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 newsgathering for a media organization," according to a statement released Monday.

The News Media for Open Government, a coalition of news media and journalism organizations that work to promote freedom of the press, has also expressed support for the bill.

Rick Blum, the coalition's director, pointed to recent online harassment of journalists, which "has included death threats and threats of sexual and other physical violence," as well as the "dozens of physical assaults on journalists doing their jobs" that have been documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

The tracker, launched last year, flagged more than 40 physical attacks of reporters in 2017, including two assaults by U.S. politicians. It also highlights broader threats, such as when a man allegedly made 22 threatening phone calls to CNN headquarters last month and, according to unsealed documents, shouted, "Fake news. I'm coming to gun you down," claiming he planned to kill everyone on the premises.

"It is clear that not only is the role of the news media in our democracy under attack, but the safety of individual journalists is threatened," Blum concluded. "It's time to reverse course."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·

Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·

Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Urged to Take Emergency Action After 'Disastrous' Climate Ruling by Supreme Court

"The catastrophic impact of this decision cannot be understated," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, but "we cannot accept defeat."

Kenny Stancil ·

'Now We're Talking!' Says AOC as Biden Backs Filibuster Carveout for Abortion Rights

"Time for people to see a real, forceful push for it," said the New York Democrat. "Use the bully pulpit. We need more."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo